People may have seen the event on facebook or the piece on the Guardian Website advertising a march down Harley Street today “against the pornified culture driving women under the knife to get a ‘designer vagina’” and “against the cosmetic surgeries ruthlessly profiting from this practice.” Here are some thoughts on the critique that has surrounded this event:
Behind rather a lot of the rhetoric is an argument that capitalism, or rather the expansion of the degeneracies of the commodity form to the human body, conflicts with “that which is natural”, which, we are told, ought to be defended. This is the start of an argument which all too often becomes “what is natural is good”. Nature, that transcendental principle, will apparently deliver us from our despair, it will make us human once again. On the contrary, the only valuable argument about nature is one that examines its witheredness as a mode of critique without a demand to return to nature. The repression of nature may be a (very literal) index of suffering but the end of suffering is not the return of the natural, and every claim of the possibility of the natural is nothing but the propagation of its further suppression by capital.
There is also a claim regarding the “pornification” of culture that manifests itself in the demand for surgery. This is nothing but a bracketing out of basically every other social relationship as mediated by capital, as though the “natural look” couldn’t be equally recuperated as commodity. Or as though sex as it exists today somehow exists other than in the cold system of exchange. Commodities aren’t commodities because of what they are like (although commodities are, qualitatively, dialectically, a certain way). Capitalist exchange means a total system of adequation of everything we do, or produce. The notion of the pornographic gaze as alienating is only viable for people who don’t already understand how absolutely they are alienated. The notion that sex, or the body, can currently exist outside of the relations of capital is nothing but uncritical Romanticism, a philosophy whose reflexion has already been subsumed totally by ideology.
Every expectation of today’s society is one of public self-mutilation; not having cosmetic surgery will not save you. Ultimately, for some people, vaginal cosmetic surgery may be a source of pleasure, just as one may take culinary pleasure from the most processed, most heavily packaged food item. Is the Muff March nothing but an analogue for those bourgeois who spend their time on Radio4 extolling the values of “real food”, the truth being that their muddied misshapen carrots bought from the farmers market at twice the market price offer nothing but a grand sense of capitalist identity while disavowing themselves from capitalist systems.
Nature will not protect anyone from anything. It ought not be the job of protest to sell one commodity over another. The real damage to genitalia is something more primary, more hidden. Bodies are born cut up, ready to be sold. Your vagina has no privilege.
This is not to say that there is no room for critique of this type of surgery and its popularity, as well as the modes whereby it has become a popular phenomenon, but rather that a lot of the critique offered by the people around this march is hugely flawed.