The furore around the toxic breast implant scandal that hit the headlines in December last year seems to have settled down – as with many issues the media picks it up, bombards us with it and then it quietly slips away. The very nature of news is that it is ‘new’ – and there’s always a new story for the newspapers to lead on. However I find that this sometimes means that issues slip from my mind. Something that outrages me and occupies my mind gets gently forgotten, pushed down under layers of other thoughts, until it is to all intents and purposes erased. When the news about surgeons using industrial grade silicon (apparently meant for making mattresses) for cosmetic surgery hit the news, it raised so many questions – how do these women feel about their potentially toxic breasts? How have these surgeons managed to get away with it? What does this mean for the future of breast implants? What will happen to these women? Will this put women off having breast implants in the future?
The answer to the last question is difficult to measure, however the memory of my anger around this issue was pulled from the filing cabinet of my mind by an email sent by a friend. The first line of his email said “Sorry I know this is going to get you in a rage… ” He was right.
http://www.myfreeimplants.com/ is a website for women who want to raise money towards their breast implants. The basic premise is that women strike up online conversations with ‘contributors’ – the more messages they receive, the more money they earn. The standard rate is $1 per message, but the site gives plenty of tips to increase income – writing personal blogs, chatting with ‘benefactors’, sending them personal videos and selling photos of yourself for extra ‘donations’. “Receive the gift of bigger breasts” is the tagline at the bottom of the page. The ‘Contributors” tagline is even worse – ‘Help the women of your dreams achieve the body of their dreams.’
The ‘contributors’ are told that they can ‘interact with attractive ladies from all over the world and invest in their breasts’, ‘negotiate for custom videos & photos in exchange for your donations’ and (best of all) ‘Keep “abreast” of your female friends activities though their blogs, or write your own.’ By browsing the galleries of before and after photos they can ‘Take pride in knowing that you helped improve her self esteem and self image!’
There is so much wrong with this website that I would need more space than a blog post to list it all but I can certainly give an overview.
This website actively encourages women to alter their bodies – there’s no mention of breast reductions for women whose breast size causes them back pain or inhibits their day to day life, or of women who are seeking reconstructive surgery following masectomies. I cannot bring myself to agree with cosmetic breast enlargements and am appalled by a website that encourages it, ‘helping’ women to fulfill their ‘dreams’. Some women have big breasts, some have small breasts. In the same way some people are tall, some are hairy, some have long legs and some have big ears. You could spend your whole life trying to change these things (and many people do) but it would probably be more enjoyable if you just accepted your physical make up and spent your time eating cake or riding a bicycle or drinking gin instead. Who decides that big fake breasts are attractive? And (the age-old question) why should women change our bodies to fit this standard of attraction anyway?
The second massive problem is that the thought of these women spending hours sending ‘sexy’ messages and naked photos to ‘contributors’ just feels horrendously seedy. Of course one could argue that these women are empowering themselves – using their naked bodies to get what they want from drooling men. I disagree. The ‘contributors’ are encouraged to ‘negotiate’ prices for photos. As the women only receive $1 for receiving a message (and their targets are usually several thousand dollars) it wouldn’t surprise me if the prices are ‘negotiated’ pretty low. Under all the talk of ‘making new friends’ and ‘chatting to new people’ this website is all about women selling conversation and naked photos to men who want to ‘help’ them by paying for them to change their appearance – then they get to see the ‘before’ and ‘after’ photos of lots of naked breasts. This is not my idea of empowerment.
The third issue I have is the way these women talk about the site – thanking it for all it does for them. One poster writes ‘This site is an amazing place and has the best community support. I don’t know what I did before MFI but it was no where near as fun and exciting.’ Even as I write this I can instantly think of a million things more fun and exciting then selling naked pictures of my breasts so I can have painful, risky, major surgery so that my body conforms to a beauty ideal – whoever it’s created by. If you want more fun and excitement in your life then get off the internet, stop focussing on the size of your breasts and get out and live your life.
I fully understand that it is these women’s choice to have surgery and that this is probably the only way they can access it. But when it comes to choice the issue always arises that every choice we make is influenced by external factors, both consciously and subconsciously. Why do these women want bigger breasts? Why is it ok for men to encourage this by ‘helping’ them achieve their ‘dreams’? Where will this endless quest for physical ‘perfection’ end? Apparently at ‘Hooterville’ – when a woman reaches her target amount of money the site congratulates her by welcoming her to this fictional world of big fake boobies. This site is not ok. What it does and represents is not ok.
If there is anything that can be said to be good to come out of the toxic breast implant scandal I just hope that it makes women think twice about cosmetic surgery – that people stop and think ‘I’m thinking of having an actual major operation for cosmetic reasons – there’s a chance I could get ill, it could go wrong, I could die’. And if we’re taking it further what I’d really like them to consider is that there’s even a chance that bigger breasts won’t make them a happier person.
Agnes Pavlova xxx