On big breasts and the eroticisation of power

Talking about what constitutes beauty is always important. Beauty can empower women (and even men) in ways that money and romantic love can’t. But there will always be people who say that discussing about breast implants and other forms of cosmetic surgery is a waste of time, like the few commentors of Hephzibah Anderson’s article on Comment is Free today, who say that some people like them, some people don’t – end of discussion – ‘cos there are wars going on and the world’s economy needs a serious checkup, we have priorities to waste our breath on. But these comments often miss the point; it’s not about breast implants per se, it’s about what other people think is beautiful and how it can be a tool to oppress women. Perhaps the person who wrote this didn’t get the point:

These articles get written from time to time and seem a complete waste of time to me. Some people like implants, some people don’t. I do and have had a number of implants, making me pretty big. I have my own reasons, am happy with the results, it doesn’t effect anyone else, so what’s the issue? If you don’t like them, don’t get them.

In her article, Anderson mentions Lolo Ferrari, who was best remembered for once having the largest breasts in the world. Ferrari, whose breasts defied physics and biology, was a tragic victim of the cult of Bardot and Monroe. The 36-24-26 and blonde ideal hurts not only women in general but also pathologises men. It can be so easy to dismiss Lolo Ferrari as just another freak show who languished in a devastating case of body dysmorphia, but society’s standard of beauty lies at the root of her self-disfigurement and no one wants to admit that; not the fashion magazines, not the plastic surgeons, not the botox advertisers, not People’s 50 Most Beautiful list, and not the diet ayatollahs who hinder normal women from enjoying dessert.

I do not agree entirely with the point Hephzibah Anderson was trying to make:

“…breasts are an aspirational tool, a means to an end – and that end isn’t sex but power. Those pneumatic-breasted sisters are no more nor less ambitious than their corporate lawyer sisters, they’re just a little more – well, upfront about it.”

Those aspirational breasts belong to Katie Price aka former ‘Page 3’ model Jordan who is financially empowered by virtue of her infamous mammaries. Price is a rare example of a woman who is still able to make money without taking her clothes off anymore. For Price, the dubious fame she enjoys today came from sex: nude pictures, associations with famous boyfriends, her frankness about her love life in the public eye. And to say that she gains power instead of more sex is oversimplification of the nature of sex and power. Sex and power are inextricably linked. In fact, sex is the eroticisation of power and Katie Price/Jordan is the very personification of this power. Price’s appeal comes from her refreshing and very open discussions about the more private aspects of marital bliss, something the English are known to be unaccustomed to and this is what makes her fascinating, what sells her books. Articles like Anderson’s are always a fascinating read, because they challenge what is normal, what is so-called feminist, what is expected of women in general – I say bring on more.

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