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The year is 2017, and here in the Philippines, people still go out of their way to shame women for whatever they do with their bodies. Whether it’s about putting on makeup, wearing revealing clothes, and living with their partners before marriage. Hell, even with women’s personal decisions of not getting married, not having children, and taking contraceptives, people still have a lot to say.

The past few weeks, people couldn’t stop talking about actress-rockstar Arci Muňoz and how her look has dramatically changed. After photos of her recent guesting in a company party went viral, her name quickly made it to the trending topic of Twitter with people giving their two cents about her alleged transformation.

“Maganda na siya dati, hindi kasi makuntento eh, ayan tuloy!”

“Fake! Retokada! Sobrang hindi na siya makilala”

“Arci Munoz or Michael Jackson?”

These comments went on and on, with people bashing the actress and accusing her of how she can never seem to feel contented with her face despite rumored previous surgeries, and how she ruined her own appearance for always wanting more.

The term ‘retokada’ has always been used to put down people who decide to go under the knife. People throw the term to celebrities and personalities as if undergoing a cosmetic procedure is the most horrible thing on the planet. But really, why are cosmetic surgeries still considered taboo and seen in negative light when all it does is help people achieve the look they’ve always wanted?

Enhancing your looks and going through cosmetic surgery for it doesn’t necessarily mean that a person isn’t contented with the look she has and isn’t always rooted in insecurity. Self-love comes in all forms, and if she finds happiness in transformation, then who we are to judge?

Remember when Lady Gaga used to have prosthetic horns placed under her skin? She altered her appearance not because she was insecure about she looks, but because for her it was art. “It’s artistic expression. It’s a performance-art piece,” the highly-successful pop star said.  “I have the ability and the free will to choose the way the world will envision me,” she added.

Some people may feel more beautiful and empowered with no makeup on, no cosmetic procedure, or whatnot. While some feel more like themselves whenever they get to transform and achieve a new look, whether it’s through makeup or surgery. And no matter how they get that satisfaction, as long as it’s safe, it’s none of our damn business.

Besides, why do we demonize these women so much who choose to modify their bodies? How is it different from people who use whitening soaps or capsules to achieve fairer skin? How is it different from people who get botox shots every month to prevent wrinkles? Why are these more acceptable than going under the knife to get a nose job or boob augmentaton?

Where is the line in body modification drawn? And who gets to draw it? Who gets to say what transformation is acceptable and what isn’t?

Society’s standards on women’s beauty has always been messed up. When you choose to be laid back and simple, people will shame you for not putting enough effort. On the other hand, when you enjoy putting on makeup, and find satisfaction in modifying your appearance, people will call you ‘fake’ and your beauty ‘superficial’. In this society, it seems like women can never win, and can never do anything right in their eyes when it comes to beauty.

People can go on and keep on talking and bashing Arci Munoz and all the other women who underwent surgeries. But at the end of the day, it’s their bodies, it’s their faces, and it’s their own hard-earned money that they’re using. They have all the right to do whatever they want with it. And as long as they’re happy and safe, they win.

Illustration by: Madel Crudo

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