Adventures in Plastic Surgery

25 Jul

About a year and a half ago I had breast reduction surgery. The experience was tremendously interesting, irritating, depressing, enraging, etc., but I’ve yet to write anything about it, which I cannot really explain. I mean, what kind of feminist blogger waits until she’s had a blog for seven months before writing about a personal experience with the wild world of plastic surgery? Weak.

When I was about 21 or 22 my upper back started hurting constantly, and I was always trying to learn new and bizarre stretches in an attempt to alleviate the pain. I went to the doctor, I went to yoga, I went to get acupuncture. The doctor told me I was too stressed out and gave me Ativan (good job, asshole), the yoga just made me feel like a fruitcake, and the acupuncture was just a rather funny experience in which an earnest dude from Zimbabwe practiced an ancient Chinese art on a skeptical American asshole. None of it worked.

This is pretty funny to me now, but at the time I had failed to even consider the possibility that it might be the several pounds of weight I was carrying around on my chest that was causing the problem. I’d taken birth control pills which had caused me to gain two cup sizes, and even after I stopped taking them things never went back to normal (yet another reason I think hormonal birth control sucks). Still, I assumed there was just something amiss with my back, figured I was just doomed, and got used to the serious discomfort and the fact that I couldn’t sit up straight without resting my elbows on a table for support lest I find myself in heinous pain.

I also lost the good posture my parents had gone to great lengths to teach me and got used to slouching and hiding under shirts that were way too big for me in order to avoid unwanted attention and comments like the one I received from a Mexican dude when I was on my way to work one morning: “I want some leche for my coffee.” Uh huh.

After a few years of feeling like I was carrying a papoose around, I had to give serious thought to how to remedy the situation. I’m not going to pretend, however, that physical pain was the only factor involved. I started traveling to Asia regularly in 2002, and the unwanted attention I got there catalyzed things. I decided after returning from a particularly annoying trip to China that the time had come to see whether I could get my insurance to cover a reduction. You see, among women in East Asia, breaking an A-cup is practically a mutation. I was like an anime character come to life, being fair, comparatively tall, and massively enboobened. People in China, especially, all stare at foreigners, but the stares I got all seemed to point in the same direction. Nobody was being particularly gross, but I knew what was up.

I had a serious problem deciding whether the whole thing was kosher. I mean, I’m a radical feminist. I’m opposed to people yielding to social pressure by wearing uncomfortable shoes, for fuck’s sake. Undergoing elective surgery in service of the fucakbility mandate is, like, the worst thing in the world as far as I’m concerned. But I eventually decided that living my entire life with heinous pain wasn’t an acceptable option, and that if I had a knee problem that was causing equivalent pain, I’d have had the surgery years ago. That there was the added discomfort of being stared at did not obviate the pain factor. I decided that if an evil health insurance corporation agreed that the surgery was medically sound, I’d do it. I mean, their desire to save money by avoiding providing what they’re in business to provide is even stronger than my disdain for capitulating to the patriarchy by having surgery, so I figured if they were willing to pay, it must be necessary. I also reminded myself that I wasn’t fucking with nature, but rather restoring it after birth control pills had altered it.

(The best part about the whole thing was telling people about it. I’d say that for every 10 dudes I told, 9 of them asked me if me having the surgery was OK with my then husband! I think I was almost as convinced to have the surgery by their dumbass questions as I was by back pain.)

I made an appointment to see a doctor and ask for a referral for breast reduction surgery. I told her how shitty constant back pain was and got all melodramatic about the pain I endured while wearing the torture devices that some medieval asshole had designed and called bras. She told me I was a perfect candidate because I was clearly “out of proportion.” If it hadn’t been for the fact that the extra flesh had been the result of birth control pills I would have probably been offended, but I was just glad she was going to sign the form. The next step was to find a surgeon and have her (no fucking WAY I was going to a dude) send a proposal to my insurance company, then wait for them to approve the procedure.

I searched high and low for information about the plastic surgeons in San Francisco, and eventually found out about a doctor who was known for her pro bono work for low income women who had undergone mastectomies and wanted reconstructive surgery. Now, I know there are some people who question whether having reconstructive surgery after a mastectomy is cool (be fuckable or die, even if the only reason you aren’t fuckable is because you almost died), but I was glad to find a doctor who, despite being involved in one of the most nefarious industries on Earth, at least made some use of her skills to help people who needed (or wanted) help. Plus, she went to Stanford, she was a big star at school, and she’d worked with some leaders in the plastic surgery field. She also did more breast reduction surgeries than anyone in town.

I knew I wasn’t going to like dealing with a plastic surgeon no matter what, but she was pretty cool. She didn’t give me a bunch of bullshit about how “beautiful” I was going to look or try too hard to convince me to undergo procedures I wasn’t into. I hear that’s the difference between male and female plastic surgeons: female plastic surgeons for the most part listen to their patients, while male plastic surgeons try to sell their patients on procedures they hadn’t even considered, knowing that their duderific opinions will likely create enough self-doubt in the patient that she’ll consider the additional procedure. I suppose the fact that I was in her office to have a procedure done to alleviate pain rather than to make dudes want to pork me might have had something to do with it, but she was business-like and didn’t patronize me or try to get too schmoozy, and I liked her enough, for a plastic surgeon.

Her office was another story. She shared a practice with two other female cosmetic surgeons, and they really played up the fact that they were women doing shit for women and that they conceived of their practice as one big, pink, flowery, sisterly, chocolatey self-esteem-boosting party. As soon as I walked into the place, I knew I was going to have to put on my most impressive poker face to avoid snarling and laughing at everyone and everything in the joint. Seriously, if I hadn’t already committed myself to the surgery (and gotten the referral), that office might have made me reconsider.

When I walked in I thought I had entered an Enya video.  I imagined the thought behind the decor in the waiting area, and I kept seeing a gay dude nodding knowingly at my doctor, who had just told him, “What I want is a special little world where women can feel good about capitulating to the patriarchy in the most egregious of ways. Make it feminine as fuck. Is there any way it can be candlelit?” The end result: a reception desk covered in artsy, tremendously expensive flower arrangements, boxes of some kind of luxury brand of tea for us ladies (all ladies love tea), and boxes of chocolates and other sweets, manned by a woman so gracious and accommodating she didn’t even seem to notice the retina-searingly tacky relief in white faux marble of a naked, 36-24-36, recumbent woman adorning the wall behind her. The seating area was inundated with throw pillows, copies of that fucking awful magazine Oprah puts out, and brochures telling you why you “deserve” to “indulge” in Botox and other forms of self-mutilation, not to mention even more flowers. I felt like those cats on Halloween decorations look, all bristly and alarmed and shit. It was just so fucking gay (think about what I mean by that before you get mad at me).

The examination room walls were all covered in framed articles about my doctor and her colleagues, articles clipped from various “women’s” magazines on how great it was that more and more female plastic surgeons were cropping up each day because these female doctors were much more likely to be compassionate, to pay attention to what their patients really wanted, and to create more “natural” results. I felt like someone had dosed the herbal tea I drank in the waiting room with 8 drops of acid, like I’d entered some alternate universe where customer demand had supplanted patient health (har har, I mean health insurance company profit) as the central concern of the medical profession, where people needed to cut up, remove, and rearrange nature to achieve a “natural” look, where it didn’t strike anyone as strange that we should allow ourselves to be cut open and have our flesh removed and objects inserted into us and risk death and disfigurement in order to meet a beauty standard set by the fickle minds behind the advertising and entertainment media.

I was jittery as fuck. I didn’t ask any questions, I just put on the plushy bathrobe and followed the nurse into the room where they’d take photos of me, topless, to send to my insurance company to prove that my boobs were big enough to warrant being made smaller. Yep. I then went in to discuss the whole thing with my doctor, who told me that she might have to suck fat from the space between my armpit and my chest to add to the flesh she’d be removing from my breasts, because the insurance company required that she remove a certain weight in grams. Besides, she told me, most women don’t like having that little bit of fat there, and I’d probably like the result. Ugh. I told her that I had somehow managed to avoid worrying about that little bit of flesh and wasn’t going to start, and that if that was going to be the deciding factor I didn’t need to do the surgery. Like I said, I was basing my justification of the whole thing to myself on my insurance company’s agreement that it was medically necessary, because I figured they’d be loathe to grant the approval unless it was.

After submitting to the humiliation of my first ever topless photo shoot and of being scrutinized, poked at, fondled, and discussed as if I were not there, I left the office and returned to the streets of Pacific Heights, where only 60 — rather than 100 — percent of the women around me thought injecting botulism into one’s face was cool. You know, back to reality.

I waited a few weeks, found out I’d been approved, and made an appointment to have the surgery. The day of the surgery things were a little less nauseating since we were at a regular medical facility rather than the beauty salon environment of my doctor’s own office. I don’t remember much about the whole thing except asking for my underwear the second I came to. I spent the entire day and night in the hospital in a morphine nod, intermittently noticing some show on television about lemurs and complaining that the stupid nurses kept coming in and messing with me too much.

I don’t think I’d realized beforehand how serious this surgery was. I couldn’t walk, couldn’t move my arms, couldn’t do shit for a whole day, and then had to spend two weeks at home on drugs with my mom and then-husband doing pretty much everything for me since my entire torso and both of my arms were useless unless I wanted to rip my internal stitches and suffer excruciating pain. The doctor wouldn’t let me shower for three goddamn days, which would have kept me from having the surgery in the first place had I known about it. (Seriously, I hang out in the shower all day. That was the worst torture I’ve ever endured.) But even when I could get in the shower, I needed help doing the simplest things. I was so incapacitated that I had to have people hand me things that were sitting a foot away from me, and I even had to have my mom wash my hair for me. Ridiculous.

I kept reminding myself the whole time that, once I had endured this nonsense, I’d be done with being in pain all day every day, but I still felt like I’d betrayed myself somehow, like I’d invited physiological injury on myself out of psychological weakness. I think that had something to do with the fact that I had two weeks to lie there and think about the fact that there are hundreds of thousands of women who endure exactly what I was enduring without the excuse of back pain, and I had plenty of time to doubt the decision I’d made once I was actually suffering the consequences of it. My doctor had given me a packet of papers, one of which discussed the psychological after-effects of cosmetic surgery. An all-purpose sheet, it lumped me in with everyone else, and helped me feel like I’d capitulated to fascistic beauty standards rather than chronic pain. It warned that pain, painkillers, and something called “post-op letdown” might make me doubt my decision, that unsupportive family members might bum my party out, but not to worry! Once I was up and about it’d all be good and everyone would see how awesome I looked! Party!

I really wish she’d made a separate sheet for people like me, maybe with some information about how our back pain would end once we’d recovered, because after I got off the Percoset and out of the house, and once I could pick up a book without crying from the pain, I decided I really had done the right thing, and that my mind had been playing tricks on me. My back doesn’t hurt anymore, my posture has returned to normal, and I can find cheap bras and clothes that actually fit me. But I told her to go with the least invasive surgery option, which meant I didn’t go that small, and that I still get stared at all the time. Oh well. At least now I really know I did it for the right reason and that I wasn’t just bullshitting myself.

So, I suppose all this means I’m qualified to discuss the ethical issues involved in the plastic surgery industry, which I’ll get to shortly.


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40 Responses to “Adventures in Plastic Surgery”

  1. pisaquaririse July 25, 2008 at 11:13 PM #

    Yes, well, as you demonstrate here Nine:
    *social* pressure and *physical* pressure are two very different things.

  2. Mortality July 25, 2008 at 11:43 PM #

    I want to get breast reduction surgery, I just hope I won’t need it. My boobs grew two cup sizes when I was on birth control, but now they’ve gone down almost one cup size in two months. So I’m hoping they’ll just shrink back to the size they were before I got on birth control pills.

  3. Bill July 26, 2008 at 2:07 AM #

    I’ve been considering liposuction for similar reasons. I have a trashed L4/L5 which leaves me in CONSTANT pain. And, of course, while people look at your breasts out of lust, they look at mine with disgust. I know I should say “screw it” to my personal fuckability factor, but I’m weak. I LOVE having a lady in my life, and I am a walking disaster without one.

    Other issues aside – for the pain relief – would you do it again?

  4. Nine Deuce July 26, 2008 at 2:08 AM #

    Yep. The recovery was heinous, and I had a complication that was a pain in the ass, but now that it’s over I’m really glad I did it.

  5. Jen July 26, 2008 at 6:13 AM #

    Ah, you’re a great writer 9-2. This is great stuff. I’m considering getting my boobs reduced myself, because being 5’1” with 36F boobs is just stupid. I don’t have back pain though, because I have a relatively large back for my height. Thank god I’ve never had babies or been on birth control, or my tits would be down to my ankles. Seriously though, does that make me a bad feminist to want smaller boobies? I just hate being stared at, being told that I’m a “bad feminist” because I’m wearing a low-cut shirt. With boobs like these, everything that isn’t a turtle neck or a t-shirt is low-cut. Since I was 12, I’ve never been able to wear anything with buttons. Not even one button on the top for show. I’d pop it off. Decals across the chest are stretched and distorted. I have to buy new shirts very often because the fabric across my chest gets distorted and thin. Even when I was anorexic, I wore a L in shirts (and I only got down to a 32DD).

    I really really hate my boobs. Not because they hurt me, like yours did, but because they seriously limit my clothing choices and men look at me like a porn star all day, every day, if I’m not wearing a tent.

    You know, maybe one day I’ll get really ambitious and just lop ‘em off. Seriously. Get down to a B or C. Be normal, wear regular clothes, and not have to spend $90 on special-ordered bras that look like something my grandmother wears. I can hardly pay the rent, and I have to pay some dude almost a hundred bucks to put oversize chest flesh in a custom-made torture device so I don’t get whiplash when I walk. I’d really like to run again. I heard running is fun, although I haven’t been able to run, or do anything really strenuous, since I was 12.

    Does that make me a bad feminist?

  6. Genevieve July 26, 2008 at 3:28 PM #

    Jen–
    Even if you’re not having back pain, I’d say that your inability to run or do anything strenuous is effecting your overall physical and mental health, and personally I wouldn’t call you a ‘bad feminist’ for wanting to have the procedure.
    But then again, calling people “bad feminists” really isn’t something I do…

  7. Nine Deuce July 26, 2008 at 4:02 PM #

    Jen – Thanks!

    I second Genevieve – I wouldn’t call you a bad feminist for any reason, especially not for wearing a low-cut shirt or making the decision to alleviate a situation that causes you emotional discomfort. And anyway, I think there is a difference between having a breast reduction in order to avoid unwanted attention and having implants to get more attention. In any case, we do what we have to do to make life safe and as hassle-free as possible. I had a hard time. I thought I was succumbing to social pressure, and I suppose I was (even though they’re still too big to go unnoticed), but in the end what matters is being comfortable, physically and otherwise.

    Also, I would think at some point you’ll have back trouble. Do you get indentations in your shoulders from bras? Any sort of constant physical discomfort is reason enough, I’d think.

  8. Sally July 26, 2008 at 5:42 PM #

    I sometimes think about having a breast reduction, my boobs grew one cup size when I was on birth control for 2 weeks (came off when I realised my period hadn’t actually stopped), which raised me to a 38C. Which isn’t technically that huge, but it’s big enough to be an inconvenience, and it’s so hard to buy bras that I don’t fall out of every time I run down the stairs, or that don’t look like my granny would wear them. I swear they’re designed by gay men or flat chested women. And seeing as I do a lot of sport my chest hurts quite a lot during and I’ve started to get back problems even though I wear my hard core sports bra with added chest guard.

    I’ll probably have to go back on birth control when I’m older, and if my boobs grow again it’s definitely some I’d seriously consider.

    This was a really good post ND, and made me feel better about my considerations also. Thanks.

  9. crankosaur July 28, 2008 at 1:09 AM #

    It sounds like you made the right decision; your surgery is more analogous to getting your wisdom teeth taken out than other plastic surgeries.
    I read this post right after I read about a new wedding “trend”–asking one’s bridesmaids to get plastic surgery. Mostly Botox, but the occasional breast implant is requested as well. Here’s the article: http://www.nytimes.com/2008/07/24/fashion/24skin.html?_r=1&ref=fashion&oref=slogin

  10. Amy July 31, 2008 at 5:10 PM #

    I’ve been a DD cup since 6th grade, so obviously this type of surgery is something I’ve considered in the past, and something I will definitely have done in the future (in another 25 years or so, I don’t want them to be hanging down by my kneecaps!) I’ve had total strangers ask me if they could “just touch one” and my smaller-breasted cousins and other family members have been making comments about getting some of my breast tissue removed and implanted in them for years. Sometimes it’s like I’m secondary to my big boobs, and it’s not even as if I’m in an F cup or anything that’s more unusual. I can’t imagine being that large, although I’m sure I’ll understand more when I become pregnant. Thanks for posting this, I feel like I learned a lot about the surgery experience.

  11. Sis July 31, 2008 at 11:19 PM #

    36 HH. Until recently they were 32 -34 F and G. I’m 33 inches under the breasts, but the way bra sizes go a 36 has the HHs to sort of fit me. But an HH in 38 is too big in the 38. It’s still all spilling out under my arms and in the middle and even under the band.. I have to keep bending over and shoving them back in. I wear lycra tops almost always. That helps hold them close to me, and that’s what I go for. I have them plastered right to my chest wall so they don’t look like the nose cone of a jet, and don’t jiggle. Ever.

    Yes to the $100 plus bras, worn day and night. Yes to the cracked vertebrae at the bra strap level. Yes to the neck, upper back and shoulder pain, often radiating into the arms. Yes to the lifelong resentment or envy from other women and staring and humiliating comments and learing from men.

    About a year ago, I decided enough was enough and made the appointment. I stopped the reduction procedure before I saw the plastic surgeon. It was a series of appointments with a snickering GP that did it. That’s the last time any *%@#! is going near them. In the middle of the attendent funk from that lovely experience, I decided I really couldn’t handle anymore surgeries. I’ve had some major ones. So here I am. Still carting these things around.

    Things to consider. I don’t know if any of you heard this. Do it now, not later, especially don’t wait until you’re in your 40s and perimenopausal. Your skin will not recover its tone and shape as well. Also, you’ll probably be dealing with some other hell by that time. And even if not, you may take longer to recover, and it may just be generally harder. Also, when you have all that weight, the skin begins to break down and you get something like rashey breaks in your breast skin, that look like huge melanomas. Another thing that’s common in very heavy breasted women as they age and lose estrogen, is lumps under the nipple having something to do with the ‘cords’ that connect the nipples to the milk ducts stretching out beyond it’s tolerance. The little lumps are very painful even when you brush your breasts with your arm. And you will be encouraged to have a couple, at least, removed so they can be sure they aren’t cancer, and besides, there’s that Mustang he’s been wanting.

    I wish I’d had it done when I was about 35. They didn’t hurt before that, but hormones begin to change then, and your breasts get bigger, less toned, and sometimes (me) lumpier. Often, you will too!

    And that ends Sunshine Hour.

  12. Sis August 1, 2008 at 12:46 AM #

    And: I know this isn’t even on your radar, at your age, but I also couldn’t imagine the idea of a, let’s say, 78-year old me and my 12 year old breasts in an old folk’s home and being subjected to the doctor’s snickers THEN.

  13. Aine August 6, 2008 at 12:57 AM #

    I had a totally different experience with my breast reduction- probably because my surgeon specializes in things like burn reconstruction and the real, useful aspects of plastic surgery (easy to forget it has a purpose!). I was treated with complete respect, she warned me about the weight requirement, too (I didn’t need as much off as I thought, actually. Apparently my breasts had much less fat in them than normal.)
    The photo was a little weird- “don’t worry, your face isn’t in the shot, I’m sorry we have to do this”- but my doctor was great. (Her office, in huge contrast to the one you described, is done in a lot of dark, brownish colors and full of unicorn-themed things, including a beautiful stained glass window one of her patients made in payment). She gave me a list of natural supplements to take before surgery to prevent swelling and when we asked about side effects of this particular surgery (I don’t think she does any implants or anything like that) said “Joy”. I realize my age probably helped my recovery time (I was 18) since I spent one day in bed (whatever kind of pills I was given for that day, there were only five of them and I stared at the ceiling for hours, fascinated) and the next week bored out of my skull because I wasn’t allowed to do anything even though I felt fine.
    What made me feel a little uncertain in the whole process was my insurance company- the pain and the slouching didn’t bother me that much (to be honest, I couldn’t remember not feeling like that so I didn’t realize) but I hated the way I looked, hated the simple fact that clothes just wouldn’t fit right, and all the insurance requirements just made me feel horrible, like I was just being vain and had no right to change something that made me miserable.

  14. Aine August 6, 2008 at 12:59 AM #

    and, I forgot to add: Best thing I ever did. (I can stand up straight! I hadn’t actually realized how much it affected my posture till then…)I would completely recommend this to anyone who’s thinking of it- if you live around New york state, i can give you my doctor’s info. She’s getting up there but definitely knows who to ask for otherwise.

  15. Lindsay November 11, 2008 at 9:23 PM #

    Wow, this is an amazing story. It actually strikes a little fear into me because I have large breasts – 38 DD and I’m spilling out… no idea how to fit a bra properly though, even having been fitted four times. However, I’m scared to be without my breasts, if that makes sense. They’re soft and I like ‘em. I don’t wear revealing tops unless I damn well love the top and people aren’t all that fascinated with them (probably because I’m overweight and therefore asexual, heh). I’ve honestly never noticed any pain, except knee pain, which I think could be attributed to my weight and the fact that I fell and busted my knee 7 times in one winter. My mother thinks I should get ‘em reduced. She’s weird about it though, like she hates them on me. She had larger breasts and had reduction when I was a kid. This post has really made me think. I’m totally loving this blog.

    • Nanella August 21, 2009 at 3:39 AM #

      However, I’m scared to be without my breasts, if that makes sense. They’re soft and I like ‘em.

      *sigh* Same here, except I do suffer neck and back pain as a result of daily bra torture. But having large breasts is part of my identity–the thought of having them reduced by one cup size is enough to induce nightmares. I’m not keen on the idea of being anesthetized and sliced open, either. What to do…what to do. “Endure” is the solution I’ve resigned myself to.

  16. Meghan August 20, 2009 at 11:17 PM #

    I am so glad people are talking about this. I actually had a cyst develop as a result of an influx of hormones from birth control. I had to have it removed or it could have turned cancerous. Come to think of it, my cup size went from a C to an F during this time. I hate my boobs. It feels like you’re wearing an assassin around your neck, just waiting for the right time to attack. I hate how when you lay on your side, the northern boob is always trying to escape your bra and bra’s in general suck standing. I taught aerobic kick boxing for five years and had to double up on sports bras and batten down the hatches with athletic tank tops over that. It was amazingly uncomfortable. I’m a 32 DD which is apparently impossible to make bras for because I can only ever find a 34. My ribcage is strangely small and so my boobs look….just ridiculous. I use to weigh 210 pounds and lost about 80. I’m only 5’3 so I was pretty unhealthy. Now I feel better but I look like a cartoon character. If I could just shrink them and never have to wear a bra again, I would, in a heartbeat. I don’t think wanting to be free of something you consider a burden makes you a bad person. If it does then I’m a terrible person for taking a dump.

  17. munkie June 13, 2010 at 11:23 PM #

    If back pain from heavy breasts is covered by insurance, than why isn’t liposuction for the morbidly obese covered? It’s the same principle of anatomy and physics. Sometimes I dream of lopping of my fat. Freedom!

    I guess fat women/men deserve their pain. Because I clearly elected to have all of the conditions contributing to my weight problem, right after I selected what socio-economic class I’d be born into.

    If I didn’t have all this back pain, the muscular-skeletal deformities, and the ever-present fear of injury, I’d lead a much more active lifestyle. I’d dance and run races and skip to my fucking loo all day long and kayak and do yoga and bike and rock climb and swim and hike and have lots of creative sex. It’d be like being reborn.

  18. Grafton June 14, 2010 at 1:02 AM #

    So, I suppose all this means I’m qualified to discuss the ethical issues involved in the plastic surgery industry, which I’ll get to shortly.

    No, it doesn’t.

    Being a woman doesn’t make you qualified to decide what’s ethical for other women to do to their bodies, either.

  19. Miss Andrist June 14, 2010 at 5:38 AM #

    Grafton:

    From one Aspie to another, I’ll cut you some slack on the possibility that you may have interpreted that remark as completely literal and somewhat out of its context (a characteristic tendency of ours, as I’m sure you are aware.) Here’s a recast for you without the dash of tongue-in-cheekiness:

    Her qualification comes in part from her position as a patient and recipient of a plastic surgery procedure. It also comes from practicing willful non-compliance with her status as a member of the sex class.

    She’s not criticizing WHAT women do with our bodies, she is criticizing WHY. Plastic surgery != cosmetic surgery, but women are pressured to surgically “fix” physical failure to fulfill male expectations. For example, when women get enhancements, we cannot feel the implants – a very painful and invasive surgery which invariably scars internally to some degree. Implants serve a purely aesthetic purpose: they do not improve functionality of the body in any way, nor do they diagnose or treat any disease. Even in the case of women who have undergone mastectomy, implants do not actually restore anything but the perception of everyone else – the closest implants come to serving any purpose for the individual in this situation is protecting her from the consequences of failing to meet social expectations of gender expression.

    Take another form of “cosmetic surgery” – blepharoplasty (eyelid surgery.) If your eyelids are not interfering with vision, causing you discomfort or pain, who benefits from you having them surgically altered? It’s not like you can see your own face (without a mirror and how much time do you spend looking at your own reflection? Really?) Having blepharoplasty is not criticized – it’s WHY. And it’s not the people who make decisions for the “wrong reasons” being criticized per se, it’s SOCIETY – for instilling whatever fucked-up expectations and consequences that hurt a person so much as to compel them to seek “corrective” surgery for something that wasn’t physically malfunctioning in the first place. Because appeasing society = reducing social stigma and suffering = qualifies as feeling better. And the pain society inflicts hurts so much that going under the knife hurts less.

    The whole point of this post is her struggling with her sense of obligation to not reinforce (thereby: weaken) the power of the patriarchy to inflict that social pain on women, up to and including enduring real physical pain. What this post actually serves to illustrate – and this may be foreign to you, Grafton – is the incredible scope of influence men, ergo the P, have over our lives. The glaring problem I see is that the P found a fucking way to interfere with a woman’s health and well-being one way or another. Her determination to not let men’s ogling and leering pressure her into going under the knife, for the sake of women who feel compelled to go under the knife based on male opinion of their bodies, is a commendable sacrifice. She was trying to prevent men’s behavior / opinion of her body come into play in her decision but the fact of the matter is she needed a goddamn breast reduction. For an idea of what she was putting up with, just duct tape a pair of college programming textbooks to your chest and try to sleep like that. The moral of this story: men have coopted ownership of women’s bodies and body parts, by reducing women to the value of our sex appeal and function of our sexuality, and 9/2 can’t make a medical decision about her breasts like she would about her knees. When it’s her breasts, she has to consider anybody but herself (let alone everybody), even though nobody but her can feel it.

    Now for your regularly scheduled fire-breathing.

    If “being a woman” doesn’t qualify 9/2 to decide what’s ethical for other women to do with their bodies, what’s your qualification for telling her she’s not qualified?

    She’s not talking about OTHER WOMEN. She’s talking about THE INDUSTRY. That’s VERY VERY OBVIOUS.

    Analogy: a neurotypical telling you that “being autistic” doesn’t make you qualified to decide what’s ethical treatment for people with Aspergers.

    When she talks about criticizing the industry, it’s stuff like the fact that she can’t trust a plastic surgeon like she can trust an orthopedic surgeon to make the decision that is actually most medically beneficial to her – a point her post clearly illustrates, such that the plastic surgeon sees malfunctioning appeal to men where the orthopedic surgeon sees a bum knee.

    Get it?

    -Miss Andrist

  20. Miss Andrist June 14, 2010 at 5:59 AM #

    @Munkie:

    Depending on what state you live in, a person’s individual physical condition, precursors, and insurance, surgical treatment of morbid obesity may be covered. AFAIK, this is usually gastric bypass of some form or another. Liposuction isn’t considered an option past a certain point for a couple of reasons – “fat” is also blood vessels, hormones, and so forth. There’s a limit to the amount of tissue that the body can tolerate having removed at a single time. Skin stretches and grows to accomodate the body, which liposuction can’t address. However, any time gastric bypass or other surgical weight loss treatment is covered, surgical procedures to tighten loose skin after dramatic weight loss (whether the weight loss happened with surgical assistance or not) are almost always covered as well EXCEPT…

    …when the dramatic weight loss or loose skin is associated with pregnancy, and every policy I’ve ever seen expressly acknowledges that this exclusion happens in spite of any term pregnancy calculating out to more than enough weight gained and lost to otherwise qualify. Society hates fat people, but it hates used women more.

    -Miss Andrist

  21. Grafton June 19, 2010 at 12:55 AM #

    Miss Andrist —

    My qualification to tell her she’s not qualified is just logic. Nobody’s qualified to tell somebody else what do do with her body.

    Having plastic surgery doesn’t make you qualified to talk about the ethics of it any more than anybody else is. What 9/2 wrote made it seem to me as if she supposed that the surgery experience made her get to decide for others when it’s right or wrong. Seriously, if you want to say that it is wrong for women to have surgery in order to make themselves more sexually attractive, and that it’s wrong that there’s an industry pressuring them to do so, you are perfectly qualified to make that judgment without having surgery.

    Your analogy doesn’t work, unless you mean to imply that ‘ethical treatment’ means ‘treatments autistic people choose to have.’ Or. I don’t know — do you think that women who have cosmetic surgeries to look ‘better’ are actually so coerced by the patriarchy that they’ve no more choice than autistic children being sent off to ABA?

    I am sure you are correct in some degree that I don’t get it. I am afraid of people, but impervious to most social pressures.

  22. polly June 20, 2010 at 4:41 AM #

    Discussing the ethical issues in the plastic surgery industry is nothing whatsoever to do with telling women what to do with their bodies.

    It is perfectly possible to discuss whether or not the plastic surgery industry behaves ethically without telling people (because it’s not only women who have surgery) that they CAN’T have surgery.

    If I wanted to, for example, talk about the rise in the number of women having breast implants or the fact that 70% of women say that they want bigger or rounder breasts,

    http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/35525367/ns/health-skin_and_beauty/

    it would be helpful to look at whether or not plastic surgeons place prospective clients under pressure. And therefore it may be helpful to have some personal experience of having surgery and knowing what goes on.

    None of this is ‘telling people what to do with their bodies’ unless feminist bloggers are indeed the queens of power and all must kneel at their command. If this is the case I think some may be surprised to hear it.

  23. Faith June 20, 2010 at 1:00 PM #

    “If this is the case I think some may be surprised to hear it.”

    Apparently there are people who believe feminist bloggers are Gods or something to that effect. Anytime any feminist criticizes any activity we’re accused of telling people what they can or can not do. And, no, discussing something from a critical angle does not equal forbidding people from engaging in said activity. I don’t know of any feminist campaigning to ban plastic surgery. Maybe Grafton and others who feel the same way are aware of something that I’m unaware of.

  24. Grafton June 22, 2010 at 9:55 PM #

    Nine Deuce did, in this very post, write: “I had a serious problem deciding whether the whole thing was kosher. I mean, I’m a radical feminist.”

    I don’t think I am that crazy to have understood this to mean that radical feminism is the cause of 9-2’s doubts regarding the ethical appropriateness of having plastic surgery. A plastic surgery intended to reduce physical pain, for pity’s sake. I don’t think I’m that crazy to suppose that this does, indeed, imply that ‘radical feminism’ (at least as 9-2 seems to understand it) does in some sense campaign to ban plastic surgery, or shame those who have it.

    If plastic surgery to reduce physical pain is a moral conundrum to 9-2, I can’t imagine that women who get a little butt-lift or whatever just because it happens to make them happy (maybe it makes them happy because they think it pleases men, or maybe they just like to look that way for their own sake, and let’s pretend it’s the latter) would not find this post, and the attitude it expresses, critical and indeed, an attempt to control their behavior via social sanction.

    • Nine Deuce June 23, 2010 at 9:04 AM #

      I do not, as a radical feminist, support elective surgery for the purpose of adhering to patriarchal beauty ideals. I wanted to make sure I was doing it for the right reasons (physical pain).

  25. Faith June 23, 2010 at 11:48 AM #

    “I don’t think I’m that crazy to suppose that this does, indeed, imply that ‘radical feminism’ (at least as 9-2 seems to understand it) does in some sense campaign to ban plastic surgery, or shame those who have it.”

    I don’t know it it’s crazy or not to suppose that just because feminists of any stripe disagree with something that we automatically support banning it. I do know that supposing or assuming anything tends to be a dangerous activity.

    I don’t agree with or support heterosexual marriage. I don’t agree with or support most porn. And, yea, while I have no problem with plastic surgery for genuine medical purposes, I have huge problems and many objections with women essentially mutilating their bodies just so that they can make themselves more attractive to men who ultimately hate and disrespect us. But I do not support banning any of those things nor have I seen ND state that she supports banning those things.

    You are not a woman, Grafton. And, clearly, you are not comprehending the social pressures that women face that are so extreme that women
    -harm- ourselves in multiple ways, whether it is through plastic surgery, toxic cosmetics (did you know most cosmetics women use contain carcinogens?), prostitution, or even just wearing bloody high heels that damage our feet, ankles, and back. I engage in some of those activities. I get the social pressure and I get how extraordinarily fucked up it is to feel compelled to hurt yourself just to try to gain some sense of social status or attention, or just to try to feel like you are finally meeting the prescribed patriarchal beauty standards that men – those people who hold almost all the social power – find attractive. Until you do understand these pressures that women face, maybe you might want to consider letting women discussing these things while you sit back and -listen- instead of telling us how we should think about or handle these matters.

  26. Faith June 23, 2010 at 4:14 PM #

    I’d also like to add that it isn’t about shaming women who have plastic surgery. It’s about shaming the society and men who create the pressure for women to participate in plastic surgery…or any of the other harmful activities that women (including me) subject ourselves to on a nearly daily basis.

  27. Grafton June 23, 2010 at 9:28 PM #

    Faith, I’m listening, but I am not understanding without clarifications. Obviously.

    I didn’t so much mean to tell you how to handle these matters but to question how it seems to me that you’re doing it.

    You are quite correct, I do not understand the social pressures women face. I don’t understand the social pressures men face, to be honest. It’s all a bunch of senseless static to me, I have to concentrate like fuck to receive anything coherent out of it even when it’s addressed directly at me.

    I recognize that it’s not your job to educate me, and if you wish me to fuck off, I can do that quite easily.

  28. Grafton June 23, 2010 at 9:37 PM #

    9-2: “I wanted to make sure I was doing it for the right reasons (physical pain).”

    Okay. I sort of understand that. In the theoretical. The ‘lying to myself’ thing is a mystery to me and I don’t think it’s possible, but understand that other people do it all the time, since I am often warned to guard against it.

    (I can have an impulse of unknown origin and often do, and want to do something without really knowing why. Though that’s probably something really different, because they’re petty little things like ‘touch that lampshade’ or ‘say “bunny,”‘)

    In any case, I’m sorry you had that experience. Sounds like the whole thing sucked.

  29. Faith June 24, 2010 at 8:59 AM #

    “I recognize that it’s not your job to educate me, and if you wish me to fuck off, I can do that quite easily.”

    Nah, I don’t want you to fuck off. Even if I did it isn’t my blog. I have no say in whether you comment here or not.

    I also appreciate that you have even greater issues with comprehending this stuff than the average person…or at least that’s my understanding from what you have said before. The problem isn’t really you. The problem is even people without any form of autism react in similar ways as you did. Your response was actually a quite typical one to this type of post and the type of discussions that feminists tend to have. That’s why it gets so frustrating and I’m sorry if I came off as harsh. I actually have a great deal more sympathy for you not getting it than I do most people or most men.

  30. polly June 24, 2010 at 11:54 AM #

    don’t think I am that crazy to have understood this to mean that radical feminism is the cause of 9-2′s doubts regarding the ethical appropriateness of having plastic surgery. A plastic surgery intended to reduce physical pain, for pity’s sake. I don’t think I’m that crazy to suppose that this does, indeed, imply that ‘radical feminism’ (at least as 9-2 seems to understand it) does in some sense campaign to ban plastic surgery, or shame those who have it.

    No: It implies that Nine Deuce examines her own actions to see if they are likely to have an adverse effect on the collective position of women as an overall social group. (if thats not tautologous)

    Which bit of ‘radical feminists are not even a teeny, tiny bit in charge of the universe’ are you having difficulty understanding?

  31. polly June 24, 2010 at 2:05 PM #

    And FWIW, I also knew another woman who was considering having this surgery, for similar reasons. She changed her mind at the last minute – after talking to another feminist. This other woman – who didn’t even know my friend was booked in for breast reduction surgery – talked about how she’d had the op herself and felt it was the wrong decision and explained why.

    When my friend told me she was booked in for surgery I was very careful to say NOTHING that questioned her decision. Because it was her decision. Even though other people told me I should. But thinking about your own actions, and the wider implications of them, is not either ‘shaming’ someone, or ‘campaigning against’ what they want to do. Neither is sharing your experience. The fact was my friend had doubts about her proposed course of action, and it’s a good thing to think about it for a bit if you have doubts.

    Trying to give people the chance to make an informed decision and being aware that they have options is not the same as trying to stop them doing something.

  32. Grafton June 29, 2010 at 8:58 PM #

    Faith — not to worry, re: coming off as harsh. As for me having a harder time, I dunno. Other venues, I do better. 9-2’s communication style is a difficult one.

    Polly — Which bit of ‘radical feminists are not even a teeny, tiny bit in charge of the universe’ are you having difficulty understanding?

    Probably the part that’s exactly like the part of “the plastic surgery industry does not force people to have plastic surgery” that others don’t seem to be understanding? Why does social pressure from feminists not count, but pressure from advertisements does?

    Nine Deuce examines her own actions to see if they are likely to have an adverse effect on the collective position of women as an overall social group. (if thats not tautologous)

    No, it is not tautologous. It is disturbing that you think it might be. 9-2 is not ‘women as an overall social group.’ She’s an individual. It bothers me to hear people supposing that what 9-2 does with her breasts is relevant to, and a concern of, all women. I would consider it oppressive if other men suggested that I ought to worry about whether or not the style of my facial hair had an adverse effect on the social position of all men. Seems to me that 9-2’s breasts are hers and she can do whatever she pleases with them and it does not effect anybody else, and if they think it does they’re being ridiculously invasive to her and need to fuck off and mind their own damn business, and when it comes to her breasts she should not have to think about anybody’s thoughts or opinions but her own. They’re not womankind’s breasts, they’re 9-2’s. End of Line.

    (The unethical thing about breast-related plastic surgery that I am aware of is how women who want them reduced as much as possible are referred to psychiatrists, but women who want them enlarged to potentially pain-inducing proportions are accommodated. WTF.)

    Trying to give people the chance to make an informed decision and being aware that they have options is not the same as trying to stop them doing something.

    Huh? Seems to me like everyone is aware of the option of not having plastic surgery. Most people take it. What am I missing here?

  33. Faith June 30, 2010 at 9:15 AM #

    “9-2′s communication style is a difficult one.”

    It’s my interpretation of 9-2’s communication style that she uses a great deal of hyperbole. She is, of course, welcome to correct me if that isn’t the case. This is why I don’t get offended even when she says things like people into BDSM should off themselves. Because even though I’m technically into BDSM, which means that she is talking about me, I don’t think she honestly believes that every single person into BDSM should kill ourselves. If she would look me in the eye and hand me a gun and tell me to shoot myself in the head in all seriousness, I’ll eat my shorts.

    I agree that people who use a great deal of hyperbole can be difficult to understand at times. Particularly when you don’t already have some understanding of where they are coming from in general. But I find at least that if you take her writing with a grain of salt, so to speak, it tends to be easier to flesh out what she really means and what she doesn’t.

    Don’t know if that is helpful for you at all, but that’s my experience anyway.

    • Nine Deuce June 30, 2010 at 10:51 AM #

      Faith is correct, I do like hyperbole. About that BDSM thing, I said that men who like to watch women being tortured on sites like Kink.com should kill themselves, not that anyone into BDSM should kill themselves, and I didn’t even really mean it in the first sense. It might be the most oft quoted bit of text on this entire site, and also the most misquoted.

  34. joankelly6000 June 30, 2010 at 12:14 PM #

    And the special-est part of that oft-misquoted quote is the hours people have spent “oh, the inhumanity”-ing about it, while dedicating just as much time I’m sure to actual violence being done to female people, in and out of BDSM porn…

    Also, in case anyone isn’t familiar with all the rules of the internet, it’s okay for some people to say “die in a fire” when they’re angry at “injustice” (which often translates to radfem’s writing, which apparently is not the same kind of free speech that porn is – if a radfem is saying it, it’s VIOLENCE), but someone else saying “wow I’d love it if such men did not exist” (you know, the men who get off one watching *her* get tortured?) = somebody call the fucking Hague!

  35. polly June 30, 2010 at 12:21 PM #

    Why does social pressure from feminists not count, but pressure from advertisements does?

    Well firstly: because advertisers have much, much, bigger budgets and money talks. And secondly because advertisers have the rest of bloody society behind them and feminists are considered a joke at best.

    In other words feminists are not in charge. Not even slightly.

  36. polly June 30, 2010 at 12:27 PM #

    NB: it was ‘collective’ and ‘overall’ that I though may be tautologous.

    However groups are composed of individuals. So individuals are responsible for their individual actions.

    If one women has breast implants, we can say that’s not likely to influence anyone. If a few hundred have breast implants, still not a big enough group? A few thousand? A few million?

    You see the point, it’s a critical mass thing. But one person CAN influence one other person if that person respects them. Like my story about my friend who was doubtful about having breast reduction. Imagine she was ND’s friend and ND was all ‘yay breast reduction’. Instead of ‘well there are pros and cons’. It’s major surgery apart from anything else. It’s not risk free by any means.

    That still isn’t the same as pressuring or shaming someone though. It’s encouraging them to think critically about it. For themselves. Not saying ‘you do this’ or ‘don’t do that’. Saying ‘what are the implications of this’.

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