Beware of "Do you, girl!" Feminism: How I need my girls to check me before I wreck me.
“Do you, girl.” seems to be the motto of any millenial woman who, on paper, might check the the “yes” box next to the word feminism.
“Do you, girl” is the blanket slogan under which we encourage each other’s choices without question, because anything less could qualify you as a person who shames others, and you don’t want that. If you’re caught “shaming” any woman, the internet feminist guerrilla might publically drag you until you have no other choice but to change your Instagram username and switch your profile to private until it all blows over and the next shamer is blacklisted and exiled.
We’ve all spent our formative years being so ashamed. Of our periods, of our nipple hair, of our body counts, that in response, we built a culture of unconditional support and validation towards all choices that a woman might make, and called it feminism. Unfortunately though, it doesn’t work that way. If feminism is to yield any measurable, tangible progress in the quality of our lives, it cannot stand only on affirmation. It is essential that there be constant critique. Because in reality--and I mean this literally--in reality vs. on the internet, there are such things as negative or “bad’ choices, and when we thoughtlessly cheer “do you, girl!” to any and every path, we may very well be be leading each other off a cliff of our own unchecked impulses and insecurities.
I grapple with this most on the topic of plastic surgery. There is a constant policing of women’s bodies that I don’t deny, and the demonizing of plastic surgery is an extension of that issue. But “do you” feminism is not rooted in liberation--it is a collective willful ignorance towards the question of why so many women feel motivated to undergo highly invasive and expensive cosmetic procedures at such staggering and ever-increasing rates. “Do you,” is condoned instant gratification, not legitimate support in the pursuit of body confidence.
“If it makes you feel better, do you.” Instead of, “What specific beliefs are obstructing your confidence?”
“How do you want to feel/What do you want to gain?”
“Is surgery the most sound avenue through which to pursue those gains?”
And of course there is an irony to the idea that “doing you,” could mean cutting open and changing you--usually the healthy and perfectly functioning parts of you. Especially so because the aesthetic that we pursue through plastic surgery is not varied. The objective is always to appear or be: thinner, younger, sexier. This is not radical, or new, or pro-woman. The dream being sold to us has always been this, except that the technology and accessibility are now widespread and rapidly advancing. But if that weren’t enough, the plastic surgery industry is propped up by credit and easy qualifying financing plans that make $10,000 + surgeries feasible to even low income and economically vulnerable women, within a culture that already corrals us more towards bigger boobs than bigger savings accounts or credit scores.
“But Adriana, I’ve heard you talk about about getting work done so many times before.”
Of course you have! Of course I have expressed this many times throughout my young adulthood, because I feel and am impacted deeply by the pressure to be a certain kind of beautiful. I equate beauty and sex appeal with the acquisition of power, confidence, money, and even love-- things we all want.
But as I mentioned, I want to be held accountable and not be pulled away by this riptide of beauty, grooming, and body expectations that never slows down and only gets more drastic over time. I want to actually do ME, by freeing myself of the itch to always be prettier, and focus my attention and resources on other facets of my development that aren’t completely shaped by male expectations. We weren’t born dreaming of bigger tits and ass. We were born with talents and deep purpose extending far beyond our physical appearance, but our focus and vision have been so eroded over time by this false need to “better” ourselves rather than BE ourselves.
Some healthy examples of “doing you” that are rooted in actual self expression and not a deluded need to fix what isn’t broken:
Publishing a zine
Wearing a unique outfit that you’re comfortable in
Cutting off toxic relationships that make you unhappy
Exercising to relieve stress and anxiety
Beauty rituals that make you feel pampered and cared for ( i.e. a sunday bath, a bedtime “unready” routine)
Pursuing hobbies/career paths that are fulfilling to you even if they don’t meet the expectations of those around you
Attending events/experiences by yourself if they are important to you and your circle doesn’t share the same interest
Prioritizing your needs in romantic relationships in spite of negative feedback
Honing crafts that don’t immediately, if ever, yield financial gain
Starting a business that you believe in
There are an infinite number of expressions that sincerely “doing you” could take, and it’s our purpose to realize those and experience the joy and growth that they yield. I understand that for many people, plastic surgery can be life changing, and the different circumstances and reasons for this are highly personal and valid. But what I want to dissect is the way we are passively accepting and encouraging of plastic surgery as a medium to transform ourselves into a predetermined, glorified image of what a woman “should” look like, instead of working through the discomfort of not fitting that narrow mold to begin with.
This critical thinking is also essential towards reimagining what a successful woman looks like. We need to open our images of success to include a wide spectrum of presentations of women. More often than not--especially within the social media sphere--perceived success and plastic surgery, or improved appearance go hand in hand. There are countless women in entertainment (oftentimes the source we draw majority of our examples from) who with increased success in their careers, steadily transform their appearance, or use physical transformation to achieve success, and it is so normal and natural to absorb and want to emulate that imagery. But feminism to me, more than anything else-- including equality--represents freedom. In this case the freedom to develop into our true selves, instead of the bootleg “freedom” to pay to be shaped into someone else’s fantasy.
This isn’t about some team natural vs. fake dichotomy, and how one is more virtuous than the other. This is about a commitment to honesty, introspection, and accountability regarding what actually motivates our goals of how we want to look, and taking control of that dialogue in our own minds and collectively as women, to decide that we are not going to passively encourage each other to neglect the call to blossom into our full unique potential--which can never be achieved from the outside in.
Yours in accountability,
The Feminist Housewife