No, you do not have the right to Botox

Judith Warner over at the NY Times Opinionator blog is musing today about a section of the embattled health care reform bill that has the National Organization of Woman all atwitter: a so-called Bo-Tax.

This proposal would levy a 5 percent tax on cosmetic surgery procedures, which, at last count, are still sought by women more than men. NOW’s argument is ridiculous, IMHO, and completely against what feminism once stood for. (Remember, girls? We didn’t want to be judged by the size of our bras but the size of our brains? Ah, those were the days.) Then again, feminism has morphed in the past decades, so much so that young college women now translate it to mean they should sleep around with as many young men as possible to prove they’re as good as men. We have a sleaze-factor in the women’s movement that should make true feminists cringe, but instead, you have the movement’s leaders focusing on access to abortion and now, access to cosmetic surgery at the lowest possible price.

“Now they are going to put a tax on middle-aged women in a society that devalues them for being middle-aged?” NOW Prez Terry O’Neill whined to the Times a few days ago.

Please. Our society may devalue women (and men) as we age, but that doesn’t mean we should all flock to the surgeon to remake ourselves and not expect to pay for it. We’re not talking fixing cleft palates here or dental problems or any number of necessary procedures that can help people to live better lives. We’re talking feeding into an obsession with youth and vanity that should have been nipped in the bud a long time ago.

Fact #1, we’ve got an aging, burgeoning population. Fact #2, we have a limited amount of money. Fact #3, we’ve got lots of poor people who can’t afford basic health care. Fact #4, getting a breast lift or a face lift or a butt lift is less important than helping subsidize health care, like immunizations and antibiotics for people who can’t afford it.

I admit I’ve been terrified since being laid off that I won’t get hired once I finish my teacher prep program. In a glutted job market, employers have the pick of the crop. Maybe principals will prefer a 25 year old to a 50 year old. I’ve thought, “Good gravy, I’ll have to find the magic ‘look younger’ formula and find it fast.” There’s evidence that there is age-discrimination out there in the dog-eat-dog world of un- and under-employment and, when push comes to shove, would I be willing to pay $2,000 for a painful procedure if it made me look 10 years younger and thus, put me in the “employable” range during an interview? I hope I can get a job on my brains, not my face.

But maybe brains won’t be enough. Last year, a woman wrote an anonymous blog post about how she got Botox because she’d been passed over for a full-time professor job at a community college numerous times, even though she’d had years of experience as an adjunct with great references and reviews. After she got the Botox, she once again applied for a full-time job and … she landed it. Also of note in that blog – a statistic revealing that about 40 percent of all men over 50 have gotten Botox injections, so fearful are they of not getting jobs.

So, yeah, our society sucks in its view of the “older worker” (off to Walmart greeter land to you, we say!), and maybe we’ll have to play that game to get a job. But if we do, we should pay for it, even if it is taxed. Face it, it ain’t the poor women who can afford this, so a five percent levy isn’t as “discriminatory” as NOW is alleging. And the more important effort would be in raising the cache of all “older” workers instead of buying into the Demi Moore method of “remaking” our bodies as well as focusing on getting the most vulnerable among us the health care that is actually needed.

6 Replies to “No, you do not have the right to Botox”

  1. No one is saying they have a right to Botox. No one is saying that medical insurance should cover Botox.
    What is being discussed is adding a tax to particular form of (self-paid) medical care.
    We traditionally do not tax medical or legal services.
    They are desperately trying to come up with ways to make the healthcare bill “self funding” and so they think they can throw in this tax (rather than, say, a cigarette tax) and claim it is “medical”.
    It’s pretty clever since it appeals to the usual self righteous censorious types, but there are plenty of better and fairer ways to fund a program which, not only doesn’t tax Viagra, but actually pays for it.


  2. The idea is that women should be as free to follow their urges as men are and should only be subject to whatever societal penalties would would apply to men for the same behavior. It’s largely about the double standard.
    You’ve made some pretty provocative statements about feminism here so allow me to make a few:

    The issue there, with abortion and personal morality, is about liberty – about folks being able to do what they want, regardless of what someone else (or group) would say.
    Morality is often used as a means to control people and has nothing to do with being a better person – at least when it is applied in public. Especially when it’s applied with a dose of panic – a la the rhetoric surrounding al Quaeda or “sexting” or anything that induces “THINK OF THE CHILDREN!” noises.
    Don’t even get me started on the double standard of morality that applies to your behavior if you are wealthy versus poor (Tiger Woods is a recent example, Elliot Spencer and Mark Sanford are some others…John McCain and Newt Gingrich are even earlier examples).
    What difference does a particular individual’s behavior in his or her private life make to the larger society? Why should I care if it makes no difference in my life? Exactly what is the utility of morality other than to control people and reassure people who are weak and/or afraid of change?
    Also, I don’t think NOW or anyone else is demanding that people suddenly adopt a lifestyle contrary to their personal values. I’ve always taken NOW’s position as arguing for a society in which people have the space to make their own personal choices, without the fear of being hunted down or ostracized by their society.

    With respect to ageism in the workplace, consider the issue of health insurance and retirement benefits – older employees are more likely to retire sooner, which means that I, as an employer, will get fewer productive years from them and probably have to pay more (and keep paying more) if I offer a health insurance and pension benefit. Also, older employees will have higher salary requirements and greater medical needs. Also, if I hire you at a lower salary, you’ll be out the door to another employer faster than I can blink when the economy turns around. It’s illegal for me to ask your age when I interview you, but don’t think I won’t try to figure it out based on your appearance.
    If you’re over 50 and looking for a new job, you’re probably better off starting your own business, acting as a consultant or going to work as a temp. It’s not that folks in that age group have nothing to offer…But not every business needs or can afford a master level employee.


  3. Matt said, “What difference does a particular individual’s behavior in his or her private life make to the larger society?” The flutter of a butterfly in California can eventually be felt in Japan. We are interconnected in a way that makes it absolutely imperative that we act with others in mind. The universe is a vast and amazing place and we are but tiny dots, but connected dots just the same, and all moving toward a final destiny, together. We who care do so because we want to invite all into life in abundance. I don’t mean material abundance, but spiritual abundance. To grasp this is true freedom and fulfillment.


  4. Roxane, that quote regarding the Butterfly effect is probably the most misunderstood and misused quote in the history of metaphysical debates. Ironically, the body of research that the concept comes from (chaos theory) is essentially an attempt to unravel all of the “inexplicables” that are currently attributed to God ( among them the weather.
    Unlike air molecules in thermodynamic systems, people have a choice in what influences them. In my own particular case, I don’t much appreciate anyone telling me what I can or can’t do in my private life (“abundance” or not). I’m sure you understand that the Christian view of what is “true freedom and fulfillment” is very different from what the Taliban’s view (from Afghanistan) or Wahhabi view (from Saudi Arabia).
    “But…” I can almost hear them saying, “my view is right and we’re just trying to help you.” Does helping me include kicking me out of your society if I don’t follow your rules?…Or just penalizing me by making me pay more taxes or excluding me from certain jobs? Or…Blowing me up if I refuse to adopt your religion? (If I were a high pressure system, I wouldn’t have the choice to refuse so it wouldn’t have to go that far.)
    I’m not suggesting that people must adopt my view, but I will insist that they leave me alone to pursue my path, regardless of how it fits in with that they view as “correct.” And I will insist that they be left alone to follow their paths. This is what I completely miss about people who have a problem with the state recognizing same sex marriage (or any of the other big “moral panic” issues of the day). Let people do what they want.
    You don’t have to propagate my wave. Don’t expect me to support (or propagate) any movement (wave) that will in any way limit my right to do whatever I want to in my private life as long as it doesn’t interfere with anyone else.
    We aren’t air molecules. We are sentient beings capable of rational thought and analysis. I find it George W. Bush paternalistic for people to assume that I’m too stupid to do the right thing (or to make choices that will make me happy) without adopting their religion.
    I’m not an air molecule. To quote Frank Herbert: “I am an individual: Do Not Fold, Spindle or Mutilate.” And much of the modern history of the “great” religions show they have done all of those things to people – especially when they ally themselves with those who hold political power.
    Seriously, let people do what they want. Doesn’t it say somewhere in those holy books that “Vengeance is mine, says the Lord?” and “Judge not, least you be judged?”
    Why this need to tell others what they can and can’t do in the guise of morality?


    1. Matt, I just saw your response, though a bit delayed. But I’m perplexed by it. Where in what I said did I make the admonition that you must follow my religion? God’s love is something that cannot be forced upon anyone, nor should it be — it wouldn’t be love then, would it? However, do you think it’s fair, for example, that though I am morally opposed to abortion, I should have to fund it? We are both feeling squelched, Matt, by society’s impositions. I actually found myself agreeing with you, so I’m not sure the argument anymore. Fair enough on the source of the butterfly effect, but I believe in our connectedness, not only because of my religious beliefs that we are all part of one body (Christ’s) but because science also has proven the connectednss of the universe. Ultimately, every action of ours, good or bad, affects the outer world in some small way, which can add up to something quite large. Every thought we have, and our actions upon those thoughts, affects someone. There’s nothing you can say to convince me otherwise because the evidence is literally everywhere you look. But I still don’t see where you are getting off on the tangent that I am coercing you into doing something you don’t want to do. My passion comes from my desire to be able to live according to my conscience, not in the need to coerce others. I’m not about that at all. But…if speaking about issues and the way I see them might help someone consider another viewpoint, great. If I can affirm someone in their own viewpoint, wonderful. If people don’t agree — am I surprised? Hardly. Our differences our as vast as there are people in the world. And yet… what is this desire to want to connect with one another, to want to understand how others think? We do not live in a vacuum. We are undeniably interconnected. In fact, you and I might even be related, who knows? Actually, we are related. Glad to meet you, brother. 🙂 We’re more alike than you can possibly realize. And I know what makes you tick, too. It’s the same as everyone else — the desire to love and be loved. I want you to have your freedoms, but not if your freedoms would harm me or my neighbor. See? We’re actually in the same place after all.


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