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Thursday, July 30, 2009

Breast Implications #2: Societal Implications

This part of our zine focused on societal views in the United States concerning breasts. Because this was created in zine form, this section is informational and focuses on the development of breasts through stages in life and our relationship with our breasts and the breasts of others. The stages that are highlighted are adolescence, womanhood, motherhood, and aging. I'm going to try to organize this the best that I can for a post because the layout for the zine is so great but different from the layout of blog posts.


Several breast growth patterns can be troubling to the adolescent and her family. Among these are [1]:

  • Unusually early breast development
  • Unusually delayed breast development
  • Unusually large breasts
  • Unusually small breasts
But, is anything "normal" in breast development? Our society makes it seem so, but in reality, breasts grow at very different rates and develop to have very different shapes and sizes.

Breast development normally begins about one year before the menstrual period begins. The development takes several years [2].
  • In the first stage (during childhood) the breasts are flat.
  • Next is the breast bud stage. In it, the nipple and breast are slightly raised as milk ducts and the fat tissue begin to form. Also, the areola begins to enlarge.
  • Then the breast starts to get bigger. Often this happens initially in a conical shape, and later on in a rounder shape. The areola begins to darken.
Statistics show that by age 13, 53% of adolescent girls have self-image issues about their breasts, and by age 17, 78% of girls are considered unsatisfied with their bodies [3].

The following are questions about breast development from teenage girls [4]:
  • "Puberty seems like it is working except it is skipping the breast stage! Will my breasts get bigger and how much longer do I have until they stop growing?"
  • "Hi. I am 15 years old. My breasts have started grwoing but not like my other friends. Can you please give me a solution to make them bigger."
  • "I am 16 years old and one of my breasts is larger than the other one. Is this normal?"
  • "I'm 13 and in my school girls have big breasts and it seems that I'm the only one flat-chested."
As you can see, teen girls have self-image issues related to their breasts. The media doesn't really help this by showing girls and women who have so-called "perfect" breasts. But everyone's development process is different and there is no "normal" breast development.


All of the names for breasts [5]: apples, balloons, bazongas, bazooms, bean bags, blouse bunnies, boobies, boobs, bumpers, butterbags, gazongas, globes, grapefruits, handful, honkers, hooters, jaboos, jugs, jumbos, kazongas, knockers, lactoids, love bubbles, mangoes, melons, milk cans, mounds, niblets, nippers, nubbies, orbs, peepers, pillows, sandbags, snuggle pups, sweater meat, tits, torpedoes, upper deck, yabbos, zeppelins.

Types of breast aesthetic surgeries [6]:
  • breast augmentation
  • silicone breast implants
  • breast lift
  • breast reduction
  • breast reconstruction
The average age in America for female breast implantation is 26 [7].

Statistics from the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery release in March 2009 [8]:
  • 2004: 264,041 breast augmentations
  • 2005: 291,350 breast augmentations
  • 2006: 315, 616 breast augmentations
  • 2007: 332,880 breast augmentations
  • 2008: 355,671 breast augmentations
Women obviously don't have a healthy relationship with the breasts if so many women are opting to have breast augmentation surgery.

"Scienctists now believe that the primary biological function of breasts is to make men stupid." - Dave Barry, comedian [9]

A 2004 study of Google searches showed that the Janet Jackson Super Bowl nipple incident received 25 times more searches than the Mars Rover, and 4 times more searches than the 2000 election [10]. Way to go, Janet! Americans agree that your breasts are better to look at than Al Gore's!


See a map showing current public breastfeeding laws in the U.S. here.

In our world, "the sexual aspects of women and the maternal aspects of women are expected to be independent of each other...breasts are a scandal because they shatter the border between motherhood and sexuality." - Cindy A. Stearns, author of "Breastfeeding and the Good Maternal Body" [11]

Does level of education affect whether or not a woman breastfeeds? Studies show that "over 70% of college graduates breastfeed, less than 15% of women with no high school breastfeed." - Stearns [12]

Good news for all you mothers out there! Nursing mothers are exempt from jury duty in more than 10 states and the number keeps on rising [13].


The breasts lose support. Aging breasts commonly flatten and sag, and the nipple may invert slightly. The areola (the area surrounding the nipple) becomes smaller and may nearly disappear. Loss of hair around the nipple is common [14].

There are some interviews from aging women about their relationship with their breasts. They were interviewed in
Breasts [15]:
  • "Everything for young people today is different. We were taught not to touch or expose I think there is a big different in how one feels about her boob." - Lucille, age 76
  • "This is the way it is and I have to cope with each age as it comes along. I wouldn't want to change my breasts or my age back." - Evelyn, age 75
Breast Self-Exams are extremely important and should be performed at least once a month in order to detect any changes or irregulaities [16]. Here are some simple steps for a breast self-exam:
  1. Begin by looking at your breasts in a mirror with your hands on your hips. Look for any bulging, redness, or general changes.
  2. Then, raise your arms and look for the same changes.
  3. Feel your breasts while you are standing up, using a circular motion with your finger pads - make sure to cover the whole breast - feeling each breast one at a time.
  4. Next, feel your breasts while lying down, covering the entirety of both breasts - begin at the nipple and move outward in larger and larger circles 0 from the armpit and in to the cleavage. Feel for lumps and irregularities.
We felt that being informed about breast development and breast health is one of the steps in a health relationship with your breasts and the breasts of others. In the zine, we did not discuss how society and the media can affect one's relationship with their breasts and the breasts of others, but we did talk about this in the presentation. Society and the media can great affect the self-esteem of women, as has been discussed for a long time, and that does not exclude affecting women's relationship with their breasts. Society and the media give women unrealistic expectation that there is a "normal" breast development, size, shape, etc.

Much of this section of the zine focused on pictures, maps, and charts. I tried to include some of them, but I could not find all of them. I was not the person in the group that created these pages so I was not sure where all of the pictures, maps, and charts came from.

Works Cited
[1] Disease Health Information:
[3] Brumberg, Joan Jacobs. The Body Project: An Intimate History of American Girls. New York: Random House Publishers, 1997.
[4] Brown, Mary D. "Breasts and Self-Image: Adolescence."
[5] Breast Names:
[8] American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery:
[10] Google search study, 2004.
[11] Stearns, Cindy A. "Breastfeeding and the Good Maternal Body." Gender and Society, Vol. 13, No. 3, (June 1999).
[12] See #11
[15] Spandola, Meema. Breasts. Berkeley: Wildcat Canyon Press, 1998.


Erin said...

I work right now with 11-12 year olds (girls and boys) and so watching the way children and young adults feel about their developing bodies has been really interesting to me. A lot of the self-consciousness comes out in a camp setting, along with self-awareness of their own bodies. So much of it, though, is internal-- I remember being very aware of myself and how I compared to other girls my age, but that conversation rarely comes up. Not that I think these girls should talk about it, but what makes us internalize this? Why do most of the conversations that girls (and boys) have about their developing bodies end up as bullying (or sounding like bullying, anyway)? Why can't we have a healthy conversation about differences between people?

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