Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Defective Breasts

I originally had decided not to publish this post, because after all, we don't really need another post on how people in western cultures view breasts. But when I opened today's paper, I saw an article on The Boob Lady, and just lost it. So here goes.

When I got sick this past spring, I joined a Yahoo group for people with chronic illnesses. One of the regular emails consists of a list of links from the Mayo Clinic that provides information on a variety of health concerns, from preventing the flu to dealing with intractable fatigue. So imagine my surprise when a recent link from the the Mayo Clinic covered breast augmentation.

I clicked on the link, because I wanted to know how breast augmentation could possibly be related to health. One of the reasons suggested for breast augmentation was priceless:

* Correct a defect in the development of your breasts, such as having breasts of unequal sizes

So this is how breast implants are related to women's health! Only, I'm confused as to what health problems I'm risking by having uneven breasts. Is the smaller breast more susceptible to cancer? Am I in danger of damaging the larger breast by closing a door on it? I'm afraid to admit this, because clearly I'm a developmental freak, but most parts of my body are uneven. Can medicine come to the rescue? The only thing worse than misogyny is when misogyny enriches the medical industry.

Frankly, my misaligned breasts haven't caused me any problems in life. My mismatched feet, on the other hand, have caused considerable problems, since one foot always has an ill-fitting shoe. Maybe the Mayo Clinic will send me an article about foot implants. But then, I'd have to work my way up my body, undergoing multiple surgeries to even myself out so that I don't exhibit any developmental defects and make other people uncomfortable. Oh, wait, uneven body parts are a health issue. I'm sorry to say I've typed this entire post with uneven hands. How could I have been so reckless?

I think I'll focus on actual health problems, like this intractable fatigue.

The Boob Lady

Thursday's Seattle Post-Intelligencer has a story on a woman who likes to be called "The Boob Lady". I read the story, hoping against hope that TBL would be preaching a message of self-acceptance, and encouraging girls to challenge the messages that bombard them daily. Imagine how excited I was when I read that she speaks to girls in junior high school, and that her philosophy was that "They should be comfortable in their own skin."

Optimism only leads to disappointment.

She didn't start out as The Boob Lady.

A creative-writing class unearthed her feelings about her breast lift surgery two years ago and the impact it made on her life.

"For most of my life, my breasts would arrive in the room before I did," she said.

After nursing and raising those children and getting into shape, she underwent a breast lift -- a surgery that removes excess flesh and moves the nipples up -- and for the first time, she felt like she had breasts that aligned with her petite body.

"Finally, I'm comfortable with me," she said.

TBL wants girls to be comfortable in their own skin. That phrase, comfortable in your own skin, is important to me. I've been working for a long time to achieve that level of acceptance of myself. The way that I understand the phrase, it means that you accept yourself as you are. It does not mean that you accept yourself once you've had surgery to get rid of the unacceptable parts.

The article just gets worse and worse:
"They're not the end-all be-all but they are the things that define us as women," Squires said. "They're out there all the time. They define our sex, but it isn't who we are."

Silly Boob Lady, our breasts do define who we are. Someone, get this woman a radical feminist analysis of body image, stat! She attempts to preach about the need for a positive body image.

Bodies, she said, change a lot. And so do your breasts, with life-changing events such as pregnancy and birth, or through exercise.

"They're in a constant state of flux," Squires said. "Change is a good thing. If you don't like your breasts today, you may like them in 20 years."

But surgery to "improve" your breasts is acceptable. It's impossible for me to reconcile the idea that bodies are to be accepted as they are, as they change, but plastic surgery is okay.

...What's unnatural are boobs deliberately hiked up by some tits-on-a-platter bra, รก la Victoria's Secret," she wrote.

But breasts subjected to surgery are natural? Restrictive bras are unacceptable, but surgery is fine? Wouldn't it be so much easier to encourage women and girls to accept their bodies as they are? Loving your body, without reservation, without "fixing" it first, should not still be subversive. Unfortunately, it still is.


witchy-woo said...

Funny how no-one ever suggests men should have surgery for their asymetrical testicles, isn't it?

Oh, sorry. I forgot. They're not a health risk.

*shaking head with total unbelievability at never-ending depths of capitalist partriarchal bullpoo*

spotted elephant said...

Witchy-I almost referred to asymmetrical testicles! But yes, they're not a "health problem".

Anonymous said...

Right on. and this: Am I in danger of damaging the larger breast by closing a door on it? made me almost spit my hot cocoa out.

sparkleMatrix said...

As a National Health Service veteran, I can assure you...
"misogyny enriches the medical industry"
The medical industry IS a branch of the patriarchy!
Excellent post btw!

Justjuliefornow said...

I laughed out loud at Lost Clown's comment as the proud owner of large, uneven breasts since I was quite young.

Talk about mixed messges! And hypocrisy.

Madame DeBarge said...

I'd much rather be able to find a well-supportive bra than worry about lifting my boobs.
Okay, let's rephrase that. Well supportive bra that I don't have to travel an hour and go to a specialty shop for.

Laura said...

Unequal breasts = defect? Stupid fuckers, this is the same kind of manipulative bullshit used by advertisers to get us to buy antiwrinkle and anitcellulite creams. Germaine Greer mentions unequal breasts in The Whole Woman, I don't have it here to check right now but I think she said only 5% of women have breasts of the same size. Enough said.

Laura Linger said...

I have a most impressive rack, and I take issue with her assessment of Victoria Secret bras. No, it isn't "tits on a platter." Rather, it's proper support for your breasts. I wear VS bras exclusively because they are a pretty way to give my tits the support that they need at a price that's right. Sorry if I ain't dropping thousands and thousands on having some surgeon realign my nipples or whatever.

And you know that this is just another ploy to create an "issue" for women that never seemed to be a problem before. ALL WOMEN HAVE UNEVEN BREASTS. That is just nature. It has a lot to do with what is your dominant hand. It can be affected by weight loss and gain. It can be caused by a curve in the spine, or a lack of symmetry in the hips.

My left tit is bigger than my right tit. The Boob Lady can suck either one. Stupid bint.

Anonymous said...

What the fuck with this lady? It's bad enough that she thinks she's giving me advice about my always-asymmetrical tits. But I have a daughter, for crissake. She oughtta be in one of those "scared straight"-type videos to show girls how demented advocates of plastic surgery can be. There are people who go through all sorts of traumatic difficulties, and benefit from plastic surgery. Ms. Tits-Before-Brains doesn't qualify.

Where'd she move her nipples to? Her shoulders? How is it that sane people who feel sad or wild or anxious get diagnosed with all sorts of itises and a dumbass like her is considered sane?

My right breast has always been bigger than my left. Not only that, the nipple is larger. The left is more sensitive, though. It's kinda like Botticelli, without the seashell. Absolute perfection, and a little hair, too.

hexyhex said...

I'm actually one of the lucky women whose breasts are (at least visually) pretty much identical.

It doesn't really matter, though, because my severe spine curvature makes one LOOK a completely different size and shape to the other.

Since appearance is apparantly all that matters, should I have my boobs made asymetrical so that they appear balanced to onlookers? Or is this line of thought so obviously insane that it shouldn't even be contemplated?

All of that said, if I ever end up in the boat that a cousin of mine ended up in (breasts so large they were causing her chronic pain and seriously interfering with her quality of life) I'll be grateful for the existence of breast reduction surgery, just as she was.

spotted elephant said...

Hexy-I'm with you. I don't think we should have to live in constant pain. That article only dealt with breast augmentation as a health "need". If it had been written on breast reduction, I wouldn't have said a word.

Anonymous said...

It really frightens and angers me that the "boob lady" speaks in schools. Is there some way to complain about that?

I'm going to find out, because I bet there are more than a few parents who would be upset by the fact that someone is coming into their child's school and saying that it's good to get surgery so you can feel comfortable "in your own skin." WTF????

As for uneven/asymetrical boobies, mine were even till I started breastfeeding my daughter. Then the right one swelled up like a proverbial melon. Turns out most of my milk ducts were on that side...and I had a very hungry baby. I wonder how surgery to even out your breasts impacts your ability to breastfeed in the future. Not that we should care, cause we all know that breasts are really for the visual enjoyment of men.

Here's a link to a better boob lady's site: Check Your Boobies

Heike Malakoff is also in WA and started this nonprofit as a way to get women to get friendly with their breasts so they would know what their breasts usually feel like and be better able to notice changes, such as lumps.

Anonymous said...


This stuff makes me so damn mad!!!!
*beats head against the wall 25 times*

This lady better not go talk at my niece's school.
*smacks dumbass lady upside the head with her right tit (it's the bigger one)*

hexyhex said...

Technically, her breasts were reduced. She just had the nipples shifted in the process... which, frankly, it would be hard to find a doctor who WOULDN'T include.

After nursing and raising those children and getting into shape, she underwent a breast lift -- a surgery that removes excess flesh and moves the nipples up -- and for the first time, she felt like she had breasts that aligned with her petite body.

Squires knows first-hand. She is a 34C. But she used to be a 34DD in high school, then a 36EEE with her first pregnancy. After nursing three children, she went down to the 34C, where she has stayed since.

But it does appear she did this for cosmetic reasons.

Personally, I think she can do whatever she pleases with her breasts. I just worry about the "speaking in schools" part.

spotted elephant said...

Hexy-My problem is that she had surgery for cosmetic reasons (not pain relief) but spouts "accept your body as it is" and sees no contradiction.

hexyhex said...

I know what your point is. I agree on the hypocrisy, although I do point out that we only know what she said in that interview, which is about her paying job. We don't know what her private motivations were.

Nonetheless, I don't really like her message being presented to schoolkids.

Outside of that? I think she can do whatever she damn well pleases to her boobs, but I acknowledge that here I am in the minority.