Let’s get this straight. I am a feminist. I believe that women should be valued first and foremost for their character and intelligence, and that a woman’s looks or sexuality are not the sum of her worth to society. Why the disclaimer? Because some people think that, as a girl who had plastic surgery, I would only resort to such “extreme” measures if I was insecure or thought that, as a woman, my job is to be hot first and foremost. These people are under the impression that women shouldn’t wear makeup because they shouldn’t have to in order to be valued in society. This is half true. No one should be forced to wear makeup or otherwise alter her appearance to be accepted or valued. But on the other hand, no one should be forced to not wear makeup if she wants to. Just as a girl shouldn’t be ostracized for choosing not to wear mascara, she also shouldn’t be ostracized for choosing to wear makeup. Period. Feminism is not about taking on more “masculine” traits and behaviors. The point of feminism is that “masculine” traits and “feminine” traits should not define our roles in society—that a woman’s personal choices are her business, not society’s scapegoat to judge and condemn her for. Feminism is about freedom of choice. I chose to have plastic surgery.
I decided to, with the support of my mother, get a procedure done that will be a very unfamiliar concept to most readers, something that the majority of the human population doesn’t need to worry about because they are gifted with it naturally. I had a procedure done that is commonly referred to as “double eyelid surgery.” This will sound bizarre to anyone who isn’t Asian since single eyelids only really occur in Asians. “Double eyelids” refer to the crease directly above your upper lash line. Genetically, it wasn’t in the cards for me to have this trait. I, like everyone else in my family, had single eyelids—no crease. I was surgically given the eyelid crease.
Plastic surgery gets a bad rap because it is associated with people who have done it for the wrong reasons. Plastic surgery is often associated with people who do it to please society, or fix something they see as “wrong” with them. Some people even have so-called plastic surgery addictions. Like with any appearance altering choice, we should choose to do it to feel empowered. Whether it’s makeup, nice clothes, a new hairstyle, or even plastic surgery, we should decide upon these things for ourselves—not to please (or displease) society or to fill some emotional hole in our hearts. Our attitude toward any form of appearance altering should not be “I need this to be pretty/worthwhile/loveable” but “I am kick a**, and I deserve this for myself.” When we make decisions in an attempt to please others or meet some skewed standard of “acceptability” we set for ourselves, we will never be satisfied. It is not about being “acceptable” or “perfect”—it’s about feeling empowered.
Now, many people presented many arguments to me against plastic surgery. It’s extreme. It’s motivated out of vanity, and I am vain as well. It’s not worth the money/time/pain. Honestly, I can refute every one of those arguments with one word: Orthodontia.
See, I was one of those kids who wore headgear throughout elementary school to take control of a significant overbite. I had to wear a bite plate because an anxiety issue made me unconsciously grind my teeth—to this day, my molars don’t come up much further than my gum line. I had spacers, chains, and almost every other fixture of orthodontia you can think of. But for now, I’ll focus on the quintessential braces.
In some cultures, braces are considered extreme. In others, they are not. In the US braces are considered a normal thing. In Asia, my eyelid procedure is fairly akin to getting braces—maybe not everyone can afford it, but it’s not particularly weird. Extreme is how you look at things and also the circumstances. You can’t take one fact and assume you have the whole picture.
Unlike with plastic surgery, kids with braces are never really called shallow for doing what they’re doing. They want to feel confident in their smile. Yes, it is appearance modification, but no, that does not make it about vanity. You will never hear anyone say, “Kate got her hair dyed red—she must be a shallow, self-obsessed skank.” Why? Because it’s ridiculous to call someone shallow just because they made a shift away from their natural look. People do it all the time. It’s human nature. It’s why we change clothes, buy different shoes, and change our hairdos. We want to be confident in the way we look, and that’s not something to be ashamed of. I am not just how I see myself, but how the world sees me, and whatever I choose to be, I want to reflect that boldly unto the world. The same goes for getting Lasik surgery or switching to contact lenses. It’s about feeling confident in the way you look. Everyone wants that, but it doesn’t have to be about being the hottest or the prettiest or meeting society’s standards—it’s about wanting to be the best you you can be—inside and out.
And finally for the people who say it’s not worth it: Ladies, my procedure took 27 minutes. Local anesthesia meant I was awake but felt almost nothing. Full recovery took about a month. Anyone who has had braces will tell you it takes years, countless appointments, and many a painful week following a tightening at the orthodontist’s. Braces cost thousands of dollars a year and are only guaranteed in permanence for about as long as you continue to wear your retainer—and that’s after the entire years-long teeth straightening process in complete. My procedure will last my entire life—no maintenance. And since it was pretty much a 2-3 appointment operation—one for the surgery, one to remove the stitches, and one follow-up—it was much cheaper than braces and a fraction of the cost of my orthodontia history. People spend more on purses than I did on the procedure. There’s some perspective for you. Granted it was a fairly small procedure, but the point is it’s not all about money. It’s about whether or not I feel I got out of it something worth the money put into it.
In the end though, it doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks—it was my decision. I embrace the power I have over my body to do what I want—and I respect that other women have chosen to express that right however they choose. So next time someone talks to you about plastic surgery, remember that we all have the right to change our appearance as we please, and choosing to do so does not make us spineless or shallow or self-obsessed. If you are considering plastic surgery, remember it is a serious commitment—one that isn’t so temporary as makeup or a new haircut—and make sure you are safe about it. Check out the doctor beforehand and see his credentials. Go to a consultation and have the doctor walk you through every step of the procedure before deciding whether or not to go through with it. Ask yourself why you want to change your appearance—if it is because you think poorly of yourself and think this is going to fix it, save yourself some money and fill yourself up with love for who you are, because tucking this or tightening that will never help you love yourself more in a way that is more than conditional and superficial. Love yourself unconditionally, and do with your body the things that make you happy.