Why Breast Implants Are Not “For You”

“I did it so I could feel better about my body. I did it so I could feel more like a woman. I did it so my clothes would fit better. I did it for ME.”

This is the text of a current TV commercial for breast augmentation, spoken by a beautiful, thin, middle-aged woman looking at herself in a mirror. She is telling the lie that nearly every woman that undergoes this expensive, life-threatening, time-consuming surgery is told and soon comes to believe for herself. “I did it for ME.” It’s time to debunk these ever-circulating excuses about the values of this surgery for the 300,000+ U.S. girls and women who undergo it each year. Let’s talk about WHY breast enhancement surgeries are halting female progress and keeping us in the prison of believing we are “to be looked at” above all else. Using the four excuses from the ad above, it’s time spell out why breast implants are not “for you.” 

“I did it so I could feel better about my body.”

Breast augmentation does not improve your self-esteem. We wish we could shout that from the rooftops! Breast augmentation is NOT therapy, either. A study in the American Journal of Epidemiology found that women with breast implants are 73 percent more likely to commit suicide and a large number of studies have confirmed this major increase in suicide after breast augmentation. That’s not because of the implants – it’s because getting them doesn’t solve anything going on internally. Are you depressed? A breast augmentation will not make you less depressed. Do you experience body shame or low self esteem because of your looks? You cannot remedy an internal problem with an external quick fix like cosmetic surgery. A breast augmentation will not guarantee you greater self-esteem, and instead might cause you to fixate on your looks as your primary source of self-worth. This will only hurt your self-esteem in the long run, because you will have to constantly fix your “flaws” to live up to your ideas of beauty. (See the section at the end for a more promising path to body positivity.) Do you think bigger breasts will attract a mate or make your partner love you more? If you’re looking for attention based on what your chest looks like, this could work. But if you’re seeking a lasting connection with someone who values more than your chest, breast implants aren’t going to guarantee that. A breast augmentation has nothing to do with the love of a partner. If your partner’s love for you is dependent on the size and shape of your breasts, they do not really love you. It sounds so harsh, but it is true.

If you have undergone or are planning to undergo breast augmentation surgery to “feel better about your body,” research shows us this just won’t work. The two major breast implant companies in the U.S., Allergan and Mentor, both tried to prove to the FDA that breast implants helped women’s self-esteem and both proved how wrong they were. Allergan used 12 different quality of life measures to compare augmentation patients before surgery and 2 years later.  Nine of the 12 (75%) were worse after the women got their breast implants, including self-esteem.  The results were similar for women getting Mentor breast implants.  The women got worse in their self-reported physical health and mental health, with most showing no difference in their self-concept or how they felt about their body.

Plastic surgeons have approached us* to help them make their marketing less misleading and to help provide instruction for women that cosmetic procedures will NOT fix internal problems, like hating your body or not feeling feminine. These plastic surgeons acknowledged that patients were using procedures as therapy, or desperate attempts to feel better about themselves, and have seen firsthand that their work does nothing of the sort — it only changes physical features. 

“I did it so I could feel more like a woman.”

Where did we get our ideas about what normal women’s breasts are supposed to look like? Unfortunately, too many people have learned a very unreal and profit-driven breast ideal from porn. Most people don’t see a ton of nude breasts in person on a regular basis, so the ones we see mediated to us often shape perceptions of what’s ideal and even what’s normal — leaving most girls and women feeling abnormal and pushing many to seek a remedy in the form of implants. What does it really mean when people say they did this to “feel” more like a woman? As you can guess, this phrase generally means they did it to “look” more like a woman. But guess what? Women come in all shapes and sizes. No shape or size is more “woman” than any other. No hips? No breasts? No curves? There are millions of women that fit those categories right alongside you. What about having one breast larger than the other? Join the club. It’s an extremely popular club — the majority of women are members of it. You are a woman – own it for every other woman who looks just like you and is shamed into believing she’s less than a woman for it. 

“I did it so my clothes would fit better.”

Yikes. We need to work on our problem-solving skills. You don’t think you look too great in that blouse? Get it tailored! You don’t fill out that swimsuit top like you’d hoped? Buy a different one! Or better yet, rock it anyway and prove to the world that nothing changes – literally nothing – when you go out wearing a top you don’t “fill out” as well you think you need to.

“I did it for ME.”

Unless the person saying this is into surgery for the fun of it or enjoys the experience of having foreign objects surgically implanted in them, then what this statement really means is: “I did it to look better.” Yes, the current beauty trend includes large, firm breasts. It wasn’t always that way and it won’t always be that way, but right now, fashion and beauty ideals often idealize this look. When women elect to this procedure under the premise that it’s “for me,” they’re almost always speaking from a place of self-objectification, or viewing themselves as an object from an outsider’s perspective. They’re saying they’ll look better when they’re looking at their own reflections, and feel better because they think other people will think they look better too. This is no way to live, but epidemic numbers of girls and women do live in a constant state of body monitoring at the expense of everything else. If we take “look ‘better'” out of the equation, what’s really in it for YOU at the end of the day is: You’ll lose thousands of dollars; lose significant time in surgery, recovery and follow-up exams; possible lost sensation in your breasts; increase your chances of cancer but decrease your chances of finding cancer because you have implants in the way, etc.  

We know what’s in it for plastic surgeons and makers of implants: money. And not just the one-time cost of surgery. The FDA stated in a report that breast implants WILL fail within 10 years and referred to implants as “temporary devices.” “[Women] need to understand they’re going to need many removals and replacements for the rest of their lives,” stated the National Research Center for Women & Families. The FDA says up to 40 percent of patients who get silicone implants will need another operation to modify or remove them within 10 years. For women with implants for breast reconstruction, the number is even higher, at up to 70 percent. The biggest issue was scar tissue hardening around the implant, while pain, infection, ruptures and asymmetry followed close behind.

Did you know the FDA stated that breast augmentation patients must get MRIs every two years to screen for “silent ruptures” of the silicone implants because you don’t know when they’re leaking? They don’t deflate. So that’s an extra $2,000 biannually for women who have elected to breast enhancement. Add it all up and the original $5K-$10K procedure will now cost a 25-year-old woman at least another $35K for re-implantation and $30K for the recommended number of MRIs throughout her life! And that is not including any health complications from all those surgical procedures, anesthesia, potential leaking or disease, time away from work, family, and life, etc.

Further, women with breast implants are also more likely to be diagnosed with anaplastic large cell lymphoma, a rare form of cancer. Implants can hide the mammography image of a tumor, resulting in a delay in cancer diagnosis. Mammogram machinery can also rupture an implant. So…this isn’t good for your health. Read more info on the latest breast implant studies regarding your health here

To sum it up: cosmetic surgery — especially breast augmentation — is a threat to female health and happiness. This threat directly affects girls and women – not males  at epidemic rates. Cosmetic surgery is up nearly 500% in the last decade and a full 92% of those procedures – mostly breast augmentation and liposuction – were performed on girls and women. It keeps us “in our place” as objects to be looked at, fixed, and ogled. Electing to these procedures hits us hard. It hits our pocketbooks, when we could be spending our hard-earned money on so many more important things. It raises the bar of “normal” and “what it looks like to be a woman” for every girl, woman, boy and man that comes in contact with us. It affects our physical health in seen and unforeseen ways. Besides the health implications like life-threatening ruptures and the likelihood of botched surgeries, breast implants affect our ability to run, dive, jump, golf, etc. These risks reinforce the notion that your breasts are not yours — they are for others to look at.

It’s time to rethink the extremes to which we push ourselves in the name of “beauty.” We are more than bodies to be looked at. Choosing to forego breast augmentation can be more empowering than going under the knife — and better for our health, too. Please know that it is not our place to shame or blame anyone for undergoing this procedure. We know as well as anyone how much pressure and shame women feel in the name of “ideal beauty.” It is immense. But there is a better way – and it starts in our minds, not on our chests.

If you feel like your body image has been negatively affected by profit-driven media or cultural ideals, you can harness your power in these four areas to take back beauty and help others do the same: 

Mental Power:

  • Increasing our media literacy (understanding how and why media is engineered the way it is — see our entire “recognize” category of blog posts)
  • Critical thinking about beauty and health ideals (skin colorbody sizeageBMIfitspiration)
  • Critical self-reflection about our own beliefs and choices
  • Making conscious decisions about the media we consume and cutting out what is harmful (start with a media fast)

Social Power:

Physical Power:

  • Using our bodies as instruments rather than objects (setting and achieving fitness goals)
  • Redefining health for ourselves according to internal indicators and how we feel — not how we look

Spiritual Power:

  • Understanding that you are more than just a body and tapping into that higher-level thinking in whatever way suits you
  • “There exists a positive relationship between spirituality, mental and physical health, life satisfaction, and wellness. It follows that if a woman draws her sense of meaning from a spiritual force that goes beyond herself and that provides coherence and purpose to the universe, she will find less need to focus on her weight, shape, and appearance in an attempt to find happiness or life satisfaction” (Choate, 2007, p. 323).

Need more help developing body image resilience that can help you overcome your self-consciousness and be more powerful than ever before? Learn how to recognize harmful ideals, redefine beauty and health, and resist what holds you back from happiness, health, and real empowerment with the Beauty Redefined Body Image Program for girls and women 14+. It is an online, anonymous therapeutic tool that can change your life, designed by Lexie & Lindsay Kite, with PhDs in body image and media.

*We have provided free consultation to plastic surgeons on how to help women use our work to develop their self worth outside of their breasts as an alternative to surgery, but have gone no further.

#Unapologetic: Barbie and Sports Illustrated Teach Sexual Objectification for all Ages

If you were an evil mastermind that wanted to convince the world that girls and women were only on earth as decorative ornaments to be looked at and lusted over, what would you do? How would you convince as many people as possible – both men and women, girls and boys – that females were only valuable for their sexual appeal?

You might start by becoming a major media powerholder that owns hundreds of companies to sell your sexist, objectified messages to people at every angle — TV, magazines, the internet, billboards, etc. You’d also want to get in the business of making toys for little girls to drill these unattainable beauty ideals into their heads from the time they are born. If people hesitated to buy into your messages, you’d work hard to convince everyone you were doing it to empower girls and women. She’s just a doll! Look how many jobs she has! 

On February 18, 2014, this kind of sinister plan will come to fruition when Barbie, the iconic children’s doll, teams up with the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue, where 200 pages a year are devoted to naked and near-naked women in pornographic poses, Photoshopped as usual, and embodying one very narrowly defined idea of “beauty.” This special issue of the otherwise sports-centered magazine is owned by Time Warner, which will promote the blatant objectification of women across their companies that include AOL, CNN, HBO, Cartoon  Network, Time Inc., Warner Bros., and hundreds of others. Barbie is featured in a big spread in the annual SI issue that will be seen by hundreds of millions of people, and a special “SI Swimsuit Issue” Barbie will debut the same day at Target for little girls worldwide. Barbie is even promoting the Swimsuit Issue with two massive billboards in NYC with the hashtag #unapologetic, a Barbie “beach party” and much more.

“From its earliest days, [Sports Illustrated] Swimsuit has delivered a message of empowerment, strength and beauty and we are delighted that Barbie is celebrating those core values in such a unique manner,” Swimsuit issue editor MJ Day said in a press release. Empowerment, huh? Way to sell it. Sports Illustrated is all about women’s power and abilities, right? Oh wait, they couldn’t care less about women unless they look like their swimsuit models, take their clothes (and often their swimsuits) off, and pose as suggestively as the man behind the camera directs.

“As with Barbie, every year the Swimsuit edition sparks conversations about women and body image, and Sports Illustrated stands unapologetically behind this issue that women, in reality, love,” a Mattel spokesperson told Adweek. “Unapologetic is a rally cry to embrace who you are and to never have to apologize for it.”

Barbie and Sports Illustrated are certainly unapologetic. They’re unapologetic for selling full-blown, pornographic sexual objectification under the guise of “empowerment.” They’re unapologetic for constantly defending Barbie as harmless for decades — just an iconic doll that doesn’t communicate anything about beauty or body ideals. Now they’re unapologetically blowing that argument out of the water in favor of a highly sexualized promotional platform for this toy. Just a doll? Not a chance. Mattel and SI have solidified Barbie’s role as a tool for teaching girls and women that they are sex objects, first and foremost. Barbie has officially rebranded itself (or at least admitted to what many of us recognized all along) as a vehicle for teaching sexual objectification. And they’re teaming with one of the most notoriously sexist, objectifying mediums to do it. 

Mattel and SI want your daughters to know that girls and women are to be looked at above all else — and must fit certain highly unattainable beauty ideals to be worthy of positive attention in any area of life, including the most popular sports magazine. Athletic prowess certainly won’t do it, unless you’re willing to strip and pose. In a world where advertising-fueled media is inescapable, where the pornography industry has infiltrated all aspects of pop culture, and sexualized female bodies sell everything from children’s toys to deodorant, it’s easy to feel like sex appeal is all women can/should offer. So what? Why does any of this matter? Can’t you just not buy it if you don’t like it? Not quite. The truth is, this rampant sexual objectification inspires shame, anxiety, and lost potential at every turn for girls and women.

Dozens of studies show girls and women suffer in very literal ways when sexualized female bodies inundate our media landscape: adolescent girls with a more objectified view of their bodies have diminished sexual health, measured by decreased condom use and diminished sexual assertiveness, and in a particularly insidious consequence of self-objectification, research proves undue attention to physical appearance leaves fewer cognitive resources available for other mental and physical activities, including mathematics, logical reasoning, spatial skills, and athletic performance.* We know the dangerous and normalized act of female self-objectification works as a harmful tool to keep girls “in their place” as objects of sexual appeal and beauty, which seriously limits their ability to think freely and understand their value in a world so in need of their unique contributions and insight.

If any part of you feels icky about Barbie’s latest venture into the world of sex object for adult male viewing pleasure, here’s what we recommend: Don’t buy the SI Swimsuit Issue. If you want to spend your money in a more positive place, you can buy our nonprofit’s sticky notes to slap on the magazine instead. Don’t buy the SI Swimsuit Barbie doll. Don’t buy any Barbies to send Mattel the message that girls and women are capable of much more than being looked at. It’s time to shout that from the rooftops. If you feel like your body image has been negatively affected by sexually objectifying media, you can harness your power in these four areas to take back beauty and help others do the same: 

  • Increasing our media literacy (understanding how and why media is engineered the way it is — see our entire “recognize” category of blog posts)
  • Critical thinking about beauty and health ideals (skin colorbody sizeageBMIfitspiration)
  • Critical self-reflection about our own beliefs and choices
  • Making conscious decisions about the media we consume and cutting out what is harmful (start with a media fast)

Social Power:

Physical Power:

  • Using our bodies as instruments rather than objects (setting and achieving fitness goals)
  • Redefining health for ourselves according to internal indicators and how we feel — not how we look

Spiritual Power:

  • Understanding that you are more than just a body and tapping into that higher-level thinking in whatever way suits you
  • “There exists a positive relationship between spirituality, mental and physical health, life satisfaction, and wellness. It follows that if a woman draws her sense of meaning from a spiritual force that goes beyond herself and that provides coherence and purpose to the universe, she will find less need to focus on her weight, shape, and appearance in an attempt to find happiness or life satisfaction” (Choate, 2007, p. 323).

Need more help developing body image resilience that can help you overcome your self-consciousness and be more powerful than ever before? Learn how to recognize harmful ideals, redefine beauty and health, and resist what holds you back from happiness, health, and real empowerment with the Beauty Redefined Body Image Program for girls and women 14+. It is an online, anonymous therapeutic tool that can change your life, designed by Lexie & Lindsay Kite, with PhDs in body image and media.

Fredrickson et al. 1998; Fredrickson & Harrison, 2004; Gapinski, Brownell, & LaFrance, 2003; Harter, 1998; Hebl, King, & Lin, 2004; Impett, Schooler, and Tolman, 2006; Major, Barr, & Zubek, 1999; McConnell, 2001; Polce-Lynch, Myers, & Kilmartin, 1998; Roberts & Gettman, 2004; Slater and Tiggemann, 2002; Strelan & Hargreaves, 2005.

Loving Your Body 101: The 3 Questions of Positive Body Image

The comments section of anything body image-related proves there is LOTS of confusion around the idea of “loving your body.”

This Valentine’s Day, show your body some love too! Please pin, share, and print our Beauty Redefined valentines to help spead the love!

Some jump to the panicky conclusion that promoting positive body image is promoting obesity — like we’re telling people to forfeit positive health choices in favor of “loving” their bodies to death with lounging and food. Others assume it’s all about teaching people to flaunt what they’ve got — showcasing their physical attributes for all the world to behold. Those two rage-inducing assumptions will fuel comment wars online until the end of time,  but neither of them represent what we mean by “positive body image” or “loving your body.”

Here are 3 questions we encourage you to ask in order to find out if something/someone is promoting positive body image, as opposed to just promoting love for a particular look, or their own appearance-“enhancing” products or services, or any other pseudo-body-positivity. 

Does the message encourage all girls or women to feel good about themselves, or do the words or images elevate one set of features or body type above another? A message that trashes anyone else in order to make something or someone else look better is never truly promoting positive body image. Lots of fitspiration is guilty of this. You’ve seen it — the stuff that says “because no one wants to cuddle with a stick” or “bones are for dogs; meat is for men” in an attempt to say “curvy girls are hotter than skinny girls.” Not cool. We understand where that backlash against thin ideals is coming from, but it’s woefully misdirected at the wrong target. We tear down unrealistic ideals, not other people. Similarly, the stuff that figuratively high-fives women with any particular physical attribute for being healthier, sexier, or whatever-er than any other kind of woman is also never truly teaching people to love their bodies — it’s just telling people with that attribute to love their bodies at the expense of everyone else. Again, not cool.

Is the message being used to sell a product or service that is intended to “enhance” or “improve” a person’s appearance? Skills for media literacy, or the ability to understand and deconstruct why messages are engineered the way they are, are crucial in answering this question. Tho
ugh  it’s easy to say “well, a good message is a good message!” and take it at face value, we must recognize the ways corporations use the burgeoning trend of “girl power” and faux feminism to keep us buying products that stand in opposition to what they’re claiming to advocate for. It’s problematic for a company to advertise a “bolder, sexier you” with marketing that perpetuates one extremely narrowly defined idea of “sexy” that makes viewers feel significantly less “bold” by promoting constant self-objectification.  Similarly, it is problematic for a corporation to use “real beauty,” “pro-age” and “redefine beauty” as its feel-good marketing strategies while Photoshopping like crazy and selling products to “fix” all those flaws they tell people to reclaim as beautiful — from skin bleaching creams to skin-firming solutions and anti-aging creams. Be aware of the real, bottom-line intentions behind these highly produced, emotion-tugging marketing tactics. If you don’t like what they’re selling, or why they’re selling it — both figuratively and literally — you can take your money and support elsewhere. If you do like it, then buy away!

Does the message take the focus off of appearance, or does it emphasize looks as the primary feature of a person? This seems counter-intuitive, since “body image” sounds like it implies a focus on what our bodies look like, right? Instead, “body image” refers to the way we perceive our own bodies — an internal perception that often has nothing to do with others’ perceptions or even what we really look like. Promoting positive body image relies on the idea that we must expand the way we perceives ourselves and others by taking the focus off appearance and encouraging a more holistic view. People who self-objectify, or perceive themselves from an outsider’s perspective, are less likely to feel good about their bodies. On the other hand, people with a broader perception of themselves — one that doesn’t depend on how they think people perceive their bodies — are more likely to feel good about their bodies. And here’s the clencher: people who feel OK about their bodies, no matter what they look like at the moment, are more likely to take good care of their bodies through healthy lifestyle choices. People who feel really self-conscious and experience body shame are more likely to be sedentary and engage in disordered eating. That’s where the “promoting obesity” idea fails, since improving body image is inherently about improving health, both mentally and physically. To sum it up, in order for something to truly promote positive body image, it must promote a holistic view of a person — not just as appearances or bodies, but capable, dynamic humans.

Our brand of positive body image is research-driven and backed by mind-blowing results of what happens when girls and women begin to love their bodies. What might surprise people is that the greatest part about seeing people improve their body image is that their focus shifts from “appearance, appearance, appearance,” to anything and everything else more important. Health. Happiness. Contributing to their families and the world in meaningful ways. Becoming more fully present and capable in any situation. It’s a game-changer, and anyone can start RIGHT NOW to get in the game of positive body image.

Regardless of how you feel about your body, what you look like, or what your health is like, you can improve your body image in small ways or big ways — depending on your willingness — by learning to recognize the messages you’ve internalized about beauty, health, and your own body; redefining your perceptions; and continuously resisting harmful messages about bodies. You can follow the links above to posts that highlight important information and resources to guide you through each step. Everything we do is centered in body image resilience, or the ability to harness innate or learned skills to rise above painful experiences and use them for our benefit. This post can give you a good look at that idea, using the incredible example of Elizabeth Smart as a case study in resilience.

Learning to love your body can be a difficult process for many women who have believed their whole lives they are worthless or abnormal because they don’t live up to physical ideals upheld as normal and attainable in our profit-driven culture. We want you to know it is not an impossible feat, and the process is incredibly rewarding. One of the easiest and best things you can do for your body image right now is to consider the ways your body is amazing. Appreciate what it has allowed you to do, regardless of your abilities or health status, and acknowledge your strengths and gifts.

Actress Melissa McCarthy illustrated this idea well, saying, “I’ve been every size in the world. Parts of my 20s, I was in great shape, but I didn’t appreciate it. If I was a 6 or an 8, I thought, ‘Why aren’t I a 2 or a 4?’ Now I feel like I have two great kids and the dreamiest husband on the planet, and everything else is just a work in progress.”

Take a moment to reflect on what you do have, and you’ll have a running start on the path to loving you[r body].

Pin It on Pinterest