Why is There So Much Body-Shaming Medical Content About Breast Reduction Surgery?
Even women’s attempts to alleviate their own pain and suffering has to be cloaked in this sneering condescension that her body is this noncompliant source of discord that must be “fixed” at all costs.
First, let me start by saying I’m not a candidate for breast reduction surgery, nor am I interested in having this procedure.
I didn’t even WANT information about it, but wound up with it because so goes the way of Google algorithms. It’s also a highly personal decision and if you do or don’t want the operation regardless of whether a medical professional has suggested it you, I respect your choice. If you want breast reduction surgery because you live with extreme pain caused by your bra size and/or experience gender dysphoria because of it, I’m all for supporting personal choice here.
Now that that’s out of the way, the inciting incident for this treatise: sometimes I get chest pain from having a big rack. Shoulder pain if I go without a bra too long, which is growing increasingly common in the COVID age. I don’t get the oft-discussed lower back pain much, mostly because that affects women with narrower backs and shoulders more harshly. Whereas I’m built like a linebacker on top so from an engineering standpoint, there’s more even distribution. Read: my shoulders and Hulk-like shoulder width could make the Giants cry buckets. I don’t get back pain, but I do get chest pain since my ribcage isn’t on par with them.
I’ve had this on and off for 20 years but still, chest pain can be a cause for alarm especially since it’s a COVID symptom. So I just wanted to know if other women of similar endowment also get chest pain and how they ameliorate it. My first instinct was searching, since posing this question on Twitter in the middle of the night can mean getting some unwanted surprises in my DMs or worse yet, the contact box on my website, of the Jeffrey Toobin variety.
But that’s not what Google wanted to show me. What I did get was landing page after landing page for plastic surgeons and breast surgery clinics detailing the reasons why women should consider breast reduction surgery. While not interested in what they’re selling, I couldn’t find what I was looking for and couldn’t sleep, so I read a few pages in case there was anything useful. I work in digital media and know how search algorithms work; if people didn’t find content useful, then it wouldn’t rank for a search term this broad.
Most of the landing pages repeated the same points, in which there was a common thread that made me incredibly angry.
I’m not even going to dignify these places with linking to them. Look it up yourself, read the pithy blog posts, then you’ll see what I mean. So why did I get so angry to the point of writing about this fricking journey on Medium? The following reasons are found on numerous medical practice blogs which medical professionals are using as justification for why women should consider shrinking their cup size a bit. Having undergone totally subhuman treatment in doctors’ offices, I can’t say I’m shocked. But I can certainly say I’m pissed, and got something to say about it.
Because People, Namely Cishet Men, Won’t Stop Staring
If you personally are not comfortable with people staring at your chest, and you’ve grown tired of it so you’re seriously considering breast reduction surgery? It’s your body and your choice, and if it makes you happier, go for it. But this should NOT be a default reason that medical professionals are seriously using to encourage getting a major surgery.
This is towing the line of “she asked for it dressing/looking that way” kind of talk. Women’s bodies get sexualized no matter what size and shape we are, or what we wear. Teach people not to fucking stare at women’s chests in inappropriate settings. Tell the precious snowflakes that boobs and frames of all kinds exist, and they just have to live with it.
Boobs Sag in Old Age
I almost didn’t add this one because I have to admit, the thought of carrying these around at 70 when gravity resistance is all but a distant memory…is a thought I’m happy to shelve.
But let’s be real, women get punished in this society for naturally aging much sooner than the average man does for committing sexual assault. OF COURSE there was going to be a nice dose of ageism in some of those blog posts, because god forbid that women exist in public without having the same body that they had at 19.
Because You Have a Hard Time Finding Clothes That Fit
Hold up, hold up, women are supposed to have this life-altering, irreversible operation TO FIT INTO CLOTHES BETTER? Clothes that aren’t even fit to the millions of body types out there?
You there. Sit down. I need to address less from a body positivity and social justice angle and more from a technical angle. I come from a LONG line of Galicianer Jewish tailors, had my own tailoring hustle on Craigslist long before “Etsy” was on our lips and in our browser tabs regularly, and I once had a scholarship at Pratt to study fashion design before I became a tax accountant turned shitposting game developer. So I know a thing or three about garment structure and how our clothing gets made.
There is NO uniform body that dictates how clothing makes it onto racks, or how well it actually fits the people who buy it. Fashion is an illusion.
Fit models work with fashion designers to bring their concepts from a dress form to a living body in the form of a sample before a size range is developed and it gets mass-produced. People take on an endless amount of sizes and shapes, many of which are NOT represented at your typical retail store. I mean, I got a long torso and short legs. Capri pants are pants pants to me and they are not designed for my body type. But I don’t see medical content simpering about how I should get surgery to stretch my legs out or put lifts in my shoes so I can fit into most pants better, and not have to see my tailor assume I do sex work because I ask her to trim my miniskirts down to 8” long just so they’ll be mini length on me. But big boobs? SHRINK EM, YOU HARLOT!
The average woman has god knows how many different sizes in her closet, we’re expected to have at least 31 size changes throughout our lives. But even if you stay the same size, shape, and weight for years, you’re bound to have numerous sizes in your wardrobe because of the lack of uniform sizing across different brands and designers. They fit garments according to silhouettes they personally find appealing — or to fit their own bodies. When I had my first few fashion sketching and garment structure classes, I remember my professors saying that your croquis would look more like you as you progressed and we practiced draping techniques using our own clothes and therefore, our own bodies and our classmates’. But even if you only buy from two or three designers and brands, they can change their size specs over time. Individual clothing lines will fit differently than others, and you’ll need to size up or down accordingly each time.
So doctors are seriously telling women they should make this irreversible change because of clothing? Have a permanent elective procedure done just because so many manufacturers do not design for body diversity, including a variety of breast sizes? Well, that precise difficulty in clothing design that forces this kind of utilitarianism is why we have knit fabrics, multiple size ranges, the ability to buy separates in different sizes, and tailors. Suggesting that women change their bodies to conform to clothing designers’ specs which cannot possibly accommodate every body type to begin with? Sorry-not-sorry, that’s flat out rigoddamndiculous.
Because Bras in Hard-to-Find Sizes Are So Expensive
Oh, you sweet summer child. Even women with “normal” sizes pay out the ass for decent bras.
Good bras are expensive, but we live in a different age now. Gone are the days when we had to make this long, embarrassing trek to a specialty store and cough up the equivalent of a down payment on a farmhouse in Vermont just to get one decent sports bra and “going out” bra.
There’s more bra startups forming than ever. Specialty retailers have gone online, some professional fitters will even custom-make you bras on Etsy. The former often have promo codes if you sign up for their mailing lists. If you’re shorter on funds, you can religiously keep watchlists on eBay and Poshmark of your make, model, and size.
So yeah, trying to shame women into thrifting their way into their own discomfort is gross.
If you personally feel that these reasons justify your own surgery, that’s totally fine. If your chest is causing you pain to the point that it’s interfering with your life, you should absolutely pursue the options available to you.
The problem is that these reasons given in medical content and littering SERPs are focused mostly on social control and not actually focusing on medical risks and benefits of such a major surgery. It all goes back to the fact that I’m looking up sources of pain from having a Rack of Doom, and the main thing served up to me is finger-wagging bullshit about how I need to change my body for society.
There’s more emphasis on changing your body to fit in with these rigid social norms than there is on alleviating pain that your body shape could be causing. Women’s pain is routinely minimized in this society. We’re told it’s all in our heads, that we must be doing something wrong to be experiencing it, and that we’re crazy and too stupid to know what to do with our own bodies. Given how much our breasts are sexualized and attention is drawn to them whether we want it or not, I’m appalled but not surprised that an attempt to seek information on alleviating pain MUST be couched in such anti-woman rhetoric.
So, in closing: Fuck that so hard. Suck the sweat out of my Kevlar sports bra that hoists my G-cups, you doofuses. I like the way past partners have appreciated them, and most importantly, I like how they look in clothes (which I got plenty of, despite lacking an “off the rack” body). If you like or don’t like the way your boobs look, it’s perfectly valid. But it’s no one’s place to provide such inane sources of shame for you.