Should we believe in the idea that we're all entitled to surgically enhance whatever it is we want on our bodies — or should we uphold the idea that we're perfect just as we are? It's an interesting mixed message we're receiving these days.
We've all seen the photoshopped images — those which leave us speechless with the thought that we could never ever look as refined as the people in those touched-up photos, and the images that we laugh at, knowing full well that no human on earth has skin that smooth and poreless or a waistline that miniscule.
And yet, even when we forgive the artist for not being sensible with his or her ability to render an image in any kind of believable way, we don't forgive ourselves for buying into the lie that (even when compared to a badly photo-shopped image) we still don't make the cut.
Perfect images of perfect people have infiltrated our psyches to such a degree that I'm not sure we even want to see photos of "real" people — no matter how much we campaign for an image-making overhaul in the media. When we are shown photos of real people (warts and all) we tend to be looking at someone's photographic "art" project, which we translate into as being comprised of faces we're supposed to register as "real." But when it comes down to selling us a product, clothes, a vacation, car, yogurt, vitamin — the most radically "real" it gets is perhaps a shot of an older person with gorgeous silver hair and a fit, trim body or a plus-sized female model whose chubbiness is confined to a size 12 max and who shows no cellulite or disproportionate body parts. Freckles may be excusable if we're showing how beautiful ginger-haired people can be — but if we're going to sell chocolate, we're going to need a young, freckle-free, pore-free, slim, fun-loving, sexy woman who will close her eyes and silently gasp upon tasting which will allow us to know what she looks like when she has an orgasm. That's what sells — not artsy imperfection.
Of course, we've taken our neurosis way past that. Now, we're in surgery mode and where once a little "nip/tuck" was considered an interesting possibility for the person who desired physical change, it is presently part of a culture that equates body modification with self-esteem. These are the days where surgical transformation is smiled upon; we applaud and welcome the vehicle that will grant us the opportunity to express who we really are. It's a way to unearth the beauty that lives inside us and can be made manifest with the wave of a magic wand called cosmetic surgery. We no longer look at the Jocelyn Wildensteins of the world as warnings of what can happen to our physicality should we go too far with the knife; now we see these Mickey Rourke-style faces as starting points on a journey where anything is possible.
In this "the sky's the limit" version of self-esteem-building surgical practices, we are no longer confined to focusing on our faces or musculature. Now, we can change our genitals as well. I'm not referring to transgender surgery. I am talking about vaginal surgery, as in labiaplasty, hymenoplasty and vaginoplasty — all procedures designed to enhance the appearance and feel of the vagina.
So, the mindset says, "I am woman, hear me roar, and I will do and say whatever it is I want with my body if I so choose!" And what do women do? They get the lips of their vaginas cut down to what they believe is a more attractive size so that their natural look won't offend their male lovers. They opt for a procedure called "vaginoplasty" to tighten up the vaginal walls so that sex will be more pleasurable when a penis is involved, and in some cases, they employ vaginal surgeons to sew up their torn hymens so they can prove to a future husband that they are still virgins — because some women still care about proving they're a virgin to a man who insists on virginity. In some cultures, being a virgin is important. Even if you have to lie about it. In that case, to each her own.
Which brings me to the idea that, yes, to each her own in every single choice. So, a woman wants to tighten up and tidy up her lady bits? Well, outside of the fact that she'd never know to think about such a thing had there not been a consciousness for it already raised — then so what if she wants a nether face lift? I have no problem with it and nor should anyone. What bothers me about the idea of vaginal surgery (when it's done for aesthetic reasons as opposed to medical) is that it just seems to provide yet another avenue for women to believe they're less than perfect as is.
We get it — nobody's perfect! For some reason, we really do get this. So, why then, when we really do get that nobody is perfect and that photoshopped images are both laughable and effective — why do we continue to participate in the race for unnatural perfection? Why do we now want to cut up our genitals? We've pulled our faces into bizarre fleshscapes; we've botoxed ourselves so that we now look like human bounce houses; we've removed ribs, teeth, fat, intestine, eyelids, and added jawbone, cartilage, silicone; we've exfoliated with acid, flesh-eating fish, chemicals; we've bleached our anuses, implanted hair, removed hair ... and for what?
Why now do we feel like we need to cut into our vaginas? Is it really just another Everest, there for the conquering? Do we just cut and mow and climb because "it's there"?
The interesting thing about all variety of cosmetic surgery is that, in the end, everyone ends up looking the same. Facial surgery never makes people look younger; it makes people look operated on. We have evolved into a species of complete neurotics who toss around phrases like, "love yourself," so that we can desperately feel like we still have human forgiveness, and yet, we have even less patience with that phrase as we do with the idea of letting it be.
So, why do we cater to our obsessive-compulsive need to surgically simulate what we never really accept as aesthetic perfection anyway? Because we can, and like climbing Mount Everest: it's there.
Photo credit: Flickr