I read a couple of amazing blog posts this week regarding breast reductions. Check out "The Pressure to Get a Reduction" and "Minimizing Big Breasts: Bras Vs. Breast Reduction Surgery via Slip of a Girl". Reductions are a bit of a hot-button issue for us busty women, with so many different viewpoints and so many possibilities for feelings to get hurt. For this reason, I’ve avoided writing about it until now, even though I spend a lot of time thinking about it. Many women are happy after having reductions, but there are also cases where a proper bra fitting could have produced this same happiness without major surgery. I also think that a lot of women get reductions ostensibly to deal with back pain, when really what they are dealing with is disgust with their body. I don’t mean to de-legitimize this disgust, but I do want to examine it. The disgust manifests itself in various ways, and is caused by various cultural forces. Although I now believe that this can sometimes be a legitimate reason to get reduction surgery, I wish it was less common as a cause, because I think a lot of the disgust (particularly the part caused by cultural forces) is fixable.
I used to desperately long for a reduction when I was 18-20. My mom was supportive but suggested that I think it over for a couple of years. I am so glad I waited, because I ultimately came to love my boobs, and plan to keep them for life. But much more importantly, I eventually realized that the reasons I had wanted a reduction were all wrong.
It began in my first year of university. After years of being happy with my body, my boob-self-esteem suddenly hit rock bottom. During one conversation with people (mostly females) living in my hall, they crowded around me saying “Oh my God, your boobs are so huge! What size do you wear? Can we look at your bra? Can I touch them? God, they’re just so BIG!” No one in the room said anything like “Your boobs are huge! That’s cool!” or “Your boobs look good!” I get so mad when I think back on this. It is unacceptably rude to dissect and discuss a single part of someone’s body without at least offering the comfort of a simple compliment. As it was, I ended up feeling like a zoo animal.
In another incident, the best friend of my bitchy roommate purposely walked in on me when I was braless and then ran up and down the hall screaming “You guys, I saw her tits!”
In another conversation, this time with the males living in my hall, each and every one of them declared that big boobs were overrated and lame and they only liked big butts. I didn’t even like these morons but the mere fact that they all happened to have the same preference convinced me that it was universal.
I started to do internet searches of things like “Are big boobs attractive?”, but all that would come up were articles or posts trying to reassure girls with small boobs that their bodies were perfectly attractive, so it did the opposite for me. At that point I had still never heard anyone say “You have a nice body” or even “You have nice boobs”. All I had ever heard was “huge”, “giant”, “massive”.
These factors combined to cause what felt like a deluge of hatred for big boobs from everyone I talked to. I embarked on an overly intense diet to try to make my boobs smaller, adopted a curled-over posture that hid my boobs, and I suddenly couldn’t handle the sight of myself in my old bras.
At this stage, I wanted a reduction because I felt like a monster; my insecurity was verging on body dysmorphia. I thought I would never have a boyfriend because guys seemed to hate big boobs so MUCH. If someone I was pursuing romantically was uninterested, I would immediately assume it was because of my boobs. I wrote in my journal that I did not want to “inflict” the sight of my body on anyone I knew. I never even got catcalls or pervy comments, other than the few distressing incidents I’ve just detailed (mine was the opposite, I suppose, of the stereotypical experience).
These factors were the only reasons I was so disgusted with my body that I wanted a reduction, and once I grew out of my body hatred, I realized my insecurities weren’t founded. There are loads of people, both male and female, who love big boobs or at the very least know how to be polite about the topic—those people just weren’t talking as loudly as the people who treated me like a zoo animal. The most important realization was that I myself am one of those people who like big boobs—I like all boobs, actually. I still feel sad about the fact that no one told me my body was nice when I was young enough that it would have really made a difference to me. But I guess people were trying not to make me feel uncomfortable. Unfortunately, the result was the opposite.
Because of my experiences and the fact that I ultimately came to love my body, it really saddens me to read about girls getting reductions when they are as young as 16 or 17 (even younger in some cases). So many of those girls never get the right guidance or the right length of time to properly make a serious choice which is for life. The worst is when women get reductions without ever learning about proper bra sizing—someone who should be in a 30GG will obviously be miserable in a 38DD but lots of women never learn that, and doctors don’t know that.
These considerations were only part of the reason why, after my phase of body hatred passed, I was extremely negative about reductions and believed that practically no one needed one. I’m glad I didn’t write a blog post about the topic back then because my viewpoint has evolved a lot since. I realize that although I was lucky enough to outgrow my disgust with my body, that sadly won’t happen to everyone. The cultural forces that helped remove my disgust with my boobs were just an unpredictable combination of factors, same as the forces that produced the disgust. When my love for my body was fragile and newly-formed, it was hard for me to deal with the idea of reductions because I felt that someone getting one for reasons other than crippling back pain was passing a judgment on MY body. If they wanted smaller boobs because they found their bigger boobs unpleasant, then I felt they must think that my boobs and my body were ugly and disgusting too.
But I realize now that it is unreasonable to reject the suffering of a woman who feels trapped in an alien body just because doing so might be beneficial to MY self-esteem. The bottom line is that it’s not about me. It’s not even about aesthetic standards of beauty, because there is no single aesthetic for what is attractive or acceptable. Feminism is about CHOICE.
A woman who wants smaller boobs can choose to have a reduction, just as a woman who wants bigger boobs can choose to get implants, finances allowing. In the same vein, someone who is attracted to busty women can choose to date busty women, and someone who is attracted to smaller-chested women can choose to date smaller-chested women. Besides, traits like breast size are very rarely foremost in people’s considerations of whom they love or value. None of the choices I have described are directly equivalent to a judgment on “the other” body type. Everyone feels differently and has their own preferences. If one person prefers something different from my body type, it doesn’t mean that everybody feels the same. It’s not a war.