Are We Oppressing Ourselves?

In 2012, 14.6 million cosmetic plastic surgeries were performed. In 2016 we stand in the era of the Kylie Jenner lip craze where injections and Botox have become as nonchalant as getting a manicure.

This surgery crazed generation has made me wonder, when did empowerment become associated with altering our physical form, the unique features we were born with, into the narrowly defined definition of beautiful? Surgeons and girls who’ve undergone the knife, or aspire to, refute the criticism stating they feel more beautiful, it was their decision, and they’re so much happier. They speak of cosmetic surgery as an empowering, personal decision.

But is it their decision? Where does their insecurity of their nose, boobs, or whatever they desire to change originate?

Consider labiaplasty, the surgery procedure for altering the labia. After stumbling upon a blog post that informs men how to “identify” a “roast beef vagina” I became aware of the stigma against women with “large” labias. Referred to as “meat curtains” or “the dreaded roast beef” it’s presented as a disgusting, deformity. Large labias pose no medical issues, the reasoning behind labiaplasty is rooted in the conclusion, spread by men, that enlarged labias are unattractive. Since 2011, an increasing number of women undergo the surgery. One of the most popular types of labiaplasty, referred to as the “Barbie”, requires stitching the two lips together for a smaller labia and reducing or, in some cases, amputating the entire labia.

This specific surgery sounds frighteningly similar to Type II and Type III of FGM, female genital mutilation. FGM is practiced in mostly indigenous villages which involves the altering of the vagina in order to control young girl’s sexuality. As awareness of the health risks FGM poses grows so does the support for legal prohibition. But as FGM is further limited and discouraged, our participation in this self mutilation, in the name of vaginal rejuvenation, grows.

This self imposed oppression extends just beyond the cosmetic world. My nineteen year old friends, all attending incredible colleges pursuing degrees in subjects I struggle to comprehend rarely entertain me with the knowledge they’ve attained and often disregard their obligations and homework in favor of romantic pursuits. Many girls live their life by the aspirational rhyme “ring by spring”, which summarizes their desire to be engaged by their senior year of college.

Their infatuation with marriage, at such a young age, reminds me of the child brides, subjected to an arranged marriage and taught that the best, and only, occupation they will hold in their life will be as a wife. I’m not trying to discourage marriage, rather question what women are focusing on and why they’re focusing on it. We have the opportunities and advantages to change the world. Why are we then using our resources to attempt to resemble a plastic doll used only as means as entertainment and infatuation for her unattainable, unhealthy looks? Why do we aspire to have a contracted partnership instead of aspiring to find people who help us grow and make our lives brighter?

Here at Empowered By You we hope to inspire you to do things greater than follow classic, rather outdated, roles. Shift the paradigm, make an impact–and please, please don’t let the size of your labia distract you from your bright, bold future.