women

The PIP breast implant scandal not only highlighted a horrifying lack of regulation but also showed how conflicted we are about women having boob jobs. On the 50th anniversary of implants, Barbara Ellen argues that judgment should be reserved for the regulators of cosmetic surgery, not those who have it

 Description: Do You Judge Other Women Because Of These?

Do You Judge Other Women Because Of These?

How do you truly feel when you hear that someone has had their breasts enlarged? What is your instant reaction when you hear about another woman’s boob job? Contempt laced with resentment, perhaps a light dusting of snobbery? Well, you’re not alone.

The first modern silicon breast implant celebrates its 50th anniversary this year, and yet it seems we are as conflicted as ever over them and the women who bear them. When the women with faulty PIP breast implants started coming forward earlier this year, terrified they were going to rupture and leak low-grade silicone into their bodies, it was impossible to ignore the ripple of censure towards them. The feeling that women who’d had mastectomies ‘deserved’ sympathy but it ‘served the others right’ for having an ‘unnecessary’ cosmetic procedure in the first place.

The hugely negative coverage raised a previously taboo issue, too why do women judge those who have had their breasts enlarged? Let’s be clear: the PIP scandal which involved 50,000 British women being given French implants illegally made from unregulated silicone is not a ‘punishment for female vanity’; it’s the direct result of a disgraceful lack of regulation in Britain, and cynical disregard for female health.

Would we regard victims with suspicion if materials meant for mattresses had been used for heart valves or artificial limbs? Of course not, The PIP women ‘deserve’ our compassion as much as the victims of any other hideously botched surgery.

And while many of us wouldn’t dream of having a boob job, the fact is, many others do, and numbers are rising. Nor is this desire for large breasts anything new women have been trying to increase their busts for several centuries, using everything from ground rubber and glass balls, to ox cartilage and paraffin injections.

Description: The first modern silicon breast implant

Strange then how the boob job is often equated with the falling standards of an immoral modern world. It’s also widely perceived as Naff and low class, something thing that Katie Price and the TOWIE crowd would have done, do complement their pink stilettos and gormless boyfriends. In truth, women have many different reasons for undergoing augmentation. And, even if a boob job is ‘just for vanity’, so what? Arguably the same could be said for hair dye, face cream, tooth whitener, the list sprawls on. Are we going to object to every last thing that improves the female appearance, or is it just breasts that we’re conflicted about?

Maybe things become skewed because there’s a non PC air of sexual competition with the implant. Increasing your breast size is supposed to be antifeminist, ‘done for men’ at the very least. By contrast, the breast reduction has an almost noble, worthy, ‘medical’ air to it. It’s seen to be mainly about backache issues and not wishing to be objectified. Oh really? The women I’ve know who wanted breast reductions did tend to suffer with backache, but they also seemed pretty excited at the thought of all the skimpy lingerie they’d finally get to wear.

One thing we’d probably all agree exists is this idea that women’s bodies, in particular their curves, somehow belong to everybody; that society, as a whole, has a say in how the female form should look, in a way that rarely happens with male bodies.

Description: the silicone breast implant

the silicone breast implant

With this in mind, it’s awful to see women suckered into judging each other, especially in a case like the PIP scandal where serious long-term health issues are involved. In a way it’s great that breasts, real or fake, continue to be a feminist issue, and spark debate. There are many valid points to be made on the subject, but does any of it matter as much as the question that really needs answering how do we make sure it’s safe?

Three things that need to happen to make implant surgery safe

1. No more hard sell. Some high street surgery staff receives commission, which might mean risks not being explained properly.

2. A compulsory implant register. ‘This would record the type and make of every implant used in the UK, so doctors could get patient histories immediately’, says Nigel Mercer, consultant plastic surgeon.

3. Licensing for doctors. Create a register of doctors licensed to perform specific cosmetic surgery procedures.

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