Guest post: See the violence inherent in the system
Posted on December 12, 2011
This is a guest post by Polly
A few months back I was sat in the hairdressers and noticed a simply enormous frown line. Fuck, I thought, that looks really terrible. So passing one of those cosmetic surgery lite places I went in to inquire about Botox. Having beaten them down to match the price of somewhere cheaper, I went for a consultation with a somewhat slimy doctor who put me off the whole idea, by telling me how much more ‘confident’ it would make me and basically implying that having 150 quids worth of poison injected into my face would transform my life. I was insulted by this, mainly the suggestion that I wasn’t already full of myself as it was, not to mention his patronising manner, and decided to sack the whole thing off. That and on reflection I didn’t really fancy the syringe full of botulinum/paralysed face scenario.
Yes I am vain, and bothered by “the visible signs of ageing”, mostly because I’m afraid I’ll have to start acting my age if I look it. But hey, everyone thinks I look fifteen years younger than I am anyway, so I’ll do for now. I’m vain but I’m not daft. So my mid youth crisis was resolved by a simple note to self to think beautiful thoughts to avoid me frowning (admittedly hard under the current administration, but I manage by imagining Gideon being forced, Sisyphus like, to fellate Jeremy Clarkson for all eternity. Though Jezza would probably enjoy it.).
Nevertheless, having got hold of my address, the cosmeticians continue to stalk me with special offers. So I can kind of see the point of the muff march. But only slightly.
I decided by myself to have Botox, and then decided by myself not to have it. I am no doubt influenced by cultural considerations, but we all are to an extent. I have for instance several crowns and a bridge, having lost a front tooth. My cosmetic dentistry is partly functional but I don’t want to look like Shane McGowan either – or at least how he looked before he had dental implants. We nearly all modify our bodies to some extent even if it’s just cleaning your teeth and washing.
There’s no way on earth I’d have a facelift though. Or any kind of non medically necessary surgery. Which is why the idea of slicing up even more sensitive bits of your body makes me wince. I can’t imagine who on earth would have that done, and can’t help suspecting that in most cases it stems more from deep-seated personal issues than any kind of outside pressure. Women with obsessions with having a ‘perfect’ body may then take their cue from cultural images to fixate on the appearance of their labia, but I suspect that if they weren’t doing that they’d fixate on something else.
The organisers of the march seem to be conflating several different issues. Voluntary labiaplasty is not the same as female genital mutilation or construction of an artificial hymen to meet demands for ‘virginity’. The second is an out-and-out human rights abuse, and the third is a situation where women are under extreme pressure – usually from immediate family and their close social circle.
But although a large number of women may feel under pressure to remove pubic hair (which I acknowledge) and a very small minority may feel that they have to have labiaplasty (and have the several thousand pounds it costs), I don’t feel that anything is accomplished by portraying these as ‘demands’. Because they aren’t. Any more than there is a ‘demand’ to be size 8.
Cultural influence is not the same as a demand. And all women are not passive dupes, which is where I part company with the muff marchers. Because it really is as simple as just saying ‘no’.
There is little point in whining ‘stop oppressing me’, and expecting 21st century capitalism to take notice, it won’t. The problem with the muff march is that it starts from the position that 21st century western females are powerless in the face of porn and Harley street surgeons and the only possible course of action is demanding they cease their lucrative activities. Of course they’re not and of course they won’t. All it’s doing is just giving the impression they think women are weak and powerless.
The answer to this stuff is to point out what a bunch of extreme bollox (pardon the non pun) it is, or what was called “consciousness raising” back in the seventies. I’m afraid Alison the interior designer may never get the message, but some people are just beyond help. She is unlikely to suddenly get a socially useful job, or stop being an apparently humourless woman with more money than sense, let’s face it. (Ooh I’m in trouble now, the interior designers will be after me.)
It may seem uncharitable but I personally find it pretty difficult to see affluent middle aged women who are obsessed with having ‘perfect’ bodies as victims. I feel, frankly, like telling them to get a grip. I understand that eating disorders are a genuine mental illness, but simply banning pictures of skinny models won’t stop them, because that isn’t what causes them. There’s an issue with young children and advertising images, but that applies to all advertising images, not just images of women. I am, however, not sure that the increasing take up of cosmetic surgery doesn’t have as much to do with the over availability of credit, coupled with social trends towards individualism and narcissism as anything else. In other words, I blame Thatcher.
Women are not helpless infants devoid of critical thinking. Feminists – and the grauniad – need to stop pretending they are and start celebrating strength. How about a piece on the thousands of women who’ve recently joined unions for example? You don’t have to take this crap. You don’t have to sit back and relax. You can actually try changing things.
There were lots of comments on the grauniad about a) how problematic it is equating FGM with labiaplasty (probably the most important point) and b) how it is just women’s ‘choice’ to have this done.
I do agree, to an extent, with Uk feminista’s message about the normalisation of plastic surgery so I think b) is a bit disingenous, to say the least. Anyone who says this isn’t happening isn’t paying attention. Where I differ is in how we should tackle that. We need something along the lines of ‘our bodies ourselves’, (possibly with updated fashion though) yes, but I also think (good marxist that I am, so do one Anna Span and take yer fib dem mates with you) that the answer lies in collective action. When we become involved in the collective we become less vulnerable to the pressures of a capitalist society and find strength we didn’t know we had. The huge, huge failing of ‘conventional’ feminism is its emphasis on the individual. There is no point in women being ‘equal’ to men, when men are not equal to each other.
It’s depressing, but true, that we only seem to become radicalised when our backs are against the wall. I’ve been immensely cheered to see so many women (and men) joining unions recently. Pity it took this shower to achieve it, but every cloud has a silver lining.
Another post that takes a very similar perspective by Wendy Lyon on Feminist Ire:
Labiaplasty to me is female genital cutting. What I want to know is who sets the default on the perfect vagina and what it should look like?
The doctor? What does he/she look at or compare to achieve ‘designer’?
It is the pornification of women, it’s porn shots that frame mind and leads to pressures. Some blame the media, but pardon me, I haven’t seen many muff shots on either the Daily Fail or the Guardian. It doesn’t figure regularly on the News or even in the Daily crap shows. And someone tell me that bleaching your butt hole did not come from Porn and I’ll call them a liar.
Oh and I’ve just recently joined a union 😉
I am sympathetic to women who feel under pressure to remove pubic hair, but I do wonder if this is all coming from sexual partners. Certainly I know some lesbians who insist on the removal of pubes on the “I don’t want to be spitting out hairs” grounds, but I know some who don’t. I haven’t gallup polled male opinion on the matter, but I have heard men express preference both ways. And I’m not saying ‘Porn iz innocent’, I just think it’s a bit beside the point.
The real point here is that it’s a lot easier to be assertive with sexual partners if feel you’ve got power and actually have got power in other aspects of your life. (For the sake of clarity, I’m not talking about situations of actual abuse). Cath linked to a piece from LRB on her twitter feed which seems to be saying a similar thing – that feminism seems to have become a bit of a middle class ghetto fixating on single issues and not seeing the bigger picture about economic inequality. (though I think the connection with rioting was a bit tortuous). There’s no point in simply protesting about a phenomenon without trying to perform some analysis of what’s going on. Most female inequality is still economic, we need to focus on that, because so much else stems from it.
As was pointed out in t’grauniad harley street surgeons don’t roam the streets looking for victims – they want your credit card details at the very least. If plastic surgery is regulated that isn’t going to help a woman on a low income be simply able to feed and house herself. And if you can’t do those things, then you’re much more likely to end up in an unsatisfactory sexual relationship for simple economic survival. When my aunt left a violent husband with 4 children in tow, it helped enormously that she could go and get a council house. We need to be campaigning on issues around housing, benefits, child tax credits. If you’re unfortunate enough to have a fib dem MP make sure they know that they will be out on their arse if they continue supporting Gideons’ attempts to completely wreck the economy.
maggie: “It is the pornification of women, it’s porn shots that frame mind and leads to pressures. Some blame the media, but pardon me, I haven’t seen many muff shots on either the Daily Fail or the Guardian. It doesn’t figure regularly on the News or even in the Daily crap shows. And someone tell me that bleaching your butt hole did not come from Porn and I’ll call them a liar. ”
Maggie, I have to confess that I’ve beheld my fair share of porn, but do you really propose that the appearance of various porn stars genitalia (but not other porn stars’ genitalia) causes women to queue up for labia surgery? You must think women are a lot stupider than I do. It sounds like blood control in Dr Who, controlling the A positives or whatever. For the record, I’m entirely opposed to cosmetic surgery, other than in extreme cases (such as one chap I met whose face was utterly destroyed by rottweillers) on the grounds that those with the skills to carry it out properly could be far better deployed attending to real medical needs, rather than the vanity of the presumably overpaid. But we don’t hear much of that from UK feminista.
I wrote about this for CiF back in 2008:
Designer vaginas, anyone?
I do take your point Polly about protesting against Harley St being pretty pointless, but I do think protests like the Muff March (and can I just say, I really hate that name! Almost as much as I hate ‘slut walk’) have a role to play in helping to raise awareness of an issue. The capitalists may well have ignored it, but the march got a lot of media coverage and hence so did the issue. So in some respects there’s some old time consciousness raising going on, albeit using different methods to achieve it.
Well some women probably do want labia that look like porn, but I just don’t think it’s the pressing problem of our age. And if you equate it with FGM you make yourself look silly.
Cristina Odone is completely bonkers, and not in a good way. I think the problem is Cath, that they over egged the pudding, and as I say, looked a bit daft. If you don’t want to shave your pubes, don’t (OTOH if you do, do I’m really completely neutral on the issue). It’s hardly life threatening and it grows back (itchily). If you say ‘stop forcing me to shave/have my labia reshaped’ all that happens is everyone will point out that nobody IS forcing you. And they’ll be right.
The wider issue is that this kind of stuff allows feminism as a whole to be dismissed as Millie Tant style nonsense. I’m not a conspiracy theorist (much) but I notice UK feminista have paid activist posts. What? Who is providing the money? Perhaps they’ll tell us.
oh I know the answer to that one Polly. UK Feminista got a £30,000 grant from the Rosa Challenge Fund:
Rosa Challenge Fund
Your piece was sensible and balanced Cath. Uk feminista’s piece was over the top. What we are involved in with this stuff, is what us Marxists (and Gramsci fans) would recognise as a classic war of position. I wouldn’t have given them that money, because they are doing the war of position wrong. The answer to cultural hegemony is to get the oppressed class to realise their true class interests. A lot of women have been radicalised recently because there are real and in yer face threats to their economic status. That’s where we should begin.
If the only thing that is in the media as ‘feminism’, is middle class, young, overwhelmingly white, university educated women who look as though they’ve just got too much time on their hands, you turn everyone who doesn’t fit that description off the whole subject. These are serious times. Let’s be serious.
This is a very long, and not necessarily perfect piece, but contrary to what the LRB piece thinks, there are marxist feminists around today (well there’s Lindsey German anyway). This analysis seems much more complete to me, and explains why individualist feminism ran out of steam.
Abandonment of collective change leads to an exclusive emphasis on individual change and with that powerlessness in confronting the structures of oppression. Instead of defining itself in solidarity with wider movements and with the working class struggle it was enough simply to think in a feminist way in order to be involved in political practice.
@ StephenPatterson. No I don’t think women are stupid but they are, from a very early age, put under pressure to conform to ‘feminine’ stereotypes and this persists throughout their lifetime. Why, in the main, do women wear makeup for example? Why do they spend thousands of pounds in their lifetime putting on something that they take off again each night? That money could be spent getting a house or starting up a business. Looking at the simple application of makeup and equating it with economics certainly paints women as stupid but I don’t believe they are.
Those who don’t conform are labelled as: frigid, butch, a lesbian (like it’s the worst insult ever!), weird, spinster; I could go on but take your pick, or add.
I hate the word ‘muff’ too, but agree that it does raise consciousness.
Yeah, I’m labelled all those things Maggie (I’d be pretty upset if people thought I was straight though, if the cap fits etc). The question, is, why doesn’t it bother me?
I remember recently having a conversation with 2 friends (in a bar, inevitably). One had just read a book called ‘living dolls’, and was talking about similar pressures and saying life is easier if you fit the stereotype (it is, no question). But both me and the other woman (who is also the first woman’s wife) pointed out that none of us conform to the stereotype. And we manage ok.
I agree that the pressure is there, the question is, how do you build resistance. And the answer in our case is a)we are all lesbians, so calling us lesbians is water off a duck’s back but more importantly b) we are politicised in other aspects of our lives (we’d just been on the north west march for the alternative and – oh the fun- had found some real live tories to poke fun at, large as life and twice as ugly in G.A.Y)
I don’t think the muff march raises consciousness because it’s saying something that patently isn’t true – there isn’t an epidemic of labiaplasty, I bet 90% of the population don’t even know it exists – and therefore easily discarded. If you have to focus on plastic surgery, why not focus on breast implants? But even then women who have this are hardly the norm. Fact is, most women in this country do not look like Katie Price and most of them are too busy living their lives to care. Go to a thirty or forty something woman who’s got young kids, a full time job and is probably caring for an ageing parent to boot, and she’ll laugh in your face if you start talking about labial surgery.
The muff march reminds me of Ian Duncan Smith blaming the riots on ‘X factor culture’. What he meant was poor people want stuff rich people have and if they see an opportunity to take it, they will. Hold the front page! If women are embracing ‘porn culture’ how much of that is to do with them seeing no other options in life to make a reasonable living? Yes, they are probably deluded – even if you do get implants, you most likely aren’t going to become Katie Price. But there’s no point in privileged women just telling other, less privileged (whether materially, or in terms of self esteem) women to not do stuff because it’s not feminist. It won’t work.
This post is kind of dumb.
‘I am no doubt influenced by cultural considerations, but we all are, to an extent.’
Isn’t that the whole point? Not that some people are passive dupes and others are completely immune. No choice happens outside of culture, your very own personality does not exist except in relation to the outside world, so you really can’t say what you did ‘by yourself’ or not… This is the point of a political analysis rather than just a personal musing on whether you decided to get botox or not.
There is nothing victim-like about collective action. Collective action IS doing something, in fact it’s doing far more than writing a trite little post about how we all aren’t victims and should stop whining, which is pretty much what David Cameron says about all the cuts protests, which it seems like you might have a bit more sympathy for given your approval of unionism. But I mean seriously. Unionizing, as well as this march, is doing the same thing. It’s collective action to achieve a goal in the face of the individualism and narcissicism of consumer capitalism. The only reason you call one ‘doing something’ and the other ‘whining’ is just that you don’t like it. It is the absolute standard response to people collectively acting about something you don’t like or don’t think is important.
Rather than asking yourself the relatively pointless, personal and apolitical question of ‘how did I feel when I went to get botox’, ask yourself who benefits. Who benefits when the standard response to collective action by women, is, ‘they are whining and it’s more about their personal mental problems?’ Who benefits when criticizing anything can be delegitimized by the ‘you just want to be a victim’ card? You actually can’t stand up against any oppression when this is the prevailing attitude. And this is trotted out time and time again by whoever objects to the collective action in question – I mean just look at what republicans have been saying about Occupy Wall St.
It’s EASY to see that this has power when you look at how dieting and eating disorders have increased in developing countries with the advent of Western TV.
Click to access becker.pdf
‘Women are not helpless infants devoid of critical thinking.’ If that is the case, why is it so bad to you to be questioning beauty practices? Questioning it, is the essence of critical thinking! It is providing alternative voices. If women are not helpless infants, I’m sure they can survive an alternative voice being pushed. There is a difference between saying that cultural norms have power and that people are helpless infants devoid of critical thinking.
Honestly, if advertising had no power, companies would not spend money on it, simple as that. The very reason we have free speech protected is because of the understanding that it MATTERS, that it influences people. The very reason totalitarian governments use propaganda is because it WORKS. Not completely, sure, not everyone is affected equally, but it does work.
@ Maggie. I think there has always been, and will always be, pressures to conform to perceived societal norms, irrespective of the society concerned, and that these affect all genders, generally in different ways. Perhaps most influential is peer group pressure. The number of individuals resisting will always be less than the number conforming, almost by definition. However, those who resist are, IMHO, by far the most interesting.
I can’t imagine the greater number of women (or men) queuing up for cosmetic surgery, even in the more affluent parts of Britain. Had I lived locally, I might have joined the ‘muff march’ if its objectives were to get the skills of those surgeons involved more appropriately deployed on attending to the nation’s health (how many, I wonder, were NHS trained?) rather than on enabling vanity for cash.
Where I take issue with your argument is your (and Feminista UK’s) notion that everything can be blamed on pornography, for reasons outlined more articulately than I could by Wendy Lyon, the link to whose piece I posted earlier on this thread. Are bleached anuses the norm down south? I would have thought not, but I’m unaware of any study.
As for why women (predominantly) wear make-up, I imagine they wear it largely for fun, and whilst there may be a minority of onlookers who brand those who choose not to wear it as “frigid, butch, a lesbian…weird, spinster” I do not think for a moment that the vast majority do, nor that the minority’s views are held in great esteem by the majority.
Make-up, after all, goes back to very, very primitive days, when those wearing it had to go to very, very great lengths to acquire it compared to a trip to Boots, suggesting that it fulfils some very primitive, albeit unclear, need. And yes, of course the money could be more wisely spent either for the individual or society as a whole, but who are we to dictate how others spend their money? Had the muff marchers instead stood outside cosmetics outlets and urged shoppers to instead spend their cosmetics budgets on any one of a number of good causes, more might be gained, though I doubt it would have resulted in as much publicity. So personally, I’m afraid I tend to write off the muff march as a gimmick.
Thanks for your succinct analysis Rididill. I didn’t say we shouldn’t question beauty practices, I’m saying that I don’t think the muff march was effective, for the reasons I have listed.
Advertising doesn’t have NO power, but neither does it have absolute power. It’s cultural hegemony, as I’ve already pointed out. Where I differ from the muff marchers is that they are saying it DOES have absolute power. If that’s the case then how come they’re resistant to it? All that happens when they say that is that they look patronising and snooty, and silly to boot.
If you say as the author of the guardian piece I’ve linked to does that porn and harley street surgeons are “demanding” women have labiaplasty, that’s easily disprovable. Quite simply they aren’t.
If developing countries are having western products advertised, they’re also likely to be developing western type social structures and increasing levels of affluence simultaneously. There’s a difference between correlation and causation. Oh and try having an eating disorder when you haven’t got enough to eat in the first place.
More to the point, if you continuously emphasise this type of issue as the primary concern for feminism. you actually create a self fulfilling prophecy. I’m actually beginning to wonder if I’m really freakish in not knowing loads of women who act like escapees from the Daily Mail. I suspect the answer is no, but the position of the muff marchers – we are helpless in the face of Harley Street/porn and the only answer is for them to stop forthwith doesn’t offer much hope of ’empowerment’ (dread word) does it?
There’s a real danger of ‘feminism’ disappearing up its own fundament if it just becomes about the concerns of a subsection of the population who are experiencing, to a greater or lesser degree what is termed body dysmorphic disorder. I don’t really know a huge amount of women who have these extreme concerns about their bodies, or if I do, they’re not letting on. That may be to do with the company I choose to keep, or it may be because I’m northern, and we tend to be no nonsense up here. Yes we all mostly care about our appearance to an extent, and yes that is to do with the fact we are concerned with what other people think about us – though in my case the appearance I spend money to project doesn’t win my widespread social approval. Caring about your appearance isn’t the same as having BDD any more than buying a lottery ticket occasionally is the same as being a compulsive gambler.
To reduce ‘feminism’ to the concerns of women who are overwhelmingly white, educated, middle class etc diminishes feminism and just makes it easier to ignore. And ignores the real issues producing inequality – that’s what I’m saying. It’s like looking at someone who has lung cancer and saying ‘that’s a nasty cough you’ve got’.
Oh and by the way, the piece I linked to about eating disorders, by Ilona Burton is written by someone who is a very intelligent woman and has had eating disorders from a very young age. I think we can believe her when she says eating disorders aren’t caused by pictures of skinny models.
And if you’d read the piece properly, you’ll see I didn’t get botox. The piece is about cultural hegemony and Marxist theory, the first bit is an anecdote. Try listening to the song too, the lyrics are relevant.
Had the muff marchers instead stood outside cosmetics outlets and urged shoppers to instead spend their cosmetics budgets on any one of a number of good causes, more might be gained, though I doubt it would have resulted in as much publicity.
No of course it wouldn’t, because it wasn’t – snicker – about pubes. There’s little point complaining about prurience and then employing to gain media coverage.
“Are bleached anuses the norm down south? ”
Why do you presume I’m from down south? Also bleached butts may not be the norm here yet but it sure is catching on in the USA – and gee what they do first we like to follow second. Why does there have to be a study? So precious are porn users that they cling to studies to fulfil their habit of watching women being objectified – they are simply a collection of holes. Butt bleaching is offered simply because it’s done in porn.
I read the link and thought the article was rubbish, quite frankly. It offered no new ideas.
This link articulates my thoughts so much better that I can.
@ Maggie – sorry about the unwarranted and possibly libellous suggestion you’re from down south, consider it withdrawn.
What I don’t understand, though, is your presumption that everything hails from porn. I can find no evidence that trends (tiny though they may be) in labiaplasty or anal bleaching originate in porn. Though whether they did or didn’t, porn would undoubtedly be the media through which the wider world in general would first discover it.
It seems to me that a natural consequence of the general improvement in women’s income is that they do much of what they did in the past except more so. My mother’s cosmetics in the 1950s comprised talcum powder, mascara, a stick of lipstick and some cold cream. I dread to think of the arsenal currently deployed on faces alone, quite apart from the possibilities in terms of cosmetic surgery on breasts, labias etc. and, indeed, anal bleaching. But to blame all this on porn is both unproven and to suggest that women have no volition and are mere balls on the snooker table of life.
I’m sorry, but I reject that. And I really don’t think that the vast majority of women look to porn stars as role models, either consciously or unconsciously. Furthermore, the colour of one’s partner’s anus, or the finer points of labia construction, would be of absolutely no utility in terms of stimulation to a male during sex anyway, as he would be unable to see it in any sexual position that I’m aware of, whether the sex is vaginal or anal, certainly without the employment of somewhat intrusive mirrors.
Oh and re dieting in Fiji I found this
Now firstly, Fiji is a nation that is known for obesity to put it bluntly, so we’d expect western TV to maybe have some impact on desired body shapes (again I never said it didn’t)
Many groups say the world-wide increase in eating disorders is down to the prevalence of images equating a slim figure with beauty.
But some doctors have questioned whether such disorders are caused by culture or are transmitted from generation to generation in genes.
A study on the Caribbean island of Curacao, where fat is considered attractive, found the incidence of anorexia was equal to that in Europe
Eating disorders have been around for ever. – in the past they were seen as evidence of spiritual purity. They weren’t invented just because being slim is fashionable.
Oh and I’m sorry but…
Sarah Haynes, grassroots coordinator for the UK Feminista London Activist Group, said the event was about “taking a stand against those who profit from women’s body hatred”.
She added: “The day went really well. After chanting down the full length of Harley Street we had a synchronised ‘muff dance’ showing that we love our labia, and telling the cosmetic surgeons to keep their mitts off our muffs.”
@ Stephen. Who do women look to as role models?
Maggie, I’m certainly not going to speculate on who women look to as role models (and if I was it wouldn’t be on Cath’s blog!) But it seems to me that it’s your (and Feminita UK’s) assertion, or certainly strong suggestion, that they look to porn ‘stars’, and it seems to me that the onus is on you to back that up. Wendy Lyons’ post suggests that the academic evidence for this is weak and speculative to say the least. My own suspicion is that most women take little interest in examining porn but are happy to condemn – rather than emulate – other women for taking part in it and men for their demand for it.
Here’s an issue for UK feminista. I just heard on the news about a young woman who has started working as an ‘escort’ because her EMA was stopped.. Now I’m slightly suspect of the claims that masses of students are turning to the sex industry, mainly because it stems from the NUS and seems to a be a story that they drag out on a cyclical basis, but there is no question this is happenening to some extent. A friend who works as a lecturer at a sixth form college found out two students were working in a . “lapdancing bar” for £10 an hour. When she asked them why, they said it was more than the £5 an hour they’d get doing bar work.
Maggie, I have to say (and I’m not having a go) that I find the idea of ‘role models’ an entirely suspect one. Anyone who needs a role model hasn’t developed as a person in their own right, I don’t have bleeding role models. Which is why I’m saying women need to act collectively to develop strength
But if we are talking about who is a powerful woman, well I’d say the most powerful woman in the world right now is Angela Merkel, in that she’s probably responsible for the fate of the eurozone together with Sarkozy (and therefore indirectly the entire global economy).
Does she look like porn star or a barbie doll?
Uk feminista link to this guardian piece
Now that does make reference to porn, yes, but it also makes reference to depression and body dysmorphic disorder. It is entirely possible that someone who has pre existing body issues will see porn and compare themselves to the women they see – but that’s not the same as saying that a) someone can’t develop those issues from another source (Alison in the channel 4 clip doesn’t reference porn), or b) that anyone who watches porn will automatically develop body dysmorphic disorder. (NB I’m not equating depression with BDD, or saying that all women with depression have body image issues).
I’m not particularly defending porn here, but what I am saying is that if you banned porn entirely, women wouldn’t stop having body image issues. Moreover, body image issues aren’t the chief problem facing women worldwide by any stretch of the imagination.
There is certainly an argument for tighter regulation of cosmetic surgeons, but that may be better achieved by lobbying MPs than doing a “muff dance”.
Well, she certainly looks like THIS barbie doll – a good ‘role model’, we’re told:
David Cameron doll, anyone? And a set of darts?
Polly, what were these students doing in this lapdancing bar? The washing up? Teela Sanders at Leeds University averaged nightly income for dancing at two lapdancing clubs, one in the north and the other in the south, and from memory the dancers got £230-£240 a night on average, closely approaching what millions of women get for a 40 hour week on the minimum working wage.
And in many respects, the working conditions of the dancers are better. They’re warm, for a start, quiite unlike the near freezing conditions that exist in most grotty food processing centres, for example.
And yet, of course, it would be the handful of dancers that UK feminsta would identify as ‘exploited’ and kick ass about, ignoring the milions on the NMW. They might be giving some men pleasure. Can’t have that, can we?
Lapdancing apparently Stephen. Maybe not all lapdancing bars are as lucrative as those in the survey.
I don’t disagree BTW about women entering the sex industry because they want the money. I don’t necessarily think that that’s an argument for the sex industry so much as an argument for better distribution of incomes though, being a Marxist and all. As I hope is clear, I’m fed up of the narrow focus of a lot of feminists on issues that affect a minority of women, whilst they seem to completely ignore low incomes. I just commented on the grauniads’ latest effort about ‘gendered toys’ where Jane Martinson is saying how fab she thinks it is that her daughter wants to be a doctor. Well she’ll certainly make loads of cash that way. But what about hospital cleaners? When are the guardian going to start writing about them? Would Jane Martinson be equally thrilled if her daughter wanted to be a cleaner? I did find one piece on the ‘women’s blog’ about domestic workers, but the focus of that was the exploitation of immigrant workers. It seems low paid women are below the graun’s notice, (our dear blog host excepted) unless one of them is moaning she can’t get a cleaner/nanny.
Couldn’t agree more, Polly! Solidad, sister! If one twentieth of the newsprint devoted to sex workers, lap dancers, muff marchers and barbie dolls was devoted to the low incomes and rotten conditions of carers, food processors and cleaners, among others, then women, predominantly, would take a great step forward.
But it ain’t sexy.
I still deeply regret the Grauniad’s move from Manchester to that dreadful Lonthing on Whatsit place.
I thought the whole point of the beauty mandate was to keep women relegated to the sex class so that all women will accept their greater burden of the world’s work for little of the world’s wealth. And I’m sorry but unless we’re talking about the kind of war, poverty and famine as experienced in the global south, the way the human psyche works, once you’re beyond that level of desperation, need for social acceptance kicks in pretty much straight after that. Body dimorphic disorders aren’t just simply a “privilege” for rich white women. And if levels of attractiveness are key factors in employability and likelihood of getting better jobs or receiving pay rises economically disadvantaged women are even worse off if they’re not compliant, as their employment is generally more insecure or non-existent. You could argue that middle class women at least have their professions, education etc from which to gain self esteem. Poor, jobless, disenfranchised women might be even more vulnerable to gaining any sense of self worth from their looks alone, “what else am I good for?” And that sux, I’ve been there.
Bully for you and your super self-esteem, but as Rididill said above, the question feminists have to ask is, who benefits?
Poor, jobless, disenfranchised women might be even more vulnerable to gaining any sense of self worth from their looks alone, “what else am I good for?” And that sux, I’ve been there
Well a)you’re assuming I’ve never been poor or jobless (I’ve been both) or that I’m not from a working class background (I am) and b)how do these poor jobless women get surgery on Harley Street at a few grand a throw? Or buy designer makeup or clothes? Does Alison the interior designer look poor or jobless to you?
But actually (if you bothered reading the piece) you’d see that it is entirely those poor women I’m concerned about. And I’m suggesting that maybe some kind of ‘trade union movement’ could help them. As it traditionally has disenfranchised working class people for quite a while now.
The question I’m asking is not ‘who benefits’ but the rather more pertinent ‘how do we fight this’? And the answer is not doing muff dances in Harley Street on a Saturday. When all the plastic surgeons are probably chilling out with Jeremy Clarkson in the cotswolds in any case.
This is from wikipedia, but I’m linking it because it gives a percentage figure for BDD.
A German study has shown that 1-2% of the population has complete BDD, but a bigger percentage of people show some of the effects (Psychological Medicine, vol 36, p 877).
The number of men and women with BDD is around the same, but there are slightly more women with it. However, the number of men and women who go to the doctor with it are the same.
Here’s more US research suggesting again a similar figure for men and women for BDD.
And if levels of attractiveness are key factors in employability and likelihood of getting better jobs or receiving pay rises economically disadvantaged women are even worse off if they’re not compliant, as their employment is generally more insecure or non-existent.
And at how many job interviews are you required to display your genitals so they can check if you’ve shaved your pubes, or if your labia meet porn standards? Very few, I’d speculate.
I don’t really meet beauty standards, I got my current promotion with the help of my union actually, who assisted me in fighting some decidedly dodgy dealings.
You know what the question is I’d like feminists to ask?
Who benefits from the celebration of female vulnerability? What do you gain by saying women are powerless and must passively wait for their oppressors to consent to free them? How does that help women?
You sound, mouse, like you think having self esteem is a bad thing.
@ Maggie: I find it sad but interesting that the writings of the author of:
are dismissed on this thread as “rubbish, quite frankly… [that]…offered no new ideas.”
Oh and if anyone’s interested, here’s an excellent example of some women who became politicised and still are… (they are also doing something I’d really love to do which is picketing that bleeding thatcher film).
I’ve been on a hiatus from blogs lately but just read this one so coming to it really really late!
I just wanted to make a point about FGM really. My friend who is a survivor of FGM and runs a charity to support and educate young people effected by FGM is very definite that labiaplasty and FGM are analogous because, she explains, both practises come from the same root. And that root is that there is something ‘disgusting’ or ‘wrong’ with women’s genitalia until it is ‘cut’ and ‘corrected’. In the film ‘The Cutting Tradition’ the language used to describe a woman’s genitalia that hasn’t been cut is very very similar to the language used in labiaplasty – that it needs ‘correcting’ to be ‘normal’ and attractive etc. The cultural pressure to conform may look different, but still comes from a belief that there is something ugly and wrong with women’s bodies. I also think in general more needs to be talked about in terms of women’s sexual pleasure and how labiaplasty reduces sexual feeling – I don’t think this gets discussed enough and this silence i think is informed by a belief that women perform sexuality rather than are active agents who experience pleasure.
So although I agree with a lot of what’s been said re about how we mustn’t fall into the trap of victimising women or saying that women are helpless in the face of a type of culture that tells us we are wrong, I wanted to give an example of how we can see FGM and labiaplasty as linked (in a way that still respects the differences between girls who are cut and women who pay to have surgery, child protection vs adult women etc). I interviewed my friend about her work here, which explains the position a bit more:
This is also worth reading http://www.rhrealitycheck.org/article/2012/01/04/female-genital-mutilation-breast-implantation-why-do-they-happen-and-how-do-we-st
I agree with your main point Sian and I hope I made that clear. I also agree that there is heavy promotion of women have breast implants – which is much more real than heavy promotion of labiaplasty, as I think I said above. I think the guardian piece on the muff march was spectacularly ill judged though, and I just don’t agree with their solution.
I’d also disagree however with the last piece that cosmetic surgery can never have benefits. The bridge I have on my front tooth is largely cosmetic, I could easily manage without it, but I think I’d be very affected pscyhologically if I had to walk around with a gap in my tooth. Similarly a breast implant can sometimes help women simply to feel ‘normal’ after cancer or if they simply have very unevenly sized breasts. We are always going to be walking a tightrope between treating women as dupes with no autonomy and recognising the grotesqueries of the ‘beauty’ industry. We do have to trust women on this, and in the end, accept that people have to have the freedom to sometimes do things that are self destriuctive. I put a comment on Laurie Penny’s guardian piece on the PIP scandal, which I thought would get deleted, (it didn’t) pointing out that she had written about being a smoker in a way which made it sound positively cool. And smoking is a much bigger health threat than breast implants AND it is promoted to young women. We should aim our efforts on this at consciousness raising. And to ignore the privilege gap between rich women having labiaplasty and girls undergoing FGM is just wrong.