Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Boob Job

Life is hard on breasts.

For a woman, breasts are femininity. This is why it matters how big they are - because we know that there is an ideal that we're supposed to meet, we know that there is a certain size range within which we are supposed to fall, and increasingly, in the era of implants, we know that our breasts are supposed to have a certain shape.

But feminist academics and activists made the female body a site of feminist resistance. Wendy Chapkis and Naomi Wolf are just two examples of writers of a rich body of work that deals with the politics of beauty ideals and their impact on women's sense of themselves. Feminists argued that women's bodies needed to be understood on their own terms. We began to reclaim our bodies and to find beauty in their "imperfections."

In doing so, my feminist friends and I made some sort of peace with our breasts. We recognized that they were changing shape as we were becoming older and we accepted that fact. When we looked around at the older women around us, we saw breasts that rested lower on their chests. Everywhere we looked, we saw a variety of breasts pointing in all directions with varying degrees of size and perkiness.

And then, somehow, the breast landscape changed. Now, when I talk with other feminist academics, we express great dissatisfaction with the state of "the girls." Two of my staunchest feminist friends - both moms in their '30s who breastfed their babies - are already saving money to go to Brazil for boob jobs and tummy tucks. At a minimum, we all suddenly understand how it is that a woman gets to the point of considering plastic surgery. Moreover, when we look around, we are more likely to see plastic bodies as plastic surgery becomes more and more routine.

But if even feminists are planning to undergo plastic surgery, who will fight for women's natural bodies? Because, pretty soon, we won't remember what they look like.

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