October 5, 2009

Another Cosmetic Surgery Story

Posted in Body Image, Society at 6:26 am by Bast

I started to hate my nose around the time I graduated high school. It began with my mother asking me if I wanted “that bump taken out” like she did. Until she asked that, I didn’t know I had a bump in my nose! She kept asking if I wanted my bump removed, and gradually my dad joined in the chorus. They never said I should get it removed; they just asked if I wanted to. Slowly, the idea began to germinate in my mind. Every time I looked at it, the bump seemed bigger. Had I been delusional before? How could I not notice this huge bump on the bridge of my nose?
My senior year of college, my parents convinced me to have some small moles removed from my face for the sake of symmetry. (One thing I learned from my cosmetic surgery experience is that symmetry = beauty.) Did you know that to get moles removed from an obvious place, such as the face, you have to go to a cosmetic surgeon? Dermatologists won’t do it. Of course, my nose (and my chin, to my surprise) came up in the course of conversation with this cosmetic surgeon. I went so far as to get before and after pictures done (they do this with some fancy computer program; it’s pretty cool). But in the end, I chickened out.
My cowardice turned out to be a good thing—not because I didn’t have the surgery since, obviously, I eventually did, but because my dad ended up having something of a tiff with this particular doctor. (By the way, he was considering undergoing cosmetic surgery as well, but I doubt he wants me to talk about it, so we’ll leave it at that.)
A year, a bad breakup, and a college graduation later, I decided that the time had come. I would be going to graduate school in the fall in a different state where no one would know me. I would start my new life with a new nose. I don’t regret my decision at all. I don’t think it’s any less ‘feminist’ of me than wearing makeup, doing my hair a certain way, or trying to dress in a flattering manner—all of which I’m sure most women do. I’m not saying we necessarily should. Ideally, we wouldn’t even have the urge to do these things because there would be no pressure from society to put so much effort into our appearances. But we still do, and I don’t think I should feel too guilty about it because it isn’t really my fault that I feel so compelled. Societal pressure is a tough thing to beat, and kudos to anyone who can for their own (and, ultimately, society’s) betterment. I’m just not strong enough.

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September 14, 2009

How I Became a Feminist

Posted in feminism at 2:22 am by Bast

At the age of two I loudly declared, “I a WOO-man!”

As a kid, I was always convinced that girls were better than boys.  Slowly, I began to realize that men received benefits that women didn’t: they got paid more, they didn’t have to put as much effort into their appearance, and they somehow always got the last word even when they were wrong.  At a young age, I decided not to put up with any of that, and so I began on my path towards feminism.

Even though my mom, aunts, and grandmother always spoke of gender equality, they never considered themselves ‘feminist’ and instilled in me an automatic rejection of the term.  I never thought about it until my junior year of college at a small liberal arts college in Oregon when I took Introduction to Gender Studies.  It was my first semester there, having transferred from another small liberal arts college in Southern California, and I had never really heard of ‘gender studies.’  I knew about ‘women’s studies,’ which my previous college had offered and which my family had always laughed off as “silly” or “lesbian studies.”  I would never have taken a women’s studies course, but gender studies…now that was a different story.  I disliked women’s studies because it was too focused on women.  I believed in equality between men and women, not tipping the scales in the other direction.  I didn’t realize then that to gain equality, women had make themselves heard.  I didn’t know how silent we were!  Gender studies appealed to me because it sounded so equal, so inclusive.

So I took Gender Studies 101, where we read the article that changed my view of feminism forever: “The F Word” on salon.com (http://dir.salon.com/story/mwt/feature/2005/07/05/f_word/index.html).  I suddenly realized that feminism wasn’t bad at all; it just had an image problem.  Feminists weren’t all ‘militant lesbians’ and ‘femi-nazis,’ as I think I had subconsciously believed my whole life.  I knew right then and there that I was a feminist and always had been.

Of course, my understanding of feminism was still quite rudimentary, and over the years I have realized many things about what being a woman means in our society.  Eostre is right (see her 10/10/09 post):  If you believe that (to paraphrase Cheris Kramarae and Paula Treichler) “women are people too”, then you are a feminist.