I have breast implants. Not reconstructive surgery after a mastectomy, not part of sex reassignment surgery, just straight up bags of saline shoved in my tits because I simply wanted bigger boobs. I spent several thousand dollars on a completely cosmetic operation to modify my perfectly healthy body. That’s right, I paid someone to cut into my body and put something foreign underneath the muscle wall of my chest.
Why would a college-educated feminist risk her health and open her wallet in the name of big boobs? Obviously I must be aware of the oppressive and patriarchal values placed upon female bodies in our society, and I must know that the media perpetuates an unattainable beauty standard, right? Clearly I must be aware that this want for bigger boobs is a projection of the images of what is considered an ideal female body that I have been bombarded with from a lifetime of absorbing media, right?
Yes. I am aware that perhaps a lot of the reasons why I hated my boobs before had to do with these things. The thing is, knowing why you feel bad about yourself doesn’t always make things better.
I tried to scare myself out of it. I watched videos of the surgical procedure, researched the worst case scenario side effects, and read Naomi Wolf’s The Beauty Myth. Even after reading Wolf’s book, which draws comparisons between breast augmentation and genital mutilation, and refers to breasts with implants as “sexually dead breasts”* and still didn’t change my mind. (That still makes me mad, and is absolutely untrue in my experience, but that’s another story.) I re-read Ariel Levy’s Female Chauvinist Pigs and asked myself if I was perpetuating raunch culture.
I’m not stupid, I know that there is something really messed up about fixating on my breasts so much. I knew that it was ridiculous that I haven’t left the house without a padded push-up bra since 7th grade. But I also knew that by age 22, and after five years of being on various different types of hormonal birth control, my breasts weren’t going to get any bigger unless I got pregnant or gained a significant amount of weight.
I asked myself if I could be happy without bigger boobs. Yes. I could be happy and I could love my body. But I also knew I wasn’t going to stop buying bras full of gel and padding. I knew I would still stop and stare at the C and D cup bras in stores, and even occasionally try one on under my shirt to see what I would look like if I wore that size. I asked myself if I would still want to get the surgery if nothing other than the size of my breasts changed. I told myself they wouldn’t change my life or make people notice me or make me a better person. I knew this was true, yet I still fixated on how I looked in the mirror.
I could be happy without getting this surgery. But I would be even happier if I did get it. In my mind it was completely worth spending the money I would have otherwise put towards getting a newer car. So last summer I gave myself permission to do something that would make me very happy. I did something frivolous and expensive and possibly even in complete contradiction with my feminist values. I spent several months hunting for the best doctor, figuring out what choices I wanted to make involving the surgery (there are a lot) and making sure I had realistic expectations.
On September 17th I went in for surgery. I’m glad I did it. I’m very happy with my results. Every day when I wake up and look down at my boobies I smile. They make me love going clothes shopping and even trying on bathing suits, something I used to dread. I don’t think getting surgery is the answer to everyone’s body image problems. It’s not something anyone should take lightly. I don’t like that we live in a world where people, myself included, feel the need to pay thousands of dollars to change how they look. What I do like is how I look and feel now. That’s why I gave myself permission to have breast augmentation surgery, because it was my choice to make about my own body, and because it made me happy.
I am not my boobs. I am so many other things. I’m a college graduate, a teacher, a friend, a horror movie fanatic, an avid reader and a tumblr addict. The contents of my bra do not define me, but I don’t mind talking about them. They’re a part of me, the process of getting them helped me learn a lot about myself, and they look good.