I was thinking about furry fandom and it led me to think of <a href=http://en.wikifur.com/wiki/Stalking_Cat>Stalking Cat</a> and his various body modifications. I may not completely understand his motivation, but that’s okay. I support his right to do with his body as he chose. This thought led to sex reassignment surgery. I understand this one a little bit more personally. I identify myself as somewhat genderfluid and have, in the past, considered altering my body in some way. While I have come to the conclusion that I’m happy and satisfied to mess around with gender roles in the body that I have, I sympathize with and support the emotional need to modify one’s appearance and body structure through hormone therapy and surgery.
So, why am I so iffy on breast augmentation, rhinoplasty, etc? If the surgery is reconstructive in nature – after an accident, perhaps – I can totally get behind that. If a woman wishes to decrease the size of her bosom due to back pain, I’m cool with that. Right on, sister; you deserve to live without pain. But if a woman (or man, but it’s usually a woman) wants to change her body to increase her self-confidence and just feel more attractive, my feelings are a bit more ambiguous. Why? Doesn’t she have just as much right to live in the body she wants as a transgendered person? If Stalking Cat felt like he was born into the wrong species, is it not reasonable to say “I feel that I’m a large-chested woman born into a small-chested woman’s body”? Why does there even need to be a reason? Shouldn’t “because it’s body and I want to” be reason enough?
I think what bothers me about elective plastic surgery is that I see it as a symptom of internalized objectification. Women are told repeatedly and insidiously that our value is in our appearance. When a woman wants to pay tens of thousands of dollars to give herself melon-tits, she’s seeking to increase her value in the eyes of society and herself. This is by no means the only way women do this; it’s merely one of the most conspicuous. Tanning, shaving, plucking, dieting, highlighting, mani/pedicuring, girdling, shaping, liposuctioning, collagen-injecting… Are these things we do to be healthy, empowered women? What are we doing to ourselves?
What about tattoos and piercings? Are they a symptom of internalized objectification? I’ve modified my body to improve my own perception of my beauty. This was driven home the last time I had my hair dyed. After the stylist was done and I had the opportunity to admire my newly teal locks in a hand mirror, my first words were: “I’m pretty!” Yes, I am. And I was just as beautiful before I dyed my hair. I’m also smart, witty, kind, thoughtful, creative, and a zillion other things. What am I really doing when I dye my hair or get a tattoo? Am I expressing my individuality or am I trying to cover my body in beauty because I don’t find that beauty in myself? Is it just another form of cosmetic covering? Do I put pictures on my body so that people will look at them and not me? Is this the flipside to self-objectification? Is my love of tattoo born of body-shame?
Or am I getting them to showcase the natural beauty of my curvy, fat body and give me an excuse to wear short shorts and tank tops?
I honestly don’t know. And I’m certain my answer will not be everyone’s answer.
I’m not going to make a blanket statement about whether body modification is Right or Wrong. At its heart, I believe it’s a personal decision and one made for a multitude of reasons. But I do think the questions are worth asking.