I have amazing women friends who are funny, irreverent, smart and snazzy. They support me when I need encouragement, and we never fail to challenge each other regarding issues, our lives, loves and in what we believe.
One day while having lunch with these very wise women, one friend looked at another and said, "You look different. You don't have a wrinkle on your face." The seemingly "different"-looking woman laughed and said, "Botox baby!"
The first friend looked stunned and replied, "Well, that's not a very feminist thing to do!"
Really, I thought? According to whom?
On the website dictionary.com, feminism is defined as:
Noun: 1. the doctrine advocating social, political, and all other rights of women equal to those of men.
2. an organized movement for the attainment of such rights for women.
I've long been a feminist, but this interaction catapulted me into thinking about my definition and honing in on what it means to me. I don't believe it means a militant, man-hating woman, (like the bullying radio host who hurls the term femi-nazi in a damning and negative tone). But I do believe in a definition more akin to considering that the answer to patriarchy is partnership with men.
Equality with men isn't about matriarchy -- that is just as lopsided. Simply stated, I believe in sharing power, responsibility and rights.
So, can one be a feminist and subscribe to treatments like Botox and, if so, what about facelifts, coloring one's hair or Brazilian waxing. Is there a line and, if so, where is it and how do I identify it?
I like who I am. I also like to look good, so I too have made the decision to have the occasional injection, to smooth the lines on my forehead and look a little less world-weary.
It's a decision I made just because I wanted to do it. I don't feel pressured by women's magazines, or by the fact that I do a lot of public speaking as part of my job, or because of patriarchy. Come to think of it, I remember my husband saying it was a waste of money as I am beautiful the way I am and let's face it, (pardon the pun) when it comes to men, it's his opinion I most value.
Regardless of my choice,
I still think the Botox conversation is worth having, as I believe most women feel they have enough pressure to look a particular way without having to live up to another person's idealized view of what's attractive, or reading on the cover of a woman's magazine at the grocery store checkout that the secret to beauty is using sunblock, getting plenty of sleep, practicing yoga and drinking gallons of coconut water each day.
Who are we kidding if we pretend we just wake up looking like this? Are we doing ourselves a disservice? Are we letting the "sisterhood" down? Isn't feminism really all about supporting the choices women make, even if those choices don't fit with your world view?
We know that it's what's on the inside that matters most, but I also know I feel strong and more confident if I look good on the outside, too. And it is obvious Botox is not eliminating life-experiences from my face. They most certainly are still there -- heartaches, joys, gains and losses.
Just look at me, talk to me I have amazingly glad, sad, bad and mad stages etched into my make-up. I not only carry these experiences in my heart and soul, but also in the way I live my life.
The thing is, our youth- and beauty-obsessed culture isn't changing any time soon. I can and will continue to protest against sexism from now until the cows come home, but will that change the fact that the visible signs of aging are a buzz kill?
So, hair color, Botox, a facelift or a Brazilian wax, whatever -- they all boil down to individual choice. And from my feminist perspective, the choice is fabulously empowering.
Oh, and one more thing: I'm never going to be a big fan of coconut water!
Laurel A. Lynch, executive director of HOPE Family Services, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org