By: Claire Armstrong
In the summer of 2019, I started having headaches every day. Sometimes I could function as usual, sometimes I had to stay in bed in the dark with an ice pack for days on end. My primary care physician referred me to a neurologist, who diagnosed me with migraines. She prescribed an anticonvulsant pill also used to treat migraines. It made my fingers tingle, made soda taste weird, and made my depression worse, but did nothing to improve my headaches. Next, we tried Ajovy, a medicine I injected myself with each month. Again, no change. I started resorting to Advil PM to knock myself out when the migraines wouldn’t end. My neurologist decided I needed an MRI. The scans showed white matter lesions on my brain, consistent with chronic migraines. My neurologist told me the next step was to try Botox.
I was desperate for some relief, but upset at the prospect of getting Botox. And it wasn’t because I was scared of having 20 needles stuck into my head, face, and neck, although I wasn’t thrilled about that either. My real issue was the stigma I had attached to Botox. I had never wanted to be one of “those women” who alter their bodies for cosmetic purposes. I had planned to age “gracefully.” I understood the pressures on women to conceal signs of aging, but I still judged women who resort to Botox or plastic surgery to do so.
I still think there is power in resisting the patriarchal expectation that women can never age. But I regret judging women that make the choice to get Botox. And the fact that I internally stigmatized getting Botox, even for medical reasons, shows that I was allowing misogynistic ideologies to color my own thinking, just in a different way. Had anything other than the botulinum toxin been injected into my body, I would have had no problem with it. I knew getting Botox for medical reasons was different than getting it for cosmetic reasons. I knew that. And still, I was ashamed of getting it.
The patriarchy doesn’t just pit men against women. It also pits women against women, and women against themselves. My own attitude about Botox was not only judgmental of other women; it was potentially harmful to me. I needed Botox, but I resisted getting it. I judged myself like I judged other women. My desire to resist misogyny meant that in a twisted way, I fell prey to it. I was reluctant to undergo a medical procedure that I really needed because I thought it made me a weaker woman. Getting Botox has helped me tremendously. I still get migraines, but they aren’t constant like they used to be. It was the right decision for me, and it is for many others, too. I hope I will remember that next time internalized sexism rears its ugly head inside of me.