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Can We Stop Giving The Side-Eye To Women For Getting Plastic Surgery?

Her Voice

On a random day during a dull week, I all but dropped confetti from the ceiling announcing that I might get my breasts lifted. My friend's most immediate reaction was to fire off a stark "Why?" with a stank face.


In the past, she has also admitted that she desires elective surgery, but yet there I sat, feeling forced to make my case to another woman who claims to support the rights and choices of other women – all the while policing their bodies. I was met with the disdain of someone who has made space for the stereotypical assumptions surrounding women who partake in elective surgery.

Still, I entertained the dialogue because it's one that needed to be had. On any given day, I'd be out here braless regardless of how my breast hang, which highlights that this decision is the furthest thing from coercion based on societal shame or any one person's shame.

Not everyone seeks to get plastic surgery because of their programming or insecurity rooted in societal beauty standards.

And, although I'm 100 percent sure that this is what cosmetic surgery is rooted in, I hear so many friends discussing elective surgery that at this point, it is on the verge of being normalized for no reason other than because it's our damn prerogative.

Plastic surgery has been labeled as this God-awful thing that one does until they've reached a pinnacle of self-hate or want to appeal to men, but there seems to be little to no grey area on the subject matter. Although self-hate has definitely been the case for some, I don't believe it always has to be this deep...after all "hate" is a strong word, especially when used to describe a majority of those partaking in cosmetic surgery.

Personally, I viewed it as an opportune time to explore the idea, as the surgery could potentially be covered through my insurance and the worst that they could say is "no" right?

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People are allowed a preference and while there are women who revel in the beauty of their stretch marks and breasts that have withstood the test of time and gravity, that's not my mood in regards to my own body. For better or worse, that is my vanity operating full throttle. Can vanity be fueled by insecurity? No doubt. Still, being vain is not always indicative of latent insecurity so much as it is what it is: shallowness. I know that may be a crazy concept, so I'm running it back just a little bit louder and a little bit more clear:

In the same way that embracing your natural body doesn't make you secure, it does not indicate insecurity when a woman seeks out surgical enhancement.

I yearn to be free of the societal standards of how I should look or what size breasts are allowed to be free of the harness contraption thought up by controlling men moonlighting as paternal figures. I'll go braless with zero shame in a heartbeat, but if I can have perkier breasts, I'll take that rack too because why the hell not? Of all the things I am insecure about with my body, my breasts are not one – so I feel safe assuring anyone that there's not a sense of dissatisfaction pushing me to consider having my breast strung up a little higher.

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But even if it were due to dissatisfaction, we can't advocate that women have the autonomy to make some decisions about her body without judgement, without honoring that same reasoning for the rest of that woman's body.

Either way, it's not our place to put a scarlet letter on women who opt for cosmetic surgery.

At best, I'll give way to the thought that societal standards have programmed this level of vanity, but isn't that everything that we know? The norms that we don't enjoy, we fight to deconstruct, but the thought of elective surgery in a healthy manner doesn't strike me as the worst message I or you or we have received from the world.

As a Black woman in America, I think the more pressing issue and dangerous message is sent by society's praising of the Kardashians who pay to make themselves in the image of Black women, meanwhile, Black women are ostracized for the very same features.

If I'm going to have a stake in the impact of plastic surgery, it's not going to be for the woman who has made the choice to responsibly opted for plastic surgery. Instead, I'm going to give my attention to advocating for those who would put themselves in harm's way in order to alter their image. Those who spend their last to alter their image. Women who are addicted to plastic surgery to the point of being unrecognizable. These are the scenarios that I personally feel require intervention – some on a micro level (mental health care) and others on a macro level (added restrictions on the black market).

Otherwise, and I'm sad that I even have to tell you this but, my body, my choice.

xoNecole is always looking for new voices and empowering stories to add to our platform. If you have an interesting story or personal essay that you'd love to share, we'd love to hear from you. Contact us at submissions@xonecole.com.

Featured image by Getty Images.

ACLU By ACLUSponsored

Over the past four years, we grew accustomed to a regular barrage of blatant, segregationist-style racism from the White House. Donald Trump tweeted that “the Squad," four Democratic Congresswomen who are Black, Latinx, and South Asian, should “go back" to the “corrupt" countries they came from; that same year, he called Elizabeth Warren “Pocahontas," mocking her belief that she might be descended from Native American ancestors.

But as outrageous as the racist comments Trump regularly spewed were, the racially unjust governmental actions his administration took and, in the case of COVID-19, didn't take, impacted millions more — especially Black and Brown people.

To begin to heal and move toward real racial justice, we must address not only the harms of the past four years, but also the harms tracing back to this country's origins. Racism has played an active role in the creation of our systems of education, health care, ownership, and employment, and virtually every other facet of life since this nation's founding.

Our history has shown us that it's not enough to take racist policies off the books if we are going to achieve true justice. Those past policies have structured our society and created deeply-rooted patterns and practices that can only be disrupted and reformed with new policies of similar strength and efficacy. In short, a systemic problem requires a systemic solution. To combat systemic racism, we must pursue systemic equality.

What is Systemic Racism?

A system is a collection of elements that are organized for a common purpose. Racism in America is a system that combines economic, political, and social components. That system specifically disempowers and disenfranchises Black people, while maintaining and expanding implicit and explicit advantages for white people, leading to better opportunities in jobs, education, and housing, and discrimination in the criminal legal system. For example, the country's voting systems empower white voters at the expense of voters of color, resulting in an unequal system of governance in which those communities have little voice and representation, even in policies that directly impact them.

Systemic Equality is a Systemic Solution

In the years ahead, the ACLU will pursue administrative and legislative campaigns targeting the Biden-Harris administration and Congress. We will leverage legal advocacy to dismantle systemic barriers, and will work with our affiliates to change policies nearer to the communities most harmed by these legacies. The goal is to build a nation where every person can achieve their highest potential, unhampered by structural and institutional racism.

To begin, in 2021, we believe the Biden administration and Congress should take the following crucial steps to advance systemic equality:

Voting Rights

The administration must issue an executive order creating a Justice Department lead staff position on voting rights violations in every U.S. Attorney office. We are seeing a flood of unlawful restrictions on voting across the country, and at every level of state and local government. This nationwide problem requires nationwide investigatory and enforcement resources. Even if it requires new training and approval protocols, a new voting rights enforcement program with the participation of all 93 U.S. Attorney offices is the best way to help ensure nationwide enforcement of voting rights laws.

These assistant U.S. attorneys should begin by ensuring that every American in the custody of the Bureau of Prisons who is eligible to vote can vote, and monitor the Census and redistricting process to fight the dilution of voting power in communities of color.

We are also calling on Congress to pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act to finally create a fair and equal national voting system, the cause for which John Lewis devoted his life.

Student Debt

Black borrowers pay more than other students for the same degrees, and graduate with an average of $7,400 more in debt than their white peers. In the years following graduation, the debt gap more than triples. Nearly half of Black borrowers will default within 12 years. In other words, for Black Americans, the American dream costs more. Last week, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, along with House Reps. Ayanna Pressley, Maxine Waters, and others, called on President Biden to cancel up to $50,000 in federal student loan debt per borrower.

We couldn't agree more. By forgiving $50,000 of student debt, President Biden can unleash pent up economic potential in Black communities, while relieving them of a burden that forestalls so many hopes and dreams. Black women in particular will benefit from this executive action, as they are proportionately the most indebted group of all Americans.

Postal Banking

In both low and high income majority-Black communities, traditional bank branches are 50 percent more likely to close than in white communities. The result is that nearly 50 percent of Black Americans are unbanked or underbanked, and many pay more than $2,000 in fees associated with subprime financial institutions. Over their lifetime, those fees can add up to as much as two years of annual income for the average Black family.

The U.S. Postal Service can and should meet this crisis by providing competitive, low-cost financial services to help advance economic equality. We call on President Biden to appoint new members to the Postal Board of Governors so that the Post Office can do the work of providing essential services to every American.

Fair Housing

Across the country, millions of people are living in communities of concentrated poverty, including 26 percent of all Black children. The Biden administration should again implement the 2015 Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing rule, which required localities that receive federal funds for housing to investigate and address barriers to fair housing and patterns or practices that promote bias. In 1980, the average Black person lived in a neighborhood that was 62 percent Black and 31 percent white. By 2010, the average Black person's neighborhood was 48 percent Black and 34 percent white. Reinstating the Obama-era Fair Housing Rule will combat this ongoing segregation and set us on a path to true integration.

Congress should also pass the American Housing and Economic Mobility Act, or a similar measure, to finally redress the legacy of redlining and break down the walls of segregation once and for all.

Broadband Access

To realize broadband's potential to benefit our democracy and connect us to one another, all people in the United States must have equal access and broadband must be made affordable for the most vulnerable. Yet today, 15 percent of American households with school-age children do not have subscriptions to any form of broadband, including one-quarter of Black households (an additional 23 percent of African Americans are “smartphone-only" internet users, meaning they lack traditional home broadband service but do own a smartphone, which is insufficient to attend class, do homework, or apply for a job). The Biden administration, Federal Communications Commission, and Congress must develop and implement plans to increase funding for broadband to expand universal access.

Enhanced, Refundable Child Tax Credits

The United States faces a crisis of child poverty. Seventeen percent of all American children are impoverished — a rate higher than not just peer nations like Canada and the U.K., but Mexico and Russia as well. Currently, more than 50 percent of Black and Latinx children in the U.S. do not qualify for the full benefit, compared to 23 percent of white children, and nearly one in five Black children do not receive any credit at all.

To combat this crisis, President Biden and Congress should enhance the child tax credit and make it fully refundable. If we enhance the child tax credit, we can cut child poverty by 40 percent and instantly lift over 50 percent of Black children out of poverty.

Reparations

We cannot repair harms that we have not fully diagnosed. We must commit to a thorough examination of the impact of the legacy of chattel slavery on racial inequality today. In 2021, Congress must pass H.R. 40, which would establish a commission to study reparations and make recommendations for Black Americans.

The Long View

For the past century, the ACLU has fought for racial justice in legislatures and in courts, including through several landmark Supreme Court cases. While the court has not always ruled in favor of racial justice, incremental wins throughout history have helped to chip away at different forms of racism such as school segregation ( Brown v. Board), racial bias in the criminal legal system (Powell v. Alabama, i.e. the Scottsboro Boys), and marriage inequality (Loving v. Virginia). While these landmark victories initiated necessary reforms, they were only a starting point.

Systemic racism continues to pervade the lives of Black people through voter suppression, lack of financial services, housing discrimination, and other areas. More than anything, doing this work has taught the ACLU that we must fight on every front in order to overcome our country's legacies of racism. That is what our Systemic Equality agenda is all about.

In the weeks ahead, we will both expand on our views of why these campaigns are crucial to systemic equality and signal the path this country must take. We will also dive into our work to build organizing, advocacy, and legal power in the South — a region with a unique history of racial oppression and violence alongside a rich history of antiracist organizing and advocacy. We are committed to four principles throughout this campaign: reconciliation, access, prosperity, and empowerment. We hope that our actions can meet our ambition to, as Dr. King said, lead this nation to live out the true meaning of its creed.

What you can do:
Take the pledge: Systemic Equality Agenda
Sign up

Featured image by Shutterstock

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