I subscribe to a popular (26 million international readers) women’s magazine. In the March, 2020 issue, the majority of the 280 pages feature eye-popping haute-couture. Très-haute. Not my personal ambition, but gorgeous eye-candy. There are other worthy ‘lifestyle’ bits: book and film reviews and exotic travel options. But what really grabbed my attention was the article that delivered a subtle mixed-message on a Beauty and Sexuality topic: the insecurity we women feel about our bodies.
I use the word ‘subtle’ because there’s an acknowledged uneven playing field here. What I see in glossy pages isn’t always accessible, or do-able. Also, beauty and sexuality messaging has become politicized (is there any topic out there that hasn’t?) So, as magazines seek to update me (“The ‘New’ Boob Job”), they also encourage me to accept myself, just as I am. There’s hypocrisy for sure, but I’m somewhat sympathetic to editors trying to be PC. Somewhat.
Women (we know who we are) have felt insecure about our bodies, and especially our breasts, for generations. As this article points out, we’ve let ourselves suffer for well-over a century. In 1915, “doctors” were all-to-ready to capitalize on our fears. We asked them put all kinds of weird things into our bodies: glass balls; wax balls; cartilage and sponges. We’ve desperately wanted to be seen as beautiful and sexy. Two questions popped into my head as I continued reading: “How and when did we become so vulnerable?”; and, “What the hell??”
I’d just entered middle school and Mean Girls were sizing-one-another-up during gym class. But body image competition actually began in grade school. My friends were already shaving their legs and wearing lipstick. Not for the attention of geeky, rough and awkward little boys in our classes. These were status-benchmarks for one another. I was definitely unaware of how important these benchmarks really were.
I ran home and told my own mother that I needed to start shaving my legs. That very night. I can still see the look she gave me: “What the hell?” “Oh, and mom? I’m already 10: why haven’t I gotten my period yet? Everyone else has.” And so it began. By middle school, with the onset of puberty, self-consciousness had kicked-into high gear, and it was all about breasts: who had them, and who didn’t.
I’ve lived through decades in which women chose breast-enhancement with little or no thought to how their bodies were going to react, look, and feel over the long-haul. Money, time, and general health have been offered-up for other enhancements as well. Celebrities have been totally open about having had teeth and even ribs removed. Breasts made larger, or smaller. Implants everywhere they thought they needed a little extra padding. Which is why this article proclaiming that another new procedure is on the horizon confounded me. Question: are we really still doing this? And, another question: who are we doing this for?
The technology of the New Boob isn’t new; it’s just a matter of taking fat from one part of our bodies and injecting it into our breasts. Liposuction, on a tiny scale, and “re-purposing” of fat cells. Sounds easy and uncomplicated; but it isn’t. In fact, as the article points out (in a rather abrupt conclusion), this procedure is still under study and therefore not ‘officially’ available.
As I finished reading I was of two minds. I feel glad that women who want enhanced breasts won’t need to accept risky objects in their bodies. At the same time, I wondered: how many women this article touched are now fixated on The New Boob Job? The target demo for this magazine (I Goog’ed it) is women, roughly 25 to 35 years old. This is the sweet-spot of vulnerability and insecurity, in a few major self-fulfillment categories. It’s also the bracket where women just might now be making good money, and not yet have other financial responsibilities.
When it comes to the media influence that is such a huge part of our lives, a fundamental question needs to be asked. Can each one of us become our own best “Influencers”, ensuring that what we hear, see and read every day positively reinforces our natural beauty, sexuality and strength?