“We must, we must, we must improve our bust. The bigger the better, the tighter the sweater,” goes the chant often recited in conjunction with isometric chest exercises.
While chest exercises can actually increase the firmness and larger appearance of breasts, maybe it’s worth a minute to look at the root of a such a chant. Why do women strive for bigger, when it comes to boobs?
This question is at the base of many aspects of daily life (thank you Internet) that includes tutorials of how to make boobs look bigger through creative contouring, tips to eat radishes for increased blood flow to tissues, and the expansive number of bras promising push-up qualities. With all the products and advertising pushing our busts to go up, what’s with this supposed stigma swirling through American society against the “itty bitty titty committee”?
Our obsession with large breasts.
Everywhere a woman looks there is a constant contradiction of messaging. Models, looked to as representative vessels of beauty in the fashion industry, have small chests that allow them to fit into the ridiculously thin sample sizes, but then Hollywood culture perpetuates the idea that breast implants equate to greater success. Kim Kardashian’s boobs are the idealized feminine ideal of “sexy.” Cleavage is used to sell products that are not even remotely sexy. There’s great pressure on women to fulfill the role of motherhood, but breastfeeding—healthy, nurturing, and intuitive—is considered completely taboo.
Breasts of all sizes are expected to be covered on social media (cue #FreeTheNipple), but men can bare chest in public and everywhere else all they want.
At parties and clubs cleavage is the norm, but cleavage in the work or academic setting is considered “distracting” and prohibited through dress codes.
These expectations cannot be blamed on one entity — men, media, advertising, fashion industry, mothers, sisters, girlfriends — but is rather the concoction of all of it thrown together creating this stigma that can burrow deep into the psyche. This stigma drives the consumerism of the push-up bras, enhancement creams, and plastic surgery.
Even high profile celebrities, often seem confused about the boob conundrum and the stigmas attached.Keira Knightley was quoted after appearing topless on the cover of the December issue of Allure magazine. “Sex scenes in films — I’m quite rigorous about what gets exposed. No bottom half. I don’t mind exposing my t*ts because they’re so small people really aren’t that interested.”
Part of the hyper-sensitive culture of boobs may be that it seems everyone around you has big boobs. Average breast size of the American woman has grown from a 34B in 1983 to a 36DD two decades later. Many factors have contributed to this boosted up bust including industrial contaminants, called persistent organic pollutants. Women also weigh more today than they did 50 years ago, some of which is distributed to the breasts — in 2010 the mean weight for women was 166 pounds, compared to the average weight of 140 in the ‘60s. There has also been a great push for finding bras that actually fit as 8 out of 10 women wear the wrong bra size. This bra sizing has shifted so what would have been a D cup 20 years ago is now a DD cup. Marketing to appease women into thinking they’re bigger chested than they think? Perhaps, but The New York Times reminds us there are no standards for sizing when it comes to comparing brands or international sizings.
Breast augmentation (implants) remains the most popular cosmetic plastic surgery for women, with 286,000 American women who went under the knife in 2014. Breast lifts are also growing at a steady rate; more than 90,000 breast lift procedures (aka breast mastopexy) were performed in 2013, (by American Society of Plastic Surgeons members). (The boobs present another great paradox here — even though a woman’s breasts may now be larger then comes the stigma of the “boob job.”)
Stigmas aside there is a limited amount of natural control anyone has over their chest (going under the knife doesn’t count). Boob size is bested by biology. Through images in the media women are told by models and actresses that the “ideal” body is thin, toned, but full-breasted. However such a body type is often elusive and attributed to genetics.
Women with larger breasts tend to weigh more and have a higher body mass index and body fat than smaller breasted women. Losing weight can result in a reduction in breast size. Although it’s important to know that the amount of fat women gain or lose in breast size depends on breast composition. Some breasts are denser with breast tissue instead of fatty tissue. These breasts will be less affected by gains or losses in body weight.) So, yes, you can do exercises to strengthen the chest and lose weight to see potential weight loss in the chest, but the natural state of most boobs is out of individual control.
How to break the stigma.
A stigma only holds power if you adhere to it and let it worm its way under your bra straps. Acknowledging where supporting elements of the stigma pop up and choosing not to let them influence decisions is a great start to combating the cyclical nature of stigmas. Confidence is created inside yourself — not from the size of your breasts. (Famous women in history are not known for the size of their boobs, but the size of their impact. You are not to be diminished by anyone or anything down to one part of your body.)
Plus, there are a ton of perks of having small boobs. From versatility in bra choices, to little interference while exercising, better posture, no breast-induced back pain, etc. And, many celebrities prove that small is still sexy.