As a no longer young woman who doesn’t travel with the movers and shakers of society, it sometimes takes me a while to hear about trends and movements. Last night, I saw an article on Facebook that horrified me. So much so, I suspected it was a hoax, and googled. Labiaplasty. Not a hoax. A (sur)real cosmetic plastic surgery, available at a doctor’s office near you. Heh.
Just in case you’re as behind the times as I am, labiaplasty is a surgery to trim, or completely remove, a woman’s inner labia. Ready for the kicker? This is a purely optional procedure.
So I ranted with my feminist FB buddies for a bit, and then kept googling. I did find instances of women who said they chose to have the procedure done for more than aesthetic reasons, citing discomfort when running or biking. I read about one woman who said she was tired of her lips falling out of her underwear. Now those are lips. Except when I continued reading, it turns out she was referring to thong underwear. What’s that, dear? Your dental floss isn’t as comfortable as you’d like it to be? Get off my lawn!
Adult women look different from young girls, the body changes in many ways. This surgery seems to be an effort to replicate the appearance of prepubescent girls. As a woman, as a mother, as a sorta kinda feminist, I am appalled. Exactly how does this fit into “first do no harm?” Those labia aren’t like your appendix, serving no function. They are part of your body’s natural defenses, protecting the vagina and urethra, have glands that produce secretions that kill bacteria, and I’m no gynecologist, but I’m pretty sure they help keep your urine from spraying out between the bowl and the seat. As someone who is a designated toilet scrubber, I approve of this function.
I am naturally slim, always was. Somehow, it’s more socially acceptable to admit to surgical body sculpting and radical diets than to say this. We, as women, are supposed to spend our entire lives hating our images, taking ever more extreme measures to look like a continually changing physical ideal. Men seem to be jumping on this bandwagon for themselves, can be found waiting to have their eyebrows threaded, pedicures done, chests waxed, and of course, cosmetic surgeries.
How much more can we hate ourselves? We starve, we shave, pour hot wax and rip it off, send electric shocks through our pores, apply acid to remove layers of skin, vacuum fat, lift, tuck, stick bits of plastic on our eyeballs, we paint, we polish, tattoo, pierce, inject water, silicone, and botulism.
But after I logged off, and kept thinking, that pesky little voice in my head kept whispering. You know the voice, the one that calls you out on your own bullshit and contradictions. Is this really so different than any other plastic surgery done for purely cosmetic reasons? I’ve never had any plastic surgery done, and I’m not likely to, but I can’t say I wouldn’t if an opportunity presented itself. The younger, more militant me hates this.
I have what I like to think of as probiscis magnificus. Yanno, a nose that qualifies as a shnoz. When I was younger, the opportunity for a nose job presented itself. Did I already hate my nose, wish it didn’t look like a mountain climbing challenge? Yes I did. But I declined the offer, because it was so against my political views, my belief that each of us needs to embrace who we are, including our physical characteristics. In other words, my shnoz is and always was a part of me, and our physical self contributes to who we become, our self image in every way. I’d also had my nose broken twice. It hurts like hell, and I wasn’t in a phase of life where I wanted to volunteer for pain.
At this stage in my life, though, I’m not so young, perky, or firm. I’m in reasonably good shape, but my skin isn’t so tight. I’ve nursed three children. I know who I am, and understand physical changes won’t change the woman I’ve become. So I’ve thought about it, and if I won the lottery, I might have a rhinoplasty done, and a boob lift to get the girls back to the zip code they used to reside in. Is there a difference between these procedures and labiaplasty? I could justify a nose job for medical reasons, the two breaks left me with scar tissue that make my nasal passages permanently stuffy and a snore that rivals an old coal train. No justification other than vanity for a breast lift. I think this means I don’t have the right to judge anyone else’s elective procedures. What’s the line?