That’s a picture of me when I was about 6 months old. As you can tell I’m wearing a special shoe on my left foot. That shoe, along with a cast, straightened (well, for the most part) the crooked leg I was born with. I’m sure my parents were thinking that having a slightly crooked leg would hamper my movement as I grew up. But I bet the biggest reason for the correction was that I would just look plain funny with a twisted leg.
So many of us have reconstructed some part of our bodies that we don’t even think twice about it. Think about how many people have straightened their crooked teeth or in the case of Debora L. Spar, who recently authored “Aging and My Beauty Dilemma” in last week’s New York Times, reduced her breasts via breast reduction surgery. Such procedures rarely faze us or compel us to judge people harshly because of them. When a 13 year-old boy walks around with upper and lower braces in his mouth, we don’t say: “oh, he’s so vain” or “he’s succumbing to social pressures, he should be above that.” Of course not.
So why do so many of us strong, empowered women feel so damn insecure getting fillers or a boob lift? Why must we think we are somehow being hypocrites or turning our back on feminism?
I have to hand it to Spar for putting herself out there and sharing her insecurities. And bravo for the New York Times to take her words seriously enough to print them. As president of an excellent women’s college, Barnard, Spar is certainly a model of feminism. And yet, she, like so many of us, are fearful of looking old, and, at the same time, ashamed for feeling that way or doing anything about it. It wasn’t so much that she was insecure with her changing looks (though she clearly is) but that she feels she is going against her feminist principles that really bothered her.
I get it. The media or western culture in general can often makes us feel ugly and prey on our insecurities around aging. And then, to make matters worse, it pressures us not to address those feelings lest we be called frivolous or worse, a hypocrite.
But, c’mon. Getting a haircut, shaving our legs, and wearing Invisalign are such common behaviors now we don’t think anything of them. And yet they are all part of our daily regimen to transform how we look. Should we feel ashamed that we do them, no way! And men do them too. They don’t make us less powerful, brilliant or leader-like.
And the same should be true for fillers, botox, breast augmentation, you name it. They will become so common one day that we will put them in the same bucket as teeth whitening.
So let’s stop wasting our precious energies on judging others for their beauty boosting behaviors. And even better, lets stop wasting our time and effort feeling ashamed for partaking in them.
I applaud Spar for her article. Good for her for having the courage to be so vulnerable and talk about something WE ALL feel in some shape or form. But wouldn’t it be even better if all those “judges” just left her alone so she can feel confident about how she looks and what she does to keep herself feeling beautiful. And that way she can spend more of her time writing about and sharing her valuable insights on women’s education and leadership instead.