Over at Blue Milk there's a bit of discussion about such things as shaving one's underarms and legs and the nature of feminist decisions and choices.
Last night on Hungry Beast they showed a segment about cosmetic surgery on people's vaginas, which seems like a super-sized version of the same kind of issue, that is, who has the right to determine what is acceptable, appealing or attractive about a woman's body?
Apparently some women feel that their vaginas are not the correct or acceptable shape and have surgery to alter the profile. The TV show had some footage of a scalpel peeling away some of a woman's flesh, the bit of the labia minora that was exposed outside.
The thesis of the show was the censorship, from the Classification Board, is to blame for women's skewed view of their bits, because the Classification Board is more likely to accept smooth looking vaginas in soft porn photos than bulgy, bulky or more lippy looking vaginas. These ones are then refused classification or sealed away in plastic and popped up on the top shelf (implied the show - I don't know the truth of it).
I think this is a bit of a long bow to draw. I don't recall the Classification Board being a particularly large market for pornography, actually. The magazine designer Hungry Beast spoke to (and showed photo shopping many women's bodies) claimed that it was never a commercial decision to alter the appearance and that it was only in response to Classification Board guidelines. It seems most disingenuous of the designer to say so, and really rather disingenuous of the show to accept it without much dispute or analysis. After all, it is not the Classification Board insisting that women who appear bulgy or bulky in other areas of their bodies are never, ever seen in pornography or other kinds of magazines. Somehow that just happens, apparently.
The key point of the program, though, that women feel pressured into getting surgery on perfectly healthy bits of their bodies is bloody terrible. What bothers me more than anything is that women thing they have to go to these lengths to please their partners or some imaginary potential partner, and that their partners must be so hung up on appearances (in an extraordinary narrow way) that they are encouraging, supporting or pressuring women into something so ridiculous.
Kaz Cooke wrote in the eternal classic, A Modern Girl's Guide to Safe Sex, that a bloke once told her (and I paraphrase) that he would put a kettle on his dick if it meant getting a root. I can't help thinking that people who are attracted enough to each other to want to get down and dirty shouldn't be looking at each other's active ingredients in a such a critical light. They should be thinking more along the lines of 'woo' and 'hoo' than - 'hmm, if only I could get this other person down to the surgeon licketty split then I could really have a good time'. Frankly, that seems a bit more than dysfunctional and spilling over into something like controlling or abusive. And not based on mutual attraction at all. Leaving out other discussions of love, respect and fun and all.
Also, factoring in recovery time, surely that surgery would put you off your game for quite some time? Why would a surgeon do such a thing to someone anyway? Is there any risk of infection? And who spends all their time thinking so much about the appearance of their vaginas? Do they not have good books to read?
Disclosure: I really have utterly no experience of pornography at all, and haven't spent a lot of time thinking about appearance issues, so this came as something of a shock to me.