The feminist guide to cosmetic surgery

Anything that makes you feel good is beneficial to the cause of women the world over

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It is about time the modern woman who endeavours to be politically correct in all things had a decent guide to what it is acceptable to do to her own body. What used to be called "grooming" is now a far more complicated issue which may involve expensive plastic surgery as well as extensive reworkings of feminist dogma in order to justify it. Here is my guide:

1. Breast enlargement If you really have to have this done, make sure you do it in an ironic and thoroughly post-modern way. Put your breast in permanent quotation marks. Preferably write an article about it in Playboy, like Jan Breslauer, who said, "Here's the choice: you can rail at an imperfect world, or go get yourself a great pair of bazongas." Saying words like bazongas and babes and totty show that you are so post-feminist you are practically a lad (though obviously because of your prominent bazongas no one will actually mistake you for one).

Be aware of the arguments for and against bigger bosoms and insist you are doing it for yourself and certainly not for any man. If you are a Page Three girl, deny all knowledge of silicon until it is forced out of you. Make it clear that a boob job is not a bimbo-type thing to do but environmentally friendly, and in fact the act of a highly motivated career woman.

If you are a highly motivated career woman you can purchase your breasts as a present for your new husband a la Paula Yates. Talk, also, of how your new chest makes you feel more feminine. After all, what could be more feminine than permanent falsies? Reduce the issue if you can to one of self-esteem. Anything that makes you feel good is beneficial to the cause of women the world over. Indeed, like "the butterfly effect", a boob job in some odd way helps the struggling sisters of the South.

It is probably better not to try this argument out on your Filipino cleaning lady. If none of this convinces, then tough titty.

2. Facelifts Are they a feminist issue? There are two ways to go about this. The first is to admit that you have been mugged by gravity and you just want to look younger. It is your duty to grow old disgracefully. Explain that cosmetic surgery is only an extension of the things women do to themselves anyway. Or try the argument about it being acceptable to have reconstructive surgery for bodies disfigured through accident or disease, and ask what is morally wrong in using such techniques in the service of vanity?

Whatever you do, emphasise the personal rather than political nature of this act, trotting out your feminist credentials. Try not to read Joanna Briscoe's novel Skin, which is full of horrific details about what it is like to have your face sliced off, hoiked up and stitched on again. Avoid gruesome TV documentaries full of blood, gore and hacksaws. Say it's no one else's business and put a brave face on it.

Alternatively, reconstruct your face in public like the woman who wants to be Sindy, or Orlan, the French performance artist, who has herself mutilated in the name of art. Redefining ideals of feminine beauty, Orlan has had little horns inserted into her forehead. Very fetching. Make a great play of the fact that surgery is done in a "theatre", that all femininity is a kind of performance, that in the future we will all remould ourselves and think nothing of it.

Forget about conforming to male-defined stereotypes and copy Roseanne who has morphed herself into a brand-new creature so as not to look like the parents she says abused her.

3. HRT As you get this from your doctor it has nothing to do with vanity and everything to do with good health, so no one need make a fuss about this.

4. Dieting/liposuction The dieting industry is thoroughly pernicious in encouraging women to feel terrible about themselves. As we are more enlightened these days, mainly because we have been on enough diets that haven't worked, we no longer push them down the throats of young girls. No. Instead, every magazine in town has wonderfully informative pieces about "detoxing". What's that? Starving yourself in the name of purity.

Liposuction is what to do if even detoxing doesn't work. It is also the only sure-fire way of getting rid of that late-20th-century invention, cellulite. Keep the fat that has been vacuumed out of you by your bedside. You never know where it might come in handy.

5. Eating disorder Only resort to this if none of the above works. The great advantage of an eating disorder is that you can do it all by yourself. No need for plastic surgeons or healthcare professionals (until it gets out of hand) and the results are soon visible for all to see. An eating disorder is probably the lowest-cost form of body modification, which may help to explain its enormous and growing popularity, especially among the young.

6. Toe jobs Not to be confused with eye jobs or nose jobs, so therefore perfectly acceptable. There are no lasting effects or tell-tale signs unless one happens to be a member of the Royal Family.

7. Shaving A rough one for feminists who are routinely described as hairy man-haters. Contemporary woman is so confused that she has taken to shaving in summer but not in winter, shaving her legs but not her armpits and even shaving the front but not the back of her legs. She has also been persuaded that razors for women are fundamentally different from razors for men because they come in pastel colours.

The "politics of appearance" that dominated the feminism of the Seventies and Eighties centred on an idea of "the natural", failing to understand that the natural is always culturally constructed. Writers such as Mary Daly considered any woman who wore make-up a "fembot" or a "painted bird". Now we are all so much more in touch with ourselves, we can juggle the signifiers of femininity around with gay abandon. Fembots rule.

However, these complex matters have been further convoluted by yet another new invention: "exfoliation," or the scraping off of dead skin - both real and metaphorical, you understand - which is now considered so crucial that failure to perform this extra task may lead to premature ageing, which as every woman knows is equivalent to premature death.

8. Penis reduction Also known as Bobbiting. One of the few forms of cosmetic surgery performed on men by women, and therefore an encouraging reversal of the trend.

9. Penis enlargement The one form of plastic surgery that feminists can truly claim to be united on. Men who have fat sucked out of their stomachs and injected into their penises make us laugh. We particularly like it when it all goes wrong and they end up having to have their genitals stapled up to stop them leaking. How could anyone be so stupid and vain as to do this to themselves, we wonder. Thank god we all know so much better.

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