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Why Some Women Might Need Plastic Surgery

A recent vandalism campaign against cosmetic surgery ads doesn't tell the other side of the story.

Okay, Jennifer, sure. Photo via Tumblr

I've always despised having big boobs.

While most teenage girls look forward to shopping for a prom dress, for me the process was rife with stress. The reason? I couldn't stuff my massive breasts into anything with a tight bodice.

This was particularly frustrating because I have a small frame—I am 5'2"—so while my lower torso was basically a size small, the top half was an XL. Bikinis meant a guaranteed nip slip (still do, tbh). I never had a proper bra fitting, but my largest was a DD.


On the shitty-meter, all of that paled in comparison to the unwanted attention from teenage boys. At a party once, I was standing in the kitchen with a pretty cute dude when he started leering at me. He leaned in, breath reeking of Bacardi, and proclaimed, "Your tits are HUGE." Then he bit my forehead. This was a common occurrence (minus the forehead part).

During Christmas break of my senior year, I went through with a breast reduction. I was keen on a B cup but my surgeon was all "no, no" and insisted on Cs. Even though there was a pretty intense recovery process, I was much happier post-op. My shirts fit, my boobs didn't chafe, and guys paid slightly more attention to my face.

So when I see campaigns like the #youdontneedthis hashtag telling women they "don't need" cosmetic surgery, I can't help but think they're misguided.

In a Toronto Star article published yesterday, Jennifer Dawson, a digital marketing prof at Seneca College, talked about her beef with Toronto Cosmetic Clinic's TTC advertisements.

"As a woman, it can be a bit infuriating to have to ride a subway on your daily commute and look at these posters," she said.

In response, she's taken to defacing signs promoting things like liposuction and boob jobs by writing, "You don't need this" across them and posting photos of her work to social media. As of yesterday, the hashtag was trending and similarly defaced ads were seen in NYC.


Dawson, whose Facebook feed features professionally shot images of her, is an attractive woman. She is clearly confident and that's great. But I'm not convinced she's in the best position to judge what other women do and don't "need" when it comes to how they feel about their bodies. And inadvertently, messages like that reinforce negative stereotypes about those who do opt to have a lil nip/tuck.

"You're naturally beautiful so it's not even fair!" one commenter wrote in response to the story about Dawson. "Anyone who knows me, knows this small town boy finds (plastic surgery) gross and insecure. It's just easy to tell someone they don't need to look beautiful when you're already in the 'chosen' few, beautiful people."

This guy sounds like kind of a douche, but he illustrates both of my points. It's easy enough for people who don't have self-image issues to tell others that they shouldn't worry about that stuff. Meanwhile, people who do get work done, which can include anything from Botox to labiaplasty, often feel ashamed of it.

A few years ago, I did a story about the rise of plastic surgery among teens. Despite my past, I went into it thinking the piece would take a stancd against the trend and that parents who let their kids go through it were irresponsible. Then I met Sandra Annan, 18 at the time, who had her nose altered in the summer between Grade 11 and 12. She had a bump that had bothered her since childhood and had been subject to bullying both online and in person.

"I didn't have great self-esteem," Annan told me. Looking at her, no one would guess she'd had a nose job, but she said her confidence buoyed because of it. Her dad agreed.

That's when it dawned on me: who the fuck am I to judge? Yes, it sucks that there's societal pressure to look perfect, but people undergo cosmetic procedures for a number of reasons, including their personal health and happiness. Being told by outsiders that they shouldn't want that only enhances stigma and ultimately might do more harm than good.

Follow Manisha Krishnan on Twitter.