Often times being thin, via nature or diet or time in a gym is thought of something horrible. The intelligence of women who wear make up or get any sort of cosmetic surgery is guestioned, and often they are made fun of. Women who enage in any sort of “Patriarchy Approved” grooming or body ritual, well, when they admit it, they appologize for it. They are appologetic or ashamed of being thin, or wearing eyeliner, or having blonde hair...
... It seems like an odd sort of backlash to what was supposed to be a mode of thought that would make women more comfortable in their own skins, no matter their shape, size, mode of dress, or alterations. One can read feminist lit of all types, from books to blogs, and see this odd backlash, feminist people calling women bimbos, porno barbies, sticks; women disdaining their own natural attributes that fall within the realms of conventional beauty, things such as being tall, or thin, or curvy or blonde…
I don't know how common this is, in general, but I know that I've noticed it on occasion. I've seen threads about lipstick, makeup, high-heels, etc. end up becoming quite heated, as some people take hard-line stances about them. I've seen people essentially say "You're not really a feminist if you wear heels/lipstick" or whatever the topic of choice is. And, let's be honest, there are big taboos against breast enlargement in a some feminist circles. I'd have guessed that this was a minority position- the way that I generally think people being criticized for working out or being thin tends to be a minority situation- but I also realize that, as a guy, I'm not in the best position to notice these sorts of criticisms.
Still, Ren's question is an interesting one to me, because I don't think that there's a good response, necessarily. The problem is between dealing with individual choices, and the social implications that those choices can have.
Here's what I mean: I'm a huge supporter of people exercising their personal autonomy. I think that you should have the right to do just about whatever you want to your own body. If you want to be thin, be thin. If you want to be fat, be fat. If you want to dye your hair purple and wear nothing but yellow polka dots, I say go for it.
Some people want to be as "natural" as they can be- they don't want to shave or get cosmetic surgery. They want to leave their body as it developed. I think that's great, and I don't think that they should be judged poorly for it. On the other hand, some people take great pleasure in having total control over their bodies. They like to be able to sculpt themselves and know that their physical presentation is exactly as they want it to be. I think that's great, too. And, of course, a lot of people fall somewhere in the middle.
So, when it comes to any particular individual, I think that body modification is totally fine. I get the impression that this is a minority view. In abstract, I don't see anything wrong with breast enlargement over any other form of elective, cosmetic surgery. Sure, not necessary, but, then, neither are lots of the other forms of body modification people get. In abstract, what's the difference between a boob job and, say, getting lots of piercings, or tattoos, or teeth bleaching, or hair dying, or braces, or, or, or...
All of those things are surgeries or alterations people get to change their physical appearance in ways that they control. Don't like that bump on your nose from when you broke it when you were twelve? Get a nose job and fix it. Don't like that you have to wear glasses? Get lasered. Get a navel piercing. It's a way of exhibiting control over your body, which, I think, can be a perfectly healthy and understandable desire to have. We don't think twice when someone wants to get her teeth straightened.
Ultimately, I think that all of those things should be left up to the individual to decide. It's not my place to tell another person that she should or shouldn't alter her body in some way that doesn't effect me.
Unfortunately, we don't live in an ideal or abstract world. We live in a very real world where we don't make our choices in a vacuum, and that's where I think the disagreement/trouble comes in, and where I think Ren is finding people's comments troubling and/or confusing. In a world where women are constantly bombarded with images and messages telling them that they're not good enough, and that they'd be more attractive if they shed a few pounds and had bigger, perkier breasts, and if they wore the right foundation, and had longer lashes... well... I can see why some people start to have concerns.
And I understand that and think it's totally fair, too. If you've got a system that really pushes women to feel like shit about how they look naturally, then you're going to have a system that pushes women get bodily alterations done. Socialization is powerful, and it's hard to know how much it effects women's choices when it comes to these things. How many women would cover their faces in makeup if it weren't for the social pressure to do so?
So, of course, it's a damned if you do, damned if you don't situation. If you don't shave or wear makeup, you get criticized for it. You're breaking a social taboo, and people will look and question and prod and poke. If you do, you're capitulating to harmful social pressures that demand women look a certain way.
So, how do we come to a place where women who want to modify their bodies or wear makeup or wear certain clothing get the respect that they deserve, but where other women can feel free to criticize the system that reinforces the notion that real women dress or act or look a certain way? How do we avoid criticizing any particular woman for getting a breast enlargement while still fighting the system that tries to tell women that their breasts aren't good enough?
I think that's precisely how, though. I think it's entirely possible to say that the system is screwed, without attacking any particular woman. If a woman says that she did X, Y, or Z because she wanted to, I think that's fair. If a woman says she's considered the implications of an action, and has decided to go ahead with it, that's good enough for me. I don't think it's my place to question any particular person's feminist credentials based on whether she's wearing red lipstick or high-heels.
So: to answer Ren's post: I think that it comes from being troubled and concerned with the systemic problems, and attacking the women that are seen as perpetuating them. I think that it's very easy, when you're trying to fight a systemic problem, to end up hitting individuals sometimes. I'm not suggesting that it's nice or right to do so, but I think that it's understandable that it happens. If you're trying to fight a big problem, and you see someone that is reinforcing that very problem, frustration or imprecise language can create a situation where you end up lashing out at an individual.
Still, like I said, I don't know how pervasive this problem is, though. For my money, I'd have guessed that it was more likely that feminists feel guilty or troubled by their own wearing of makeup or concern with beauty than for them to be criticized by other feminists for it. I'd love to hear other people's experiences wit this though.