My Big Breasts and Me: Body Shaming Pretending to be a Documentary

I don’t own a TV and this weekend made my conviction to go TV-free through life that much stronger. My husband and I were staying the night in a hotel and indulged in a rare guilty pleasure: channel-hopping while waiting till the next crime series comes on and we can watch hot detectives make out who killed “the vic” by magnifying images by a kabillion in super high-tech labs. So there we were sprawled in a hotel bed in west England waiting to watch Laurence Fishburne witness a gruesome autopsy, when we came across a documentary called “My Big Breasts and Me.” It sounded . . . well . . . a little weird perhaps, but I guess we were hoping for some real analysis and facts since it said it was a documentary. So we stayed and watched and, by golly, there were fumes coming out of my ears for about 95% of the time I was watching the thing.

The “documentary” featured a bunch of “experts” (including a private plastic surgeon who performs breast reduction – conflict of interests, anyone?) who spent their air time telling women that their breasts are a problem that needs fixing and not that the (mostly) men who react inappropriately should change their behaviour.

The three main heroines of the film described some of the problems they had related to their unusually large breasts. A few were the sort of practical thing you would expect: ill-fitting bras and an unflattering clothes selection. But the real issue was other people and not their bodies: they spent about 80% of the time talking about how people ogling them and making rude comments make them feel bad about themselves. Then on come the experts reiterating that large breasts mean women get called names, their chests are stared at and they are even repeatedly groped by people who want to “see if they are real” (WTF?!). And guess what the answer is?

According to the experts, it’s not challenging societal attitudes that portray women’s bodies as public property which can be commented on and touched without consent or an opinion being asked for. Nor did they say there was something wrong with the way strangers (and acquaintances) treated these women as if they were simply objects attached to two big breasts. Instead, we learned that the women are asking for it because they have big breasts! It’s basically to be expected that you will be mistreated if you have big breasts (by the way: you’re also likely to be called names if you have small breasts) and it’s your fault! You should take responsibility for it and never wear tight-fitting clothing again or – even better – go visit your friendly, local plastic surgeon who will be happy to give you a more “socially acceptable” chest size.

Not only was the attitude of the “experts” in this “documentary” awful, but they actually made false, emotionally charged statements on camera. The plastic surgeon interviewed by the producers of the film actually said that big breasts are “useless” in terms of breastfeeding and “don’t perform their function.”  When I heard that I was on the verge of throwing something at the TV. Fact check: the amount of fatty tissue in a breast has absolutely no effect on the mammary glands, which are the bits responsible for milk production! And this joke of a documentary had an MD on screen telling women that their big breasts open them up for public shaming and ridicule and are useless in terms of their basic biological function, i.e. supplying babies with nourishment. Sexist, judgmental liar!

There’s no way women can win: small breasts aren’t sexy, big breasts mean people can make fun of you, if you’re skinny it means you’re anorexic but if you’re not that means you should lose weight. And there’s always a TV show and “experts” out there to tell you there’s something wrong with you and you’d better hurry up and pay people money to set you right and get you on track to looking like the photoshopped women on glossy magazine covers. This documentary was just another episode in the endless installment of articles, shows, interviews, and images shaming women for their bodies and condoning judgmental societal attitudes and behaviours.

When we started watching “My Big Breasts and Me” I thought we were in for an hour of discussing the issues women with big breasts encounter. Naïve as I am, it wouldn’t have occurred to me in a million years that it’s actually going to be 60 minutes (minus commercials) of telling women with big breasts that they are the issue. Obviously if I had known I wouldn’t have watched it, and this way I got yet another depressing lesson in how misogynistic and awful TV can be.

About Maria:
A recovering scientist, healthcare analyst and junkie of all things gender and women's health

Comments

  1. Monika Platek says:

    Thanks a lot Maria, it should be said long ago what you said for many of us really believe it is something wrong with us, and it is such a efficient tool to smash and silent women off. It does not matter what they think once they look not as good “as they should” their thoughts have difficulties to be heard even for themselves. Great text. I like it a lot!

  2. Ugh! What a load of crap!!! I’ve met women who have wanted breast reduction because of back pain, but that’s about it. Not that I want to blame anyone for feeling shamed when there’s so much shaming going on–I mean, we’re people with feelings, and it’s not always easy to beat the bad ones back.

    If only we could shame those idiotic MDs. I mean, to say that big breasts are non-functional? Moronic!

    I wonder if breast reduction has the same effect on the nipples as breast enlargement does. Talk about whose body parts are whose–I long for the day when women refuse to sign away their nipple sensitivity for breasts that look pretty to someone else.

  3. How horrible!

    It is very difficult to breastfeed after a breast reduction, because the nipple is usually detached. That doctor got if backwards. It’s the reduction surgery that makes the breasts useless for breastfeeding, and that should be part of the informed consent for the procedure.

  4. OMG! I totally agree Jodi!! The only possible issue is nipple shape, size, or inversion which could somehow make it harder for baby to latch on. Breast reduction is an affront to women, feminine beauty, and to God!

    If a woman’s breasts are causing her back pain, she needs to exercise, particularly her “core” of abs, obliques, and lower back muscles! Dont blame the breasts, they are normal, natural, and a real blessing!

  5. HoongWai says:

    Yes, the documentary was essentially cheap trash.
    However I thought it was quite encouraging that at the end of the programme, all three girls decided against breast surgery or anything drastic like that. Instead, they learned to be comfortable with what they have and the way they looked!
    Often, society really sucks, so we have to learn do our best to by!

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