Friday, 29 March 2013

Taxpayers Fund Miss Cunningham's New Knockers

I wrote a Facebook status/mini-blog about this topic about half an hour ago so for those of you who have already seen it, this might feel a little like déjà vu... And yes, it's not the blog I promised but I guarantee that it's going to be a more enjoyable read.

When I logged into The Book of the Face today, my newsfeed was inundated with posts about Josie and her new knockers. I had no idea who Josie was, or why her boob job was invading my life so I decided to Google her (anything to avoid piano practice). Miss Cunningham is an aspiring glamour model who received breast augmentation on the NHS, and now she wants to thank the tax payers for it.
On behalf of the UK taxpayers, you're welcome Miss Cunningham. If you can't live with yourself in a world that makes you feel less than a woman, no, less than human for being a perfectly natural 32A, then I think the taxpayers (the ones contributing to and perpetuating this kind of thing) OWE you a boob job. It’s the least we can do. Obviously millions of women want to feel good about their natural bodies rather than have surgery, and we owe them too. We owe them a society where a woman doesn’t face judgement or criticism of the part of her body that exists to feed babies.

Posing naked for The Sun immediately afterwards? Destructive.

Destructive to all the women who feel the same way Miss Cunningham did before her operation, but want to be allowed to embrace their natural body. I might call it inconsiderate and selfish or I might call it everything you would want to indulge in after hating your body through all of its development.

I would hypothesise that more ‘average’ (I hate the word average because it implies that if you are not average you are somehow unnatural) and flat-chested women hunger after a body-flaunting profession than someone remarkably endowed because they are the ones who suffer the nasty comments on the bus, in school, at work, in clubs, at home, etc. They are viewing a world where glamour modelling equates to being able to feel good about your body, they are being excluded from the club, and more often than not they want to join it, because the notion that your natural body could be worth having is unthinkable.*

Am I disappointed that Miss Cunningham is perpetuating this? Of course, but I am not disappointed in her. I’m disappointed in The Sun, The Daily Star, and anywhere else where the most common and popular representation of women is a hypersexualised one. I’m disappointed in the people who slather over these images but complain when they discover that their tax has gone (and is still going) towards helping the self-conscious products of their slathering.  I’m disappointed that things look so bleak for the women who want to love their natural bodies. I’m disappointed in music videos, adverts and games. In fact, there isn’t a form of media that I am not disappointed in for its devastating representation of my gender. But I am not disappointed in Miss Cunningham, although if I’m perfectly honest… I doubt we’ll ever be friends.

When I posted my thoughts about this to Facebook I was amused by the response. When I vocalise my support for the No More Page 3 campaign, I receive a backlash from the same people over and over again. The very same people resent funding Miss Cunningham's surgery. Interesting. It seems blindingly obvious to me, that because these people do not acknowledge the problems I describe, they are unwilling to take responsibility for them. I like to think they'll wake up tomorrow.

Now I've got my little dig out of the way, let's address some queries:

We all have insecurities, does being insecure about my weight mean I'm entitled to liposuction? She wants to be a model and that's fine; I had to pay for my college to learn what I needed for the trade I want to pursue, why couldn't she pay for her surgery? You can't blame society for someones insecurities, it's the people around them that influence them. The reason she's probably insecure is because of who she is. Superficial and selfish. Why should the taxpayers, in a crumbling economy pay for someones insecurity, when children with cancer can't get the treatment they NEED because it costs too much?

I'm going to work backwards. Why should taxpayers pay for someones insecurity when children can't get the cancer treatment they need? It is unfortunate (tragic, actually) that children are being denied cancer treatment, but that doesn't mean we should deny other people treatment. I think this question is wholly irrelevant, although the newspapers seem to be loving it.

The reason she's insecure is because she's superficial and selfish, and to further elaborate (in case you misunderstood first time round, like I did):  I don't deny there are women out there who are suffering from depression and who feel miserable because of their chest size. She wasn't, she just wanted to be like Katie Price.

Ahem. She received breast augmentation on the NHS. Do you have any idea how practically impossible that is? Women have committed suicide because they couldn't afford their own surgery and were denied it by the NHS. You can't just visit your GP and have a wee cry, even if The Sun makes it sound like that's exactly what happened:

"The wannabe model excitedly flaunted her 36DD bust, which was boosted after she wept to her GP about being a 32A" -

You would have to have clinical depression, you would have to have tried various medication. You would have to have showed no signs of improvement. You would have to be a very serious case. Let's label the mentally ill as superficial and selfish, shall we? Let's deny them the treatment best suited to them because we had to pay for college. Let's only help  nice, selfless people.

It might be impossible to prove whether or not insecurity can be caused by being superficial and selfish, but it is very easy to prove how insecurity can be caused by social pressures. The fact that breast augmentation exists as treatment on the NHS is indicative of the social pressures surrounding it. You CAN blame society for someones insecurities, it's called 'objectification theory'. Read a few articles, journals, a book, Google, whatever - just help yourself out before you say something massively incorrect. A few starting points:

Cash, T.F., & Fleming, E.C. (2002) Body image and social relations. In T.F. Cash & T. Pruzinsky (Ed.), Body image: A handbook of theory, research, and clinical practice (pp.277-286). New York: The Guilford Press.
Cash, T.F., Theriault, J., & Annis, N.M. (2004). Body Image in an interpersonal context: Adult attachment, fear of intimacy, and social anxiety. Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology, 23, 89-103.
Carver, C.S. (1997). Adult attachment and personality: Converging evidence and a new measure. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 23, 865-883.
Fredrickson, B.L., & Roberts, T. (1997). Objectification theory: Toward understanding women’s lived experiences and mental health risks. Psychology of Women Quarterly, 21, 173-206.
McKinley, N.M., & Hyde, J.S. (1996). The Objectified Body Consciousness Scale: Development and validation. Psychology of Women Quarterly, 20, 181-215.
McKinley, N.M., & Randa, L.A. (2005). Adult attachment and body satisfaction: An exploration of general and specific relationship differences. Body Image, 2, 209-218.
Salzman, J.P. (1997). Ambivalent attachment in female adolescents: Association with affective instability and eating disorders. International Journal of Eating Disorders, 21, 251-259.
Sharpe, T.M., Killen, J.D., Bryson, S.W., Shisslak, C.M., Estes, L.S., Gray, M., et al. (1998). Attachment style and weight concerns in preadolescent and adolescent girls. International Journal of Eating Disorders, 23, 39-44.
Tiggemann, M. (2004). Body image across the adult life span: Stability and change. Body Image, 1, 29-41.
Tiggemann, M., & Lynch, J.E. (2001). Body image across the life span in adult women: The role of self-objectification. Developmental Psychology, 37, 243-253.

Why couldn't she pay for her surgery? Because she's a single mother of two, working in telesales. Next question.

We all have insecurities, does being insecure about my weight mean I'm entitled to liposuction? Can you see why I worked backwards? Because this is the real question, the one that's hard to answer. I would have to say that if you're insecurity was a result of social pressure, and the best treatment in your case was liposuction, then yes. But that's the simple answer, and there's a lot more that needs to be taken into consideration.

Firstly, you can lose weight naturally. Eat healthily, exercise regularly. Breasts don't magically grow. Even if you purposefully put on weight, it will not necessarily go to your breasts and the weight gain might lead to further insecurity. While weight is something you can alter without enormous difficulty, breast size is not. Nor should it be, your natural breasts are in most cases what's best for you and what's best for any children you may choose to have.

Secondly, weight is not a gender specific insecurity. You may feel bad as a human, but you are never going to feel like a failure to your gender. It is far less easy to relate and far harder to talk about. I would point you in the direction of and if you're at all interested in the two very different directions breast insecurity can take. Imagine being a man with boobs, I expect it's a similar feeling. I do not think penis insecurity is comparable because penises are not on public display like breasts are (although I'm sure it can be equally destructive). I think you have to imagine a highly visible insecurity, not one you can tuck into your trousers.

Furthermore, a woman's appearance is more important than anything else about her. As a woman, you will not get into a position where you can reach out to other women unless you look a particular way, (not without enormous difficulty anyway). Women decorate the news, they rarely make it. Our bodies are like Christmas tree decorations, placed here and there to make advertisements look nicer, with no further use or purpose. We are dehumanised, and hypersexualised. Our breasts are not for our children, they are for your eyes. You are allowed to tell 14 year old girls that their breasts aren't big enough when you see them on buses. You are allowed to talk about 'choice' and tell us page 3 should be allowed because it's the model's choice to bare her breasts,and you are allowed to deny us a public platform to challenge you. Public platforms are for pretty people willing to play the same game. Yes, male appearance faces scrutiny. Yes, men can be made to feel insecure by society. No-one is denying that it happens, it just doesn't happen on the same scale. My point is, a body insecurity, for a lot of women, is a really, really big deal, and the fact that boobs can't be altered easily makes it eeeeven bigger.

When a man is intelligent and attractive, his appearance helps him. When a man is intelligent and unattractive, he is not helped by his appearance but he is not hindered by it either; his intelligence is not challenged, he is still respected, it is not considered unfortunate that he is not aesthetically pleasing. When a woman is intelligent and attractive it is a hindrance, because her aesthetics are prized above her intelligence, and her intelligence is questioned. When a women is intelligent and unattractive, she is more likely to be overlooked, ignored, and her appearance is considered unfortunate. ** Damned if you are, damned if you aren't. Not everyone is going to have experienced this first-hand, but that does not mean it doesn't happen. It is what is happening. I am not a lone voice. I experience, I research, I am not inventing.

Finally, operations for weight problems are available on the NHS. As with breast augmentation, there has to be no other alternative, but if a person is too depressed to facilitate their own weight loss then they may be able to receive liposuction or a gastric band. I don't have an issue with that. I'm not going to accuse them of being superficial or selfish, and even if they happen to be the most superficial and selfish person on earth, I do not think they are any less entitled to treatment.

I better stop there, before this becomes too much to digest. Further queries are welcome.

P.S. Sorry that the small text is so small!

*There are, of course, flat-chested women who are not self-conscious, and those who are self-conscious do not necessarily aspire to be glamour models. Equally, my argument does not exclude large breasted women from wanting to be glamour models because that's plainly illogical.
** That wee argument is a well known one, not my own.


  1. I agree with most aspects of this, but I take issue with the phrase "flat-chested". It's almost always used to demean and belittle women with smaller breasts, and equivalent terms are rarely used to describe women with large breasts. Even though you may not have intended it to be taken that way, using such a phrase contributes to the negative attitude that makes (some) smaller breasted women feel insecure about their bodies.

    (I don't have another account I could use without publishing my full name on the internet, which I'd rather not do, which is why this is anonymous)

    1. Thanks for your comment, I see what you mean (I didn't intend to demean anyone), I did think about it at the time but couldn't come up with a better term. 'Smaller breasted' doesn't sound derogatory though, so I'll use that in future.

  2. I noticed on the No More Page 3 Facebook page someone had an issue with my use of the word 'boobs' too :/ I use 'breasts' 99% of the time, but it gets awfully repetitive... I'll have to think about that one.

  3. This article reminds me of a quote from a book I once read "a man is a man whatever face he wears, but a woman is her body". Never more so than today, when women undergo surgery to conform to what they feel society expects their bodies to look like. I am however, a little confused by this as this woman posed in The Sun - one of the lines of defence for Page 3 used by Dominic Mohan at the Leveson enquiry was that they do not use women who have had breast operations.