Feminism’s Face-Lift

BotaxAlexandra Suich on the “bo-tax”, in The Nation:

NOW has not taken to the streets to campaign for affordable access to face-lifts, and it is unlikely that the group will do so. But by framing it as a women's issue, NOW's president has given cosmetic surgery giants like Allergan, which makes Botox, a social grievance and one of its strongest arguments. Where companies and plastic surgeons might have only been able to whine to Congress about lost profits, they can now claim they are campaigning against a tax that unjustly targets women. The Bo-Tax, Allergan's spokeswoman explained to me without detectable irony, is about “a woman's right to choose.”

In 1991, Naomi Wolf published The Beauty Myth, which argued that society promoted unrealistic images of female beauty to keep women locked in place, forlorn and self-hating because they could not achieve that flawlessness themselves. Her book encouraged women to mobilize and discard their aspirations of plastic perfection and helped launch the Third Wave of feminism. Today, in a disturbing twist, NOW's president is not decrying the “beauty myth” but is accepting a “beauty reality.”

The real issue here is not whether women should have the choice to get plastic surgery. It is not a ban on plastic surgery that has been proposed, only an excise tax. What is of greater concern is that the leader of the most prominent feminist organization in the US could speak out on a topic of such minor concern when there are so many feminist issues at stake in the healthcare debate, like reproductive rights and insurance coverage of mammograms. Botox should not be further from feminists' minds. Aligning feminism with the cause to keep plastic surgery costs low reinforces the notion that feminism is a movement for white, middle-aged, middle-class women. Feminism has needed to lose that label for more than a century.