On paralleling breast reduction and weight loss

Bri recently wrote a very thought-provoking post on the different perceptions at Shapely Prose between breast reduction and weight loss, in general. She argues that if it is acceptable to get a breast reduction in order to ease discomfort, why isn’t it acceptable to lose weight for the same reason?

I agree with what many of the commenters said, so make sure to read their comments if you haven’t already. But I’d like to offer my own analysis of the parallel, which really gets to the core of my particular brand of FA activism.

I tend to think of my place as an FA activist more aligned with trying to debunk what I see is a moral panic/crusade against fat and fat people, rather than promoting Health At Every Size or Intuitive Eating, as some other FA blogs do. That makes my take on this issue, I think, somewhat different than that of some other FA bloggers.

To begin, I think that weight loss in order to be thinner is a significantly more morally-charged issue than breast reduction (which leads naturally to weight loss). Regardless of how one gets there, thinner people are currently viewed on average as less lazy, smarter, more stable, more beautiful, and morally ‘better’ than fatter people.

I don’t think you get the same moral value judgment being made about women who get breast reductions. Sure, there is the issue of what is considered attractive or not, and some of the decision for getting a breast reduction might have to do with aesthetics, but it is nowhere near as morally charged an issue as losing weight in order to become, overall, thinner.

There’s also the difference in health outcomes and sustainability. No diet has been shown to be largely long-term (>5 years) effective, and weight loss surgery is significantly more dangerous than breast reduction surgery, both immediately, but especially in the long term.

But even if there were a procedure to safely, permanently, and with the same risks as breast reduction surgery make someone who is fat not so fat anymore (I’m not talking about 10 lbs of liposuction here and there, obviously), there’s still the question of the moral imperative to conform to what the culture currently considers aesthetically pleasing. Should that be a thing which an FA activist such as myself promotes?

If I’m trying to bust the moral judgments based on fat, then the answer would be a resounding, “no.”

So here’s my analysis: if there were a procedure as safe and permanent as breast reduction surgery that could make a fatter person more comfortable, and they want to get it, I have no philosophical problem with that. But there isn’t. If there were, and many used it as a tool to conform to thin aesthetics rather than for comfort, I would have a philosophical problem with that, because it comes with the natural conclusion that thinner people are somehow “better” in general than fatter people.

The parallel between that and breast reduction is, in general, people don’t consider someone with breasts big enough to cause discomfort “better” than a person with breasts reduced so as not to cause discomfort. Sure, there’s a pocket of the populace that’s obsessed with large breasts, but I don’t believe even they place moral value on bigger over smaller breasts.

In conclusion, the drive to be thinner, even if there were a safe and permanent way to do so, is morally charged and thus morally divisive, while the desire to get a breast reduction is not. Also there is, unfortunately, no way to safely and permanently ease the discomfort of fat people, so it isn’t intellectually rigorous to make the parallel with breast reduction.

For instance, here’s a bit of anecdata – as an obese person, I’m not uncomfortable at all. Therefore, in the existence of a safe and permanent method of weight loss, the question would be purely moral/aesthetic. I would not do it. Not to conform, and not to appear a ‘better’ person than the fatter me. The desire to lose weight in order to conform and be ‘better’ is precisely the kind of attitude I’m trying to fight. First I refused to be an enabler by buying into the fat/thin moral value system. Secondly, I decided to become an activist in order to spread the word that this moral value system exists, is wrong, and should be obliterated else the already-suffering victims of this moral panic/crusade will suffer much, much more.

What do you think?

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One comment on “On paralleling breast reduction and weight loss

  1. vesta44 says:

    I think that if a thin woman with large breasts can have a breast reduction for comfort, there shouldn’t be any reason a fat woman with large breasts can’t do the same. Why there has to be a moral judgment when a fat woman does it is beyond me (like having smaller boobs is going to make me less of a person, or a better person in any way because I’m going to weigh a bit less with smaller boobs). It’s like people are thinking a woman is having a breast reduction just to lose weight and fit aesthetically to a smaller ideal, when it’s actually a matter of reducing the amount of pain and discomfort caused by carrying that much weight on one’s chest.

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