Silicone breast implants have attracted a lot of controversy since they were first introduced in 1962. Back then, the FDA did not evaluate medical devices for safety.
During the 1980s, the popularity of silicone breast implants surged, but so did accounts of their supposed risks. Many people claimed there was a link between the silicone gel from ruptured implants and an increased risk of immunological disorders (like lupus and rheumatoid arthritis), fibromyalgia, and other conditions. Some women reported that their symptoms went away after the implants were removed. Some filed lawsuits against implant manufacturers.
Empowerment is the process of enhancing the capacity of individuals or groups to make choices and to transform those choices into desired actions and outcomes. Central to this process are actions which both build individual and collective assets, and improve the efficiency and fairness of the organizational and institutional context which govern the use of these assets.
Because female fecundity typically declines after the late twenties, youth is an important aspect of physical attractiveness….. As men age, they also desire a larger age gap from their mates.
Large breasts have also been shown to be attractive to men in Western societies, with the explanation that larger breasts will more explicitly show the aging process, hence an "honest" indicator of fertility.
It is not a coincidence that the key points in the history of breast augmentation coincide with key events in the history of women’s rights, nor that it parallels developments in a consumer culture increasingly focused on providing women options that are important to them, rather than those deemed important by men.
it is a process, and it involves increasing the options available to a demographic and protecting their right to choose among those options.
This is certainly not a procedure done by a woman to demonstrate her “active vitality” to other women. This is a procedure that seeks to gain the favor, and the approval, of those they seek to attract; the men who hold the balance of power over them.
Figueroa-Haas bristles at the idea that it's frivolous for women to want to improve their body image. Body image, she says, is an important factor in a woman's self-esteem.
"A lot of people consider plastic surgery a procedure that doesn't need to be done. They say women should stay with their bodies and what God gave them and be satisfied. I don't agree," she says. "This procedure does change women's psychosocial issues. There are differences [in life satisfaction] between people with good and poor self-esteem."
After getting breast implants, women experienced every measure of sexuality more strongly, Figueroa-Haas found. After breast augmentation, women reported significant increases in arousal, sexual desire, sexual satisfaction, and lubrication.
Figueroa-Haas says women tend to be left out of the discussion when it comes to enhancing sexuality.
My opponent begins her opening by trying to clarify what “female empowerment” means in what she calls the “traditional sense.” Yet she begs the question, defining empowerment as “seeking ways to be empowered” when what needs defining is what it means to be empowered.
I ask that you not be seduced into the mechanistic interpretation. There have been no studies that suggest that women who commit suicide after breast augmentation did not suffer from low self-esteem and depression before the surgery.
The report in the Annals of Plastic Surgery’s August issue was the most recent to detect a higher suicide rate among women who had their breasts enlarged, providing a gloomy counterpoint to studies that showed women felt better about themselves after getting implants. (emphasis mine)
Swedish women who received cosmetic breast implants had suicide rates that were 3 times higher than other women; the risk appeared 10 years after surgery. Deaths due to drug and alcohol abuse also increased 3-fold in the women who received breast augmentation.
These findings are based on data from a cohort of Swedish women who received breast implants from 1965 to 1993 and were followed for an average of almost 19 years.
The researchers explain that 5 previous epidemiologic studies looked at mortality patterns among 5 cohorts of women in Sweden, Denmark, Finland, Canada, and the United States who received cosmetic breast implants. These studies all reported an approximately 2- to 3-fold higher rate of suicide in the women who received implants compared with other women.
The current study aimed to gain further insight into the relationship between implants and suicide by looking at a cohort of 3527 Swedish women who had previously been followed for a mean of 11.3 years, extending this follow-up to a mean of 18.7 years (range, 0.1 – 37.8 years).
The women, identified by a national registry of hospital discharges, had undergone cosmetic breast augmentation (mostly silicone gel implants) for the first time from 1965 to 1993. The women had a mean age of 32 at the time of surgery.
Overall, 175 women with implants died during follow-up, vs 133.4 expected deaths based on mortality rates of age-matched Swedish women. A total of 24 women with implants committed suicide, vs 8 expected deaths from suicide (standardized mortality ratio = 3; 95% CI, 1.9 – 4.5). The elevated rate of suicide was seen after 10 years. Suicides were higher in women who were aged 45 years and older at the time of breast augmentation. (emphasis mine)
As you can see it is simply untrue that there have been no studies that look at the long term psychological effects of breast augmentation.
It seems we have two choices to consider here when parsing this data and they are not mutually exclusive:
a) Women with mental health issues are more likely to embrace the ideology of breast augmentation as an answer to their problems or empowerment issues
b) The failure of breast augmentation to meet up to women’s expectations of empowerment is so disillusioning as to create tendencies to drug/alcohol abuse and suicidal despair
Women considering any form of cosmetic surgery, including breast implants, often wonder, "What does the desire to have surgery say about me?", "What does it say about my self-esteem and my perception of myself?" And, lastly, "What will other people think about me if I have surgery?" These questions and concerns are understandable, given the numerous myths and misperceptions about the people who consider and undergo cosmetic surgery.
In short, the research suggests that the large majority of women who consider and/or undergo cosmetic surgery are both physically and mentally healthy. They view surgery as an option to address specific appearance concerns and physical changes often caused by major life events, such as the birth of a child or significant weight loss. Contrary to popular belief, these women are not trying to achieve “perfection” or satisfy other individuals, and they don’t suffer from self-esteem or self-confidence issues (no more so than the general population).
Although the first study of this issue suggested that the rate of suicide among women with breast implants was greater than that of women who underwent other forms of cosmetic surgery, the largest and most recent investigation in this area found no difference in the rate of suicide between these two groups of women.
Conclusions: Overall, breast augmentation patients appeared to be motivated by their feelings about their breasts rather than direct or indirect influence from external sources, such as romantic partners or sociocultural representations of beauty. These findings provide new information on the motivations behind breast augmentation and dispute several stereotypes about the factors that influence the pursuit of this surgery. Emphasis mine
Her self-esteem may be boosted in either of those moments; but it is not going to help her in a time of psychological crisis that would be caused by by a man who was duped into believing she is more youthful than she actually is, spurning her when he realizes the truth of her diminished fertility/age. Nor will it aid her in the event of a missed deadline, or failure, for whatever reason, at her place of employment.
My opponent is apparently hoping to make her case around the philosophy that if it ‘feels good do it’ in her exampling of ‘self-esteem’, and then in turn trying to show those examples of ‘self-esteem’ as an example of Female Empowerment. By doing this she not only overlooks the larger case of Female Empowerment as a movement for the sex, but also ignores the mounting and consistent data that clearly shows a marked increase in deleterious effects for women who embrace this procedure.
First I would like to address the distinctions between self-esteem, as so defined by my opponent, and the primary aspect, or tenet, of empowerment which is self-worth.
Women have suffered for centuries from having men make decisions for them. Let’s not start trying to make decisions for each other now.
… and if striving to fit the preferred image will enable more women to reach positions of more power, it can only further female empowerment in the long run.
It is unlikely that breast implants will have a significant impact on other areas of your life, such as your job or relationships.
A more recent NCI study found that women who had breast implants for at least 12 years were more likely to die from brain tumors, lung cancer, other respiratory diseases, and suicide compared with other plastic surgery patients.22 Augmentation patients were not more likely to smoke than other plastic surgery patients, so the difference in respiratory diseases did not appear to be due to smoking.
Women with implants have raised concerns about memory loss, difficulties with concentration, and other cognitive problems. FDA's analysis of industry data found a significant increase in neurological symptoms, such as poor concentration, for women who had silicone implants for two years compared to their symptoms just prior to getting implants. These differences were maintained even when the women's ages were statistically controlled.
A study by National Cancer Institute (NCI) scientists found a 21% overall increased risk of cancer for women who had implants for at least seven years, compared with women of the same age in the general population.21 The increase was primarily due to an increase in brain, respiratory tract, cervical, and vulvar cancers.
Dr. LERNER: Well, I think the women's health movement contributed in many ways. The first and most important way was that they forced doctors, male doctors in particular, even women doctors, to listen to the patient. Again, the standard in the 1970s was for doctors to make the decisions. Occasional patients would object but most patients would simply do what the doctor said. And what women in breast cancer activism did for women with many diseases, for all women in fact, announced through women's journals--I'm sorry, women's magazines, for example, and newspaper articles, that it was OK to talk back to your doctor, it was OK to even go to the library and read up about your breast cancer. It was OK to talk to other women and, in fact, other women often knew as much or more about certain aspects of breast cancer than doctors did.
For example, doctors paid very little attention to the emotional aspects of breast cancer. I heard a story about a doctor who once said to a woman who was complaining about the fact that she'd lost her breast and emotionally devastating it was, said to her, 'Oh, come on. Go stuff an old stocking in your bra and get on with your life.' Now that was a particularly harsh way of dealing with this patient, but the attitude was not dissimilar of other doctors. Many people at that time felt, 'Look, isn't it most important that we save your life? Can't you deal with the loss of a breast?'
The picture for women with breast implants that my opponent paints is accurate in some ways, but it is also misleading. The article she cites claiming high rates of cancer after breast augmentation does not mention whether they are including women who have implants as reconstructive surgery after mastectomy for breast cancer – which could certainly be a factor increases the incidence of cancers later.
Much attention has focused on disease risks among women receiving silicone breast implants, but there has been little evaluation of their mortality experience. We undertook a retrospective cohort study of 13,488 women receiving cosmetic implants and 3,936 patients with other types of plastic surgery at 18 plastic surgery practices. After an average of 13 years of follow-up, deficits in overall mortality were found as compared with the general population (U.S. rates) for both implant [255 deaths; standardized mortality ratio (SMR) = 0.69, 95% confidence interval (CI) = 0.6-0.8] and comparison subjects (125 deaths; SMR = 0.58, 95% CI = 0.5-0.7).
These findings indicate that patients seeking plastic surgery are in general healthier than their peers. Implant patients, however, experienced excess risks of death compared with the general population for brain cancer (SMR = 2.45) and suicide (SMR = 1.54). Internal analyses showed a higher overall mortality among the implant than among the comparison patients (relative risk = 1.27, 95% CI = 1.0-1.6). This overall excess reflected increases for respiratory tract (SMR = 3.03) and brain (SMR = 2.25) cancers and for suicide (SMR = 4.24).
Similarly, the article points to high rates of cervical and vulvar cancer – both of which are linked directly to the HPV virus. So an equally valid hypothesis to explain the linkage is that women who get breast implants are more likely to have been exposed to HPV – it is entirely possible that they would have had cancer even if they hadn’t undergone breast augmentation.
National Cancer Institute (NCI) scientists found a 21% overall increased risk of cancer for women who had implants for at least seven years, compared with women of the same age in the general population.
Furthermore, the diversity and distinction of silicone adjuvant breast disease may require the medical community to accept it as a new entity, encompassing a neurological and connective tissue disorder.
cognitive function problems, such as attention deficit disorder, calculation difficulties, memory disturbance, spatial disorientation, frequently saying the wrong word
As a small group of feminists prepared to launch their emerging women's liberation movement onto the national stage by protesting the 1968 Miss America pageant, they had no idea that the media was about to give them a new moniker: "bra burners." ….
Women threw bras, mops, girdles, pots and pans, and Playboy magazines — items they called "instruments of female torture" — into a big garbage can.
If we use the logic of her hypothesis, we are left with women who are more sexually active in the act of unprotected sex being the more likely candidates for breast implants.
As to cognitive function, most of the scientific papers of studies that reveal these findings are required to be purchased.
The Women’s Activists of the 1970’s fought for a broad scope of women’s issues and the rights of women to seek breast augmentation was by no means at the top of their agenda, if on it at all.
In what has been described as "rape of the pelvis, " our uteri, and ovaries are removed often needlessly. Our breasts and all supporting muscular tissue are carved out brutally in radical mastectomy. Abortion and preventive birth control methods are denied us unless we are a certain age, or married or perhaps they are denied us completely. Hospital committees decide whether or not we can have our tubes tied. Unless our uterus has "done its duty, " we're often denied.
a. (of a proposition) such that a denial of it involves a self-contradiction.
b. (of an inference or argument) such that its conclusion cannot be false if its supporting premises are true.
c. (of a condition) such that it must exist if a given event is to occur or a given thing is to exist. Compare sufficient (def. 2).
While breast implants may not have been at the forefront of the minds of many1970s feminists, and they very likely would have dismissed them as anti-feminist, as a woman I can’t help but feel that the right to participate in my own medical decisions has been a more deeply empowering experience than the right to go braless and not shave my armpits..
americandingbat (ADB) vs TheWayISeeIt: (TWISI)
Breast Augmentation Is Necessary For Female Empowerment
ADB opens the debate with a description and historical overview of breast augmentation, and an attempt to define empowerment.
TWISI effectively challenges the definition of empowerment and links breast augmentation to the male standards of sexual attractiveness.
ADB redirects the definition of empowerment and turns to the social and economic (professional) aspects of breast augmentation, as well as pointing out how the procedure can improve self-esteem.
TWISI provides a good twist with attempting to define self-esteem differently from self-worth, but then makes a side trip to the negative health consequences of breast augmentation.
ADB makes some good points regarding sociological shift and the empowerment of choices, the ability to satisfy one's desire to look good, and rights "to our own bodies." She also effectively points out the psychological importance of breasts to women.
TWISI makes an excellent point with her discussion of cognitive dissonance (i. e. breast augmentation doesn't achieve the desired result); this is a good rebuttal as is her point that there is no evidence for empowerment as a result of breast augmentation.
TWISI made a potentially critical error in claiming that ADB's discussion of choices is specious, farfetched, and overreaching rather than addressing it. Being able to make choices IS an aspect of empowerment. In her closing, however, she did well in pointing out some of ADB's fancy footwork and the variety of approaches ADB used in attempting to make her point.
ADB made a mistake in presenting to the reader (and judges) a definition of necessary as "it must exist if the given event is to occur," thus implying that female empowerment could not occur if breast augmentation did not exist. This is clearly invalid and loses her points.
Both fighters allowed themselves to be diverted to a discussion of negative (physical) health consequences which was largely irrelevant. Empowerment is primarily psychological and mental, not physical. Is Stephen Hawking any less "empowered" because of his physical issues?
Ultimately, ADB simply does not convincingly make her case that breast augmentation is necessary for female empowerment. She more than adequately makes a case that it should be available to women, but that wasn't the topic.
TWISI makes several excellent rebuttals, links breast augmentation to the female desire to be attractive to men, and shows us that, in many cases, women who've had the procedure don't seem to be empowered. She also, in her closing, very coolly raises and knocks down her opponent's various points, and in the end puts enough holes in her opponent's case to leave reasonable doubt.
TWISI wins, but her win would be more in doubt if not for ADB's mistakes. A valiant effort by both fighters and congratulations to both of you for successfully avoiding potentially more controversial aspects of the subject.
It is the responsibility of any individual male or female to to seek the knowledge and awareness to establish their own realistic expectations from any action they undertake. As americandingbat put it: "How many women with self-esteem problems have ended up in unhappy relationships because they believe having someone will make them feel better? Would my opponent like to rule out relationships...?"
The fundamental point being constructed here is that for some women, the same internal emotional dynamics which might lead them to seek breast augmentation as a temporary, superficial, and ultimately ineffective tool, also predispose them to other equally ineffective coping tools such as drug abuse alcoholism and for some suicide. Thus the actions are cumulative, there is no study which has been presented within this debate that shows clear causality between the act of undertaking a breast augmentation procedure singularly increases the risk of suicide. What the presented studies do show is that for women, and indeed men, who choose an external solution to an internal problem are more likely to exacerbate and compound this behavior, whether via drugs, alcohol, and sadly suicide.
TheWayISeeIt makes a strong and valid argument as to the perils of women attempting to adhere to a hyper-sexualised version of themselves for the benefit of men. The problem with this argument is its implication. Namely that women who get breast implants are by definition shallow, simple, insecure, and are unable to maintain a strong foundation of self worth without the approval and/or acceptance of men. This oversimplification of women is in itself disempowering. It is akin to saying that a woman who chooses to put her career aside to raise her children is only making that choice because she is allowing herself to be subjugated. As americandingbat put it: "In just the last thirty years, women have driven the mainstreaming of breast augmentation, asserting that care for appearance does not make a woman shallow or sinful."
Ultimately what is empowering, as americandingbat has stated, is the ability of one to have the freedom to make maximum choices. The ability of a woman to choose whether or not breast augmentation, even if she makes that choice for all the "wrong" reasons, is ultimately empowering. Lest men or indeed other women take that right away from her.
TheWayISeeIt's primary position in the debate, is that though it is empowering to women to have the right to have breast augmentation surgery, that invoking this right is as she puts it, is antithetical to female empowerment. If we are to follow the implications of such reasoning would wearing a sexy dress or putting on makeup also be antithetical to female empowerment?
One of TheWayISeeIt's strongest points is in the potential and well documented health risks associated with breast augmentation surgery. These risks however are well documented and available to any woman considering breast augmentation surgery.
I also believe that TheWayISeeIt missed an opportunity to win one the point which was brought up by americandingbat: "An older woman whose breasts have lost their fullness and lift finds herself in the unenviable position of being judged both old and unattractive - combined with being female, this is a serious handicap in the professional world." Fact is in a work environment breast augmentation can have both a positive and/or negative affect. In this "imperfect world," the same woman who might get hired in part for the youthfulness her enhanced breasts provide her, might also be less likely to be taken seriously for her professional attributes for the same reason.
This debate was very close.
In my opinion americandingbat is the winner!
AmericanDingbat opens with a summary of breast augmentation, and contends that empowerment consists of a woman's self-control over her body. TheWayISeeIt opens arguing that the sexual roles that drive such a descision are male-created, and inherently self-disempowering to women. Both agree that society is paternalistic. TheWayISeeIt highlights motives, presenting an assertive opening statement. AmericanDingbat focuses primarily on self-determination, an argument that is perhaps incomplete.
Round 1: TheWayISeeIt
AmericanDingbat continues focus on personal choice, stressing that whatever image women choose to fit within is natural, and thus not disempowering. TheWayISeeIt contests this, showing psychological risks and potentially unhealthy behaviour, emphasizing that choosing an "unnatural standard" cannot be empowering.
Round 2: tie
AmericanDingbat brings home the point that empowerment is autonomy and should not include judgements of the effectiveness of choices, while continuing the argument that body image in society is driven by biological imperative, not simply cultural bias. TheWayISeeIt contradicts this by giving example of varying standards of the sexual ideal body image over time, in Western culture. TheWayISeeIt also introduces more data of health problems and the financial expense and other costs of breast implants. This is undercut slightly by an over-the-top summary of negatives that presumes proof of causation, which the cited advocacy group's data did not provide.
Round 3: AmericanDingbat
AmericanDingbat counters the provided data, and presents excellent explanation of how the availability of cosmetic surgery choices enables personal empowerment. TheWayISeeIt introduces more health-related data and again contends that women seeking breast augmentation are buying into a male-perpetuated paradigm of sexual oppression. TheWayISeeIt's data and argument confuse specific problems with silicone implants, and breast augmentation in general. The data of implants interfering with mammograms did indicate a health concern, however.
Both fighters effectively summarize the cases they have presented, and the flaws they have found in their opponents arguments. AmericanDingbat presents further data of demands for personal choice in health care being part of the women's rights movement, as well showing that implant technology is an evolving practice.
Two rounds for TheWayISeeIt, two rounds for AmericanDingbat, one tie.
I really would like to have seen this debate decided on points. Both fighters gave excellent performances, with well contrasted and evolving styles. Both deserve a win, but there can be only one.
TheWayISeeIt convinced me that breast implants can present health concerns. AmericanDingbat convinced me that personal choice, including choice in health care and cosmetic matters, is a necessary component of empowerment. TheWayISeeIt gave compelling argument that such choices may be unwise, motivated by an unjust reflection of sexual paradigms in society. However, the case was made that such paradigms do change, and women's rights are evolving, changing society.
Frankly, TheWayISeeIt made more intricate and assertive argument. However, AmericanDingbat actually managed to change my mind on this subject, and convince me that the availability of personal choice is of paramount importance to empowerment, regardless of social pressures of either male-dominated sexual stereotypes OR just rejection of those stereotypes by the feminist movement.
Win to AmericanDingbat.