Sexy Feminism Excerpt: What Cosmetic Surgery Really Means

Leading up to the publication of our book, Sexy Feminism, on March 12, we’ll be sharing some short excerpts of it with you, the readers who helped make this book possible! Here, a portion of our chapter, “Plastic Surgery: Can You?” 

Extreme cosmetic procedures also happen to be a serious threat to  health. To understand why plastic surgery is a feminist issue, we need to look at what it is—the ugly, bloody details. Imagery surrounding plastic surgery more often than not focuses on the “after.” Women showcasing smooth, tight new parts are shown smiling and dancing, usually on a beach. The reality of what they must endure to achieve the end result of smoother, tighter, younger (and happier?) are details usually confined to the doctor’s office. Here’s what the most popular procedures entail:


What it is: The good old-fashioned nose job is now so common, it’s often used as a comedic aside in film, TV, and standup acts—and the butt of the joke is always a woman. Remember poor Jennifer Grey’s ribbing and effective ousting from the entertainment industry after she got the nose her agents and managers no doubt talked her into? Here’s what they’re laughing at: After the patient is sedated, her nose is cut free from the cartilage so doctors can get to work sawing and hammering it into a new shape. Advertised recovery time is a few weeks, but most cases require six months to a year, and often a follow-up procedure is necessary to fix any imperfections or complications—including infections, blockages, and trouble breathing.

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Sexy Feminism Excerpt: What I Learned From a Laser Facial Peel

Leading up to the publication of our book, Sexy Feminism, on March 12, we’ll be sharing some short excerpts of it with you, the readers who helped make this book possible! Here, Jennifer’s “Feminist Confession” about trying a laser peel, one of the most popular cosmetic procedures available.

I spent years with a laser facial treatment on my wish list, but it remained far from possible for most of my twenties and thirties, thanks to the prohibitive $2,000 cost. But when I got my first book deal while I was still working at a well-paying full-time job, I found myself flush with disposable income. Regular taxis, luxurious dinners out, and overpriced designer jeans became part of my new reality, and I decided I would also choose one big-ticket indulgence before socking the rest of my newfound money away in my savings account. The winner was a laser treatment to smooth away the evidence of hard-fought battles with terrible teen acne.

I have a fancy dermatologist, the kind who’s quoted regularly in women’s magazines and who’s worth the hour-plus trip on the subway from Brooklyn to the Upper East Side of Manhattan, so I wasn’t worried about safety. The nurse who handles the outpatient cosmetic procedures at the office told me to expect some discomfort. She also advised me to take a few days to a week off work for recovery,  because my face would be a little red, “like a sunburn”—a mantra everyone in the office would repeat often throughout the process. I’ve had sunburn. I could live with that.

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Vagina Anxiety

What if anyone who’s ever had occasion to be between my thighs has secretly thought, “She’s a cool girl … too bad about those labia”?

This is what I’ve now been forced to think as I peruse my Wall Street Journal, and then again as I read my New York Times Magazine, and then again as I watch a special CNN report. As if the era of the Brazilian bikini wax hadn’t made me nervous enough, with its laying bare of things that used to be covered, now there’s this: Labial plastic surgery and hymen reattachment are apparently all the rage in some circles. Circles with too many resources, to be sure, but also circles that end up foisting their twisted insecurities upon me via esteemed news sources, where I am supposed to be safe from such things.

I am an intelligent, well-adjusted woman with slightly above-average self-esteem (there are plenty of parts of me I don’t like, but I’m unabashedly fond of my legs and abs). So upon hearing about such idiocy, I summoned the requisite outrage. What pigs plastic surgeons are, giving women another source of insecurity! What a travesty, kicking us girls, so to speak, where it counts! Not to mention the risk of losing some of the precious nerve-laden square inches that make that part of us so special to begin with. And the fact that some women in less fortunate parts of the world are forced into genital mutilation … and here some women are paying for a form of it? Ladies, come on.

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