Needles in Your Face: Where Do We Draw the Self-Love Line?


One of my dearest friends has been getting Botox injections for years. She gets them and so does her sister and mother. Last week a lady at work regaled me with stories about chemical peels, lip injections, and her regular Botox regimen. (The conversation started because her face was peeling and she needed to opt out of an on-screen interview).  That same week my hairstylist told me about her lip fillers and Botox. I never realized how many people around me were getting Botox injections, lip fillers, and a myriad of other procedures to help them feel beautiful.

I had no idea how common botox and other procedures are. In 2007 almost 400,000 Botox procedures were done on patients ages 19 to 34, according to the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery. The numbers of people getting injections is staggering.

My brain started screaming conflicting things with every confession of beauty enhancement from my friends:

The patriarchy is making you do this. You’re being tricked!

Euro-centric beauty standards are racist, classist, ableist, and harmful to women!

Stop it. You’re beautiful as you are!

What’s the harm? These intelligent women are making a choice.

It isn’t a choice! It’s social conditioning!

The cacophony in my head was constantly interrupted by my own hypocrisy. After all, I wear makeup, shave my body hair, and dye the hair on my head. Let’s be real here: those are unnecessary beauty rituals. I’m not convinced that surgical/medical procedures are the same as hair dye, but I’m not confident that they’re dissimilar enough for me to cast side eye at my botox-getting sisters. I do those things because they make me feel pretty, and they help me reap certain rewards in this system.

I asked myself over and over, “Where do we draw the line on saying things are for self-love?” Does a sixteen-year-old getting a nose job for her birthday make the cut? How about a forty-year-old getting vaginal rejuvenation? What is personal choice, and what is patriarchal pressure?

I don’t know the answer to those questions, but here is one thing I know after much thought:

It’s not your job to tell someone their consciousness is lacking, and it isn’t productive.

Who the fuck am I to tell a grown woman that Botox means she is less enlightened? I’m nobody when it comes to telling other women how conscious they are. And neither are you. We need to lift each other up, not tear each other down, and honestly, how many women are you going to convince of the cause if you come at them about brow filler?

Feminism is at its best when it critiques systems, not individuals. If you want to get mad, get mad about the system that tells women they aren’t good enough so they buy shit they don’t need. Get mad that your beautiful friends pay thousands of dollars a year for painful procedures to undo the amazing gift of aging. Don’t take it out on your friend. Thoughtful interrogation is cool, and your friend is probably down with some friendly chatting about why they get their face injected, but let’s end it there.

Keep thinking critically, keep lifting each other up, and keep making the right choices for yourself (for now I guess, even if that includes Botox).

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