Breast Implants are Bad For You. But Here’s What’s Worse.

Fiona Project silicone breast implants

We should probably talk about this news that the Food and Drug Administration is investigating whether silicone breast implants are linked to a specific, rare type of cancer called anaplastic large cell lymphoma (ALCL).

So far they’ve only identified 60 cases of ALCL among the 5 to 10 million women who have these breast implants worldwide. (Including, as Dr. Dana Udall-Weiner pointed out in the comments on last week’s Price Check, just 9,000 British women to over 350,000 Americans. Ponder that.)

Still, ALCL is diagnosed in just 1 in 100 million women without breast implants. So the ratios are concerning. Especially because these are the same silicone breast implants that were just brought back to the market in 2006, after they were originally banned for displaying this pesky tendency to rupture. And even though the manufacturers reformulated and did tons of safety studies, the FDA still requires you to get an MRI every other year post-breast implant, to check for something called “silent rupture,” where your implant implodes, but you and your doctor can’t tell just by feeling you up.

So. Here’s why I remain supportive of women who choose to get breast implants.

All those risks freak me out personally, but then again, I was also way too chicken to get a tattoo, even back in college when pretty much everyone was doing it. More importantly, as I’ve said before, every woman has to figure out her own relationship with beauty, and which standards she wants to accept, edit or reject. One woman’s Brazilian wax is another woman’s breast implants is another woman’s three-inch heels. To this end, I also fully support women who decide to skip all of that jazz.

What I hate is the way that any news involving breast implants gets twisted around into an opportunity to be judgmental as heck about “the type of woman” who would get them. Media coverage of this potential cancer risk is riddled with references to “Bridalplasty,” Heidi Montag, the chick who faked cancer to get implants, and that German porn star who died during her sixth implant surgery. On blogs and in water cooler conversations, we decide that all of these implant-getting women must be stupid, slutty and have insufferably low self-esteem. Even this pretty informative HuffPo piece on the risks associated with implants ends on a preachy note: “Consider loving the body Mother Nature gave you rather than playing Russian Roulette with your health and your life.” Because it’s that easy.

And yep, I’m guilty of this, too. I post stories like the German porn star and the first human bra because they are sadly newsworthy in the world of beauty analysis. And at Beauty U, my classmates and I were pretty snarky about the girl I called Our Heidi Montag. And breast implants aren’t the only way we all do this. We also hate on skinny models, criticize other women’s fashion decisions, and get bummed when our friend loses her baby weight faster than we do.

I’m over it. (And offering a general apology to the universe, as well as Our Heidi Montag and every other individual woman whom I’ve criticized over the years without knowing her full story.)

If you want to be mad about breast implants, be mad at Allergan and Mentor, the manufacturers of silicone breast implants who are making pots of money off the 300,000-odd American women who get them every year even though as Dr. Nalini Chilkov says in that HuffPo piece, “all breast implants will eventually break.”

Or be mad about how our culture pushes such unrealistic standards on all of us. As The Sheriff notes today over on Fornicating Feminists, it’s not the specifics of a cultural beauty ideal that are the problem — it’s the sheer fact that we have an ideal in the first place.

But let’s stop wasting time being mad at other women for making different choices about their bodies. It’s so completely beside the point. And it just gets in the way of us getting anything done.


PS. Here are two interesting sources for a more balanced look at why plastic surgery is so popular.

[Photo: Maybe Fiona is getting breast implants. I don’t know why because that’s her business. “Fiona’s Project” by davidfg.]



Filed under Beauty Labor, beauty standards, Government Watch, Ingredients, products

10 responses to “Breast Implants are Bad For You. But Here’s What’s Worse.

  1. I’ve been (still am?) guilty of this, for sure. Great reminder to hate the game, not the player. We get into dangerous territory quickly when we point the finger at other women. And, as you say, it’s all relative–what I would define as selling out to the fashion industry and caving to pressure from the body-hating media (say buying 5-inch heels to wear out dancing), would feel like a form of self-care to someone else.

  2. I agree that we shouldn’t be judging women who get reconstructive surgery. While there are a lot of women who do go under the knife for the purposes of looking good, a hell of a lot more women don’t. It is just too easy for us in the non-surgery camp to quickly judge the pro-plastic women because we may wear tonnes or make-up, or buy into fountain-of-youth anti-aging creams, or spend hours in the tanning booth but “at least we didn’t go under the knife or anything extreme like that”.

    But who defines what’s extreme when it comes to what we do to attain beauty? We do.

    So, it’s really not about the pro-plastic women, or about the cultural beauty ideals, or about the surgeons who are willing to perform risky surgeries for the purposes of vanity. The real question is: why is it becoming more and more socially acceptable to mutilate our bodies for the purposes of looking good?

  3. Kitty

    I am obssesed with/repulsed by fake tits. I can’t imagine getting boobs bolted on to my chest. My friends bought me a lap dance just so I could feel implants. Whenever there is a girl in my gym w. fake tits, I can’t stop staring at them. I am such a creeper. What does it feel like to have your skin all stretched like that? What does it feel like to have something artificial in your body? What does it feel like to have tits that don’t move? What is the decision to get them like? Does the size two lady w. the grapefruit halves on her chest think she is fooling anybody?

  4. What does it feel like to have your skin all stretched like that? I can’t say I’ve ever noticed my skin feeling different. Sometimes when I run my hands over my skin it seems smoother there, but I don’t know if that’s because it is or because I’m imagining it that way.

    What does it feel like to have something artificial in your body? Doesn’t bother me in the least. It’s actually kind of cool, because the implant (for me, anyway) was put behind the pectoral muscle, so I can flex and the muscle squishes it to the side a little, and when I relax it squishes back the other way. 🙂

    What does it feel like to have tits that don’t move? Two words: NO BRA! Actually, they do move a little, just not as much as bio-boobs. 🙂 And not enough to need a bra.

    What is the decision to get them like? Well, mine was reconstructive, so it was more like (a) hurray, insurance covers it! and (b) clothes will still fit me right. I loved my little implant, and I am looking forward to getting the other side done as well!

  5. CJ

    I had a friend at work who was gorgeous and who was very open about the fact that she’d had several procedures done to get/stay/feel (I didn’t know her before any of it, so I REALLY can’t judge). My favorite quote of hers was:

    “People always looks at me and ask me, “are those really yours?” and I always say, you’re DAMN RIGHT, they’re mine– I financed and paid for these puppies all by myself!”

    Honestly, before meeting her, I really did think it was something trashy girls did– I’ll own up to that. But for her, it was so obviously something she really enjoyed, wanted, and had a sense of humor about, that she totally changed the way I thought about it.

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  8. I think the concept of “breast augmentation” among women is good but how “incompetent” cosmetic surgeon and “irresponsible” patient make the whole system worst and more riskier to have. There’s nothing wrong to wish to have much better chest, but its deadly to get the service of incompetent surgeon and lack of preparation in patients part.

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