Thursday, April 5, 2012

4/3 BB Response

The skype session with the New View Campaign at Tuesday's Brown Bag "Female Genital Cosmetic Surgery" brought up many fascinating issues, especially since we were reading about it at the same time in my Women's Studies class.  What's interesting to me is that people want to get cosmetic surgery on something that not only will most people not even see, but that for the most part they can't see either.  This seems to destroy the argument that cosmetic surgeries are done for one's own personal aesthetic, when a sexual partner is potentially the only person who's going to see your renovated vulva.  Of course, I certainly understand how having your vagina look the way you want it to is important, because mine doesn't at all; like I said at the brown bag, as a transwoman I have a lot at stake in the development of this type of surgery if I do decide to get it.  So why is it okay for me to perform a cosmetic (i.e. non-medical) surgery on my genitals, but not for a bio-female?  First of all, my issues are tied to gender and sex identity, as the speaker mentioned, and the type of procedure is different, but one could argue that the effect is the same: both are trying to conform the genitals to a narrow few of what a woman's genitals look like.  For this reason many transwomen don't get bottom surgery because they are just fine with the genitals they have.  The idea that one has to have a vagina to be a woman, and that this vagina must have small, unobtrusive labia and be really tight and perfectly hairless, is challenged by this notion.  But that doesn't imply that a woman shouldn't get or have access to the procedure if she wants it.  The critique is that the cultural construction of what makes a beautiful vagina is narrowly defined, heteronormative, and based on what pleases a man.  The vagina has to be tight so that when a man penetrates it, there's more pressure and therefore more pleasure.  Dangly labia are just weird, and pubic hair is too masculine.  Furthermore, the critique is that these procedures are done under the guise of female empowerment, because women are taking control of their own body and their own sexual pleasure (although the evidence is still unclear as to whether these procedures actually enhance sexual pleasure for the woman, or their partners for that matter).  These procedures are concerning on many levels, and I hope people will think twice before getting them, but I also recognize that in the end, it's your choice whether or not you want a "perfect" vagina.  From my standpoint, the foremost criterion is how comfortable you feel with what's between your legs, and how to figure out what would make you more comfortable if you aren't.

Xavia Publius

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