Cancer log 161: Several…

Cancer log 161: Several people have posted comments in response to my waffling about reconstruction saying essentially that I shouldn't worry about it not being feminist, because feminism is about giving me choices, and choosing to reconstruct my 'natural' breasts is my choice. And while I appreciate their support, I think it's important that we be clear that it's not an unforced choice.

Choosing to reconstruct is on the same spectrum as foot binding, wearing high heels, getting your private bits (or just eyebrows) waxed, wearing Spanx, wearing corsets twenty-four-seven (a growing movement), coloring grey hair to hide the grey, using botox, whitening your teeth, etc. and so on. They're all choices to spend time, money, and sometimes pain or even risk of physical harm, in the pursuit of socially-constructed beauty ideals.

I'm not saying all or any of these are evil, or even bad choices. We live in a society that places a high social premium on the appearance of youthful attractiveness, especially (but not exclusively) for women. If you don't conform to that ideal, then you risk penalties -- for career, dating, and general social interactions.

At various times in my life, I've made many choices for perceived beauty. On the simplest level, I've spent money on clothes I didn't strictly need, money I could've spent on travel or books or art classes or even worthy causes. And I'm okay with that. I enjoy fashion, I have fun with it -- and I'm also a woman in a society that judges me and penalizes me, and if putting on a cute outfit makes me feel more together and better able to face the day, that's fine. I also wax my eyebrows, wear the occasional high heels, etc. and so on.

No judgement here -- I think we all make these choices daily based on what we need to be happy. But I don't think it serves women (or people in general), to ignore how these are not free choices, how we are all being constantly pressured and coerced by the society we live in. Even if much of that pressure is invisible, is the air we breathe, so we don't even notice it, or feel like it's just something we naturally want.

Here's a mental game you can play with yourself. If you lived alone in the woods (perhaps you have taken yourself there for a year to write the great American novel, and will emerge brilliantly to take the world by storm), which elements of your beauty regime would you still engage in? Brushing your teeth is good for your health, and the occasional bath ditto, but beyond that? I think I might just live in sweats and sneakers.

(But I might also be bothered enough by my scarred breast that I'd want to get that changed *before* going out to the woods. As a commenter said, body dysphoria is a real thing.)

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