« Remembering Andrea Dworkin | Main | Needing a nap »

April 12, 2005


La Lubu

A friend of mine who is 34 years old and wears a "c" cup wants implants. To be larger? No. She wants to stay the same size. She's afraid of aging and doesn't want sagging boobs. She doesn't have sagging boobs, but she's concerned for the future. She wants to replace her natural breasts with implants, regardless of the risks, so she can remain youthful looking. She is also considering "preventative" Botox.

Now, anyone. Tell me, if you can, how this is not completely messed up. She's an attractive woman, yet is convinced that there is something wrong with her because her body looks like a living woman's instead of a department-store mannequin's. Tell me, if you can, how this isn't a form of self-loathing.

I think the ban should remain on silicone implants, because they are a defective product. But regardless of the viability of the product, I will continue to seriously critique the pure ugliness of the lengths to which women are pressed to adhere to a bogus standard of beauty. Bogus, because it is not a standard of health and natural, unique appearance, but one of cookie-cutter, mass-production standards completely divorced from one's health---to the extent that many of the "beauty" procedures either detract from health or are serious risks in and of themselves.

I've got a daughter. I don't want her growing up in a culture where women's bodies are considered as easy (and "necessary") to modify as Ms. Potatohead. She's a beautiful girl. I want her to be recognized for who she is. I want her unique beauty to be valued, not seen as a landscape that needs pruning or planting. Who stole feminism, indeed.


And for all you FDA bashers out there, if it's all about the Benjamins why are thousands of drugs and procedures not on a greased track to approval and not available in the US, while they are available in Canada or Europe? I guess there's not ENOUGH money in it for them.

      Better to ask how the approval process works in the first place. The FDA gets much of its funds and most of its data through the drug companies themselves. Its a a blatant conflict of interest. It's not surprising that many of these drugs are approved. "Benjamins" do talk.
      As in Bextra, a recently banned anti-inflamitory, the data the FDA reviewed (which was supplied by Pfizer) looked pretty good. It wasn't until data received from doctors in the field were reviewed that they started noticing that Bextra was killing people. Now they are figuring out that Naproxin, Celebrex and a few others are doing the same thing. But all they are getting is more strict warnings on the lable. The FDA has refused to pull them. Even Vioxx wasn't pulled until Merck voluntarily pulled it.

      The review process has some holes in it. Funny that more than a few of them seem to revolve around Merck and Pfizer, two of the largest drug companys in the US.

      Breast implants had plenty of data to draw from in concluding that they posed health risks from leaking silicone gel. Yet they are making a comeback. I doubt it is for compassionate reasons..


Something that interestes me about the question of breast implants or other decisions people make about their bodies, is how they weigh the short term benefit against the long term benefit. I recognize that I am often very bad at making decisions that take into account my long term benefit. For example it is often much easier to stay in bed for an extra hour than to get up and exercise.

Many people choose to augment their bodies, smoke, take steriods, etc. for a benefit that may or may not last longer than than a small portion of their life.

A Libertarian approach would be to make sure all of the information about the risks of these procedures is available and then to require that any resulting expenses due to degenerative desease is incurred by the companies and individuals. I can't say that I am a Libertarian, but it is a consistent argument for free choice advocates.


Adrienne, I'm aware it's condescending. In my post last year on the subject (linked above) I took that risk. I've heard over and over from young women "Oh, I'm having surgery for myself, not for others." I think they are almost always deceiving themselves. I don't believe any of us are capable of distinguishing what we do "for us" from what we do to comply with the societal ideals. I don't think our minds work that way.


One thing that doesn't get discussed in feminist discussions about breast implants is the use of implants, or non-implant reconstructive surgery such as the TRAM flap, after mastectomy for cancer. The current availability of an admittedly imperfect product does make some women more willing to consider and deal with a mastectomy for cancer (not all tumors/not all breasts are treatable with breast-conserving surgery). Some women don't want a reconstruction and are happy with falsies. Some women wouldn't even bother to get screened for cancer if they didn't have the option of an implant.


A Libertarian approach would be to make sure all of the information about the risks of these procedures is available and then to require that any resulting expenses due to degenerative desease is incurred by the companies and individuals. I can't say that I am a Libertarian, but it is a consistent argument for free choice advocates

Some free choice advocates (myself included), are just fine with being solely responsible for the results of our own actions.... I'm not sure what political persuasions if any fully supports that concept though..


solely responsible for the results of our own actions

Whereas corporations are not solely responsible for the results of their actions; once somebody's agreed to try your product, they're on their own, babeh.

I don't think most people who advocate the "full disclosure" position really understand how the pharmaceutical industry works. A drug is not sold with full, perfect information about the benefits, risks, and potential side-effects that will ever be known about presented to the consumer. Even a fully honest company can't warn you about risks they don't know about--and you can't agree to assume risks you don't know about, either.

But I think the only thing more cruel than pushing a beauty standard on a woman is to take away any means she has to achieve it.

So if a company wants to sell implants that always result in perfect breasts but kill 30% of the women who use them, hey! The FDA should slide 'em right on through. How dare we allow the FDA to keep dangerous products off the market!


So if a company wants to sell implants that always result in perfect breasts but kill 30% of the women who use them, hey! The FDA should slide 'em right on through. How dare we allow the FDA to keep dangerous products off the market!

      Breast implants are a perfect example. People know that silicone breast implants, even the non-defective ones, cause illness in certain cases. Its well documented and makers of implants make no effort to hide that data. Yet women still want them. That company shouldn't be responsible if you are foolish enough to get them anyway.

      Cigarettes are another example. Everytime I hear about someone sueing a cigarette manufacturor because they got cancer, I got to wonder. You knew, you smoked anyway, now you want to blame someone else for your past mistakes.

      Now if they are selling a defective product and hiding that fact, or misrepresenting their product in some way, that is a different story.. If they market a product with insufficient testing and prematurely sell a product that causes dangerous side effects, they should be responsible. Breast implants do not fall into any of these catagories.

Ha. As I write this, a news article is on the toob about the Breast Implant controversy. I didn't know that Houston was the "Breast implant capital of the World" Imagine that.. They were even invented here..


Let's take a look at this subject from a different angle. The chicken available to us today carries enough hormones to speed up the growth process from 3 months in '44 to 3 wks '05. Cow's milk has enough hormones in it to cause legitimate concern of links to prostate cancer in men. Most medications advertised on TV produce side effects like: diarrhea, vomiting, dizziness, lack of sleep, sleepiness, heart palpitations, thoughts of suicide and in some cases even death. The weed and insect control used in lawn services is harmful to children and pets. We should wash our food before we consume it; be it meat, vegetable or fruit.

Bottom line? Almost everything today comes with some kind of warning or possible side effect. But we still have the right to chose what we put in and around our bodies.

I have breast implants. They have been a part of my life since '87. I am 50 and doing great. Never had a problem with annual mammograms, capusulation, or leakage. I researched 15 doctors throughout 3 counties in So. Fla before making my final desicion. My doctor told me from the onset about the risks and advantages to implants. My reason for(under the muscle)implants was sagging after 2 childbirths.

My choice is to not walk through life with blinders on, nor will I live so safegaurded that I am not able to fully experience life as I chose. I live with the knowledge and understanding that every choice I make affects myself and those I love. I have never regretted my decision. Good luck to those ready to make a decision.

Redneck Feminist (drumgurl)

Thanks for posting your story, Chais.

I don't believe that 30% of breast implant patients die, or that 93% of implants rupture. Sorry.

I hope some of you remember your arguments before you chide thin women, including models, for not being curvy or "womanly" or "normal" enough to suit your tastes.

La Lubu

I hope some of you remember your arguments before you chide thin women, including models, for not being "curvy" or "womanly" or "normal" enough to suit your tastes."

drumgurl, if you think this is what my attitude is, you misunderstand. I am against the whole idea that women's bodies or faces should have to conform to one cookie-cutter standard. It would never occur to me to tell a woman she was "too thin" or "too fat". I don't believe we should buy into the baggage of self-loathing. Who you are, naturally, isn't "too" much of anything!

Look, I'm not going to excoriate any woman for making a choice to modify her body through surgery, even though I disagree with the idea of surgery for nonmedical reasons and would not make that choice myself. We women are under a lot of societal pressure to constantly monitor and change our bodies, particularly in regards to aging. Choosing to abstain from plastic surgery can have a financial impact on a woman, even if she isn't a model. Women have enough landmines to step through in this life, and we are fed messages of self-hate our entire lives. I'm not going to add to that voice and "shame" women who don't make my particular choice. I recognize that it's too easy for me to criticize from the cheap seats. I have big boobs, my top is larger than my bottom, and I look younger than my age. I'm not feeling the same version of heat that others are feeling, and I want to respect that.

At the same time, I want there to be cultural room for questioning why there are these practices. I want to know why we, as women, are not sent strong messages that we are naturally beautiful, rather than naturally ugly, and in need of some form of modification. Why are large breasts considered "more attractive" than small? Why are implants considered "better" than natural, albeit sagging, breasts? Why are laugh lines considered unattractive?

This bothers me. It bothers me more when I'm told that to question these matters is wrong. I said before on another thread, that there was a reason colored contacts didn't come in my eye color (dark brown). That's just one example of how these choices aren't made in a vacuum. If it was all about "choice", why aren't blue-eyed blondes given the option to darken their eyes to my color, hmmm? Is my eye color so ugly that such an idea is unthinkable? There is breast reduction surgery, in recognition of the back problems that large breasts can have....yet I haven't heard of anyone reducing their "E" cup to an "A"....why not?


La Lubu,

There is a reason colored contacts don't come in dark brown and it's not because brown is bad. It's because there is no significant market for them. 80% of the world's population has brown eyes already. Companies make choices that make financial sense. If you see a strong desire for brown contact lenses out there go produce them and make a fortune.

Redneck Feminist (drumgurl)

La Lubu, I agree with you. I think it's appalling that our society has such a narrow idea of what a woman should look like. And the reality is that most people are attracted to several different body types anyway. I fully support your criticism of societal group-think and the plastic surgery industry. The latter profit from women's insecurities, no doubt.

I just wanted to point out that I sympathize with women who undergo cosmetic surgery. Maybe I'll even choose it someday when I'm old. I hope I am secure enough to not go that route.

I can't say I've heard of women getting reduced to an A-cup, but I've definitely heard of them getting reduced to a small B. I sympathize with them too. Not just for health reasons, but also for not being able to "hide" when they want. I am not as busty now, but I remember right after my pregnancy, being a slim DD-cup, I couldn't even wear a damn sweatshirt without getting unwanted attention. In a perfect world, it wouldn't be an issue.

La Lubu

ok dave, I'll bite. How about hair? There's already a built-in market for dark hair dye, as gray hair (especially on women) is considered unacceptable. Why aren't light-haired women clamoring to the salon in droves to darken their light locks?

Fact is, you can't separate "beauty" norms from race, ethnicity, sex and class. Light-haired women are higher-up on the "beauty" ladder than dark-haired women. Blue-eyed women are higher-up on the "beauty" ladder than brown-eyed women. Thin women are higher-up on the "beauty" ladder than fat women. Large-breasted women are higher-up on the "beauty" ladder than small-breasted women. "Tanned" women can be considered more attractive than pale women, as long as they are northern European, and thus safely "white" enough that the "tan" isn't "too" dark. All of these are artificial constructs. There isn't any reason to believe that the average U.S. citizen should grow up believing these constructs. This is marketing, at its worst. We who don't fit the thin (yet large-breasted) WASP norm are fed self-hatred from the moment we are born. If we're damn lucky, we don't get that message from our own family. But by the time children enter preschool, they already know where they, and their family, stand on the "beauty" scale. And that's messed up.


Well, La Lubu, beauty contructs evolve over time and are different in every culture. And most of them are bull-crap because few people actually fit in them. You don't think they exist in their own form in China or sub-Saharan Africa, for instance? The gaunt look is in vogue now here but it will not last. Heck, look at all those nude ladies in Renaissance art. I don't think they were portrayed that way because there was a glut on beige paint.

Your last comment really strikes me though with respect to self-hatred. Is this from personal experience, empirical evidence, or conjecture? My experience is that much of the problem comes from parenting, not the external forces we love to vilify because it's so easy to do so. You elude to this yourself when you state "If we're damn lucky, we don't get that message from our own family." If a child has to be "damn lucky" not to get that from family, that's a sad state of affairs. I praise my children for all sorts of things and beauty is seldom one of them.



As a homeschooling parent to children who *used* to be in public school, I can attest to the self-hatred that comes about from societal experiences outside the family. We pulled our children out of public school when they were in middle school. It has taken us 3 years to get our daughter to the point where she is happy with her figure. The societal end of it goes down to the point of what clothing is AVAILABLE for purchase.

I have a 15yo daughter who has, *heaven forbid!*, a figure. The only way she can find pants she likes that are made in a size that fits is to design them herself and work with me to make them. This is a girl who's into all the vogue, anime-style fashions. But the available clothing is made for girls shaped like Twiggy.

I've worked hard with her to help her accept and enjoy the fact that she has a figure. With all the societal focus being on "thin is in," it's been a difficult road. She still slips into occasional depressions because it's so difficult to find clothing she likes in her size.

(And then there's the fact that such a huge amount of the available clothing for girls looks like something you'd find on women working Bourbon St. or Vegas.)


Yes it is a sad state of affairs. For example, I am black, and my own family wonders why I walk around with such nappy hair(my natural hair texture is very thick and has many tight curls). Let alone the rest of society's ideas about beauty..


I hear you Caitriona and hope you do not think I was discounting other factors. The point I was trying to make was that despite the myriad of external pressures, the one constant and the one thing that can ultimately trump everything else is the unconditional support and praise from a parent. It sounds like you provide that to your daughter.

The herd mentality among chilren (adults too for that matter) is very strong. The desire to be part of a group is tremendous and I believe universal and inescapable. Self-doubt is part of the human condition. You see yourself as ONE entity and everything else as ONE entity. You can't see "everything else" as really all a bunch of ONES, not a cohesive nut that you need to crack at all. The way we react to it and how we are formed from it is where the differences are.

La Lubu

davejones: I received positive messages about my appearance from my family, yet when I went to school I received negative commentary about my appearance; while my family lived in several midwestern towns, none of them included an Italian population, and I stuck out like a sore thumb. I heard a lot of ethnic slurs (about being "Mexican") that I know damn well the teachers also heard, yet did nothing about. As I grew older, appearance became even more of an issue---but by that time, I had anger against racist beauty standards permanently embedded in me. I'd still feel good in the morning after primping in the mirror, but after a hard day at school I was drained, angry, and feeling ugly again. It took me a long while to learn to think of myself as beautiful, and feminist readings (especially bell hooks!) helped get me there.

Before I became an electrician I worked in child care. I saw firsthand the type of damage that some folks perpetrate on their children; picking apart all their appearance "flaws" even before they are of an age to understand where that mentality is coming from (and yes, shannon, I heard black parents picking on the nappy hair of newborns. There was an older girl (twelve!) there who had gorgeous dark skin, and long, straight hair. She cut off her hair to get rid of maintenance downtime as she was active in sports; her father wouldn't speak to her for a month. He thought that without her long hair, she lost her beauty. Now that's ugly.)

I'd say probably half the parents there picked on their daughters' appearance. Only the daughters, never the sons. White parents were every bit as brutal too, especially about weight. The preschool girls all agreed that the blond-haired blue-eyed Barbie was the prettiest; out of all those girls only one remotely resembled that Barbie. I didn't start that conversation; I overheard it while the girls were at play. I noted the similarity to the famous experiment, but was not surprised. Nothing had changed for preschoolers since I was that age.

Other members of my family have told me about their experiences. Colorism is alive and well amongst Sicilians, though we don't call it that. We don't really have a name for it; I think "colorism" fits the bill quite nicely. After hearing some of my aunts' stories, I'm not at all sure my paternal great-grandmother would have accepted me, although my mother was her favorite. I look more like my aunts. Sigh. This shit just has to stop.

davejones, I'd also like to say that I praise my daughter for her beauty every day as a form of inoculation against the horrible messages she's sure to receive later. I want her to know in her bones that there's not a damn thing wrong with her appearance and that she doesn't need chemicals or scalpels to be beautiful. She's only five, and she's already developed the idea that blond hair and blue eyes are preferable to what she has. She did not receive that message at home. I've gone to some length to provide her with books and toys that are reflective of her appearance. So yeah, I still think racist beauty standards have a certain power over and above parenting.


La Lubu,

Perhaps when she's older you can show her things about Rachel Welch, Carmin Miranda, and other darker complected beauties. They're all very different, and all very non-blond. I always liked watching old movies when I was a teen. I identified with Jane Russell but admired Carmin Miranda the most, I think. It would have been even harder for me than it was if there hasn't been that Jane Russell-Marilynn Monroe dicotomy in some of those movies. It really helped.

(Wasn't it "Gentlemen Prefer Blondes" where Marilynn was the extremely intelligent blond who acted like she had absolutely no brain the minute any men showed up, because men went for the brainless blondes rather than the intelligent women of any color?)


Two old ladies were outside their nursing home, having a smoke when it started to rain. One of the ladies pulled out a condom, cut off the end, put it over her cigarette and continued smoking.

Lady 1: What's that?
Lady 2: A condom. This way my cigarette doesn't get wet.
Lady 1: Where did you get it?
Lady 2: You can get them at any drugstore.

The next day ... Lady 1 hobbles herself into the local drugstore and announces to the pharmacist that she wants a box of condoms. The guy looks at her kind of strangely (she is, after all, over 80 years of age), but politely asks what brand she prefers.

Lady 1: It doesn't matter as long as it fits a Camel.

find cheap cigarettes.

The comments to this entry are closed.

My Photo

Regular reads

Blog powered by Typepad
Member since 01/2004