Is bigger better?

The question of “Do any of you have breast implants?” was recently posed on a message board I visit. Many of the women responded no, but that they’ve thought about it or would like to, especially because their boobs are deflated or lopsided after having nursed their child(ren). I don’t think any of these women are looking to get Pamela Anderson implants, just something that looks “natural” and fuller and makes them feel good about themselves.

One woman chimed in to say that although she has noticed a significant change in the shape of her breasts after having her daughter, she does not have any plans for elective surgery. She went on to say that she wishes “the standards of beauty would adjust so we could all embrace our mothering bodies instead of wishing we still looked like young women who haven’t had children.”

I don’t think what she said was meant to be a slight in any way on the women who would like to have breast implants, but the fact that many women have considered implants is a comment on our society. Let’s face it, our society does not desire women who look like they just stepped out of a National Geographic magazine. Big, round and voluptous are in. Small, flat and saggy are not (even though sagging is completely natural and something that happens to all women’s breasts over time).

I had to agree with her. I may not be happy with the way my breasts look after I’m done nursing all of my children (they are already well on their way to droopyville), but I think my image of what looks good comes heavily from celebrities and the media.

I want raise my daughter to have a healthy body image. I think that is getting harder and harder to do when there are so many big-buxomed teen idols and young women getting implants (if you’ve ever walked around CU’s campus you know what I mean).

But anyway, I digress.

I came across this website – 007 Breasts – that discusses the breast taboo in North America and our obsession with breasts, as well as other things (including a gallery showing a range of normal non-sexual breasts and a page about breasts and body image in puberty). According to the site: “By age thirteen, 53 percent of American girls are unhappy with their bodies; but by age seventeen, 78 percent are dissatisfied. By far the majority of adult women in the US are not happy with their breasts. The proof of that is that so many women (well over 200,000 in year 2002) choose breast implants, a risky procedure that can impair their health and forces them to have several surgeries afterwards and eventually have the implants removed.”

It goes on to say:
“What causes women to worry so much about their breast size as part of their body image?
The answer is laid out on the billboards, magazine ads, media and television. Practically every single woman you see in advertisements is extremely slim and has huge breasts, which are depicted as a sexual organ that catches the male’s attention. Women and girls in the United States are bombarded by those pictures all day long, so it is no wonder most girls and women therefore start believing (at least subconsciously) it is the ideal form of female body and that they should strive for it too.”

“In the USA people typically see only their own breasts and those of the supermodels – which have been fixed and changed and the photos have been airbrushed, modified, you name it. All they can perceive of other women’s breasts around them are just that they are bra-bound and bra-lifted. So this causes people – both men and women – think that the ‘normal’ or ‘typical’ breast is what they see the models have in TV and magazines, and that anything else is sagging/too small/ugly/abnormal. Oh, what a deception!”

My question is what can we do to help our society get away from thinking of breasts as sexual? How can we raise our daughters to have positive body images and our sons to not objectify women?

I don’t have the answers to these questions (I wish I did), but I think we can look to Europe (where breasts aren’t seen as taboo) for some ideas. If women saw more breasts than just their own and those of supermodels and celebrities, they would know that they are normal and breasts come in all shapes and sizes. I also think the more women breastfeed, the more breasts will be seen as a means of nourishing young rather than something to be sexualized. At least that is a place to start.

“Plastic surgery and breast implants are fine for people who want that, if it makes them feel better about who they are. But, it makes these people, actors especially, fantasy figures for a fantasy world. Acting is about being real, being honest.” — Kate Winslet

“I am totally against plastic surgery. A lot of people think I have breast implants because I have the biggest boobs in the business. But I was a 34C when I was 17…They stay up when I wear a push-up bra. But if people could see me when I come home and take off my bra, how could they think these are fake?” — Tyra Banks