Double mastectomy is the new flannel

I know I said I wasn’t going to blog until the New Year, and it’s December 27th, but whatever.

An article with the ghastly title of “Bye-bye, boobies” talks about the coming double mastectomy of one non-binary lesbian.

“Marostica is a lesbian who identifies as “non-binary” or “gender-queer” — in other words, she doesn’t solely identify as either masculine or feminine — and as such, she is seeking to have her breasts removed in order to have her physical being more closely match the way she perceives and feels herself to be.

” ‘Top surgery’ is a double mastectomy,” Marostica explains. “I identify as androgynous; I love being a woman, and I prefer ‘she’ or ‘they’ as pronouns, but I don’t identify with my breasts… (after the surgery), when I look in the mirror, I’ll see myself the way I really am.”

The results of the proliferation of queer theory are clearly demonstrated by this couple of paragraphs. Gender is the degree of masculinity or femininity that is experienced or expressed by people. Masculinity and femininity are social constructs that enforce rules about behaviour, dress, mannerisms, speech, and interests of people based on their sex. In queer theory, a person’s degree of masculinity or femininity is what determines whether they should live in the social category of “man” or “woman,” rather than their biological sex. Biological sex is ignored and the reality of the body is obscured. Masculinity and femininity are innate character traits and the body has to be modified to fit the person’s perceived degree of masculinity or femininity. People who feel they are in between masculine and feminine are seen as being neither male nor female—instead they are called non-binary or genderqueer.

Since the body has to be modified to match the person’s degree of masculinity or femininity, females who are masculine or in between masculine and feminine are compelled to get their breasts removed in order to make their bodies “match” their masculinity or androgyny. A lot of women who feel they are masculine or androgynous are lesbians and bisexual women. Sure, some of them are straight, but same-sex attracted women are overrepresented in this group. As a result of queer theory and the casual attitude toward elective surgery, it has become common for lesbian and bisexual women to have elective double mastectomies.

Marostica reports that she ‘doesn’t identify’ with her breasts. Since when do we get to identify or not with our body parts? I have never identified with my nose, and now that I’ve gotten fat I definitely don’t identify with my sagging stomach fat. However, they are a part of me anyway. I don’t think everyone should just go out and get cosmetic surgery for every perceived problem with their bodies. Our appearance is not what’s important about us—it’s the content of our character that counts. Human effort, time and money should not be wasted on trying to force our outward appearance to fit an ideal.

But what about dysphoria, you ask? People can’t live with dysphoria, something has to be done about it! That is true for people with severe dysporia—indeed there needs to be some sort of treatment. I’m not entirely in agreement about body modification as the cure but I can see why it is used to treat people who are unable to live their lives due to overwhelming dysphoria. However, Marostica says “I love being a woman, and I prefer ‘she’ or ‘they’ as pronouns.” Hmmm…she loves being a woman? She doesn’t mind female pronouns? She calls herself a lesbian? I don’t think this woman has such overwhelming dysphoria that she can’t leave her house. I think she just wants to have a certain look.

Further, she talks about how the surgery is not covered in her case because she is not doing a binary transition. The attitude she expresses about her non-binary identity is that it’s different from being transgender. Some people who identify as non-binary do consider themselves to be transgender and in need of surgery, but she considers this elective surgery and doesn’t want to declare herself transgender to her doctor. This does not paint a picture of someone who has to have life-saving surgery because of her gender identity, it paints the picture of someone who likes the androgynous look and wants to remove her breasts in order to look more androgynous. It sounds as though this is a fashion statement on par with getting a tattoo or a piercing.

Why do I even care? People can do whatever they want with their bodies, right? Well, sure, they can, but I do not think we should treat surgery as a casual thing one does just because one likes a different look. We are not Mr. Potato Head toys—a surgery is an injury. The Mayo Clinic lists the following as risks of mastectomy:

  • Bleeding
  • Infection
  • Pain
  • Swelling (lymphedema) in your arm
  • Formation of hard scar tissue at the surgical site
  • Shoulder pain and stiffness
  • Numbness, particularly under your arm, from lymph node removal
  • Buildup of blood in the surgical site (hematoma)

Lesbian detransitioner “Born Wrong” made a video about the nerve damage resulting from her double mastectomy. She says:

“Um… nerve damage. That’s not fun. It really did not seem like that big of a deal to me, when I was, um, looking into surgery, I read all my side effects, signed all my papers, went to the doctor… I did everything right, everyone told me what was what gonna happen. Um, but, if you don’t have, like, nerve damage… I mean any medical thing, anything you haven’t experienced yet, you don’t really know what it’s like. But specifically right now, I’m talking about like… if you don’t have nerve damage, you don’t really know what that’s like, you don’t know what you’re signing up for. Um… it’s pretty distressing to have an area of your body where you  used to feel something… feel dead. I mean, it feels the same as like… when your mouth is numb. Sometimes. Sometimes it hurts like hell.

And that’s the other thing is it’s like, it’s all over the place? Um, it’s really really weird to go from having normal sensation on a part of your body, to be, you know, drugged to sleep and wake up, and then going forward, for years going forward, you have no sensation, or pain, or no sensation mixed with pain, or like dead and pain, it’s just, it’s crazy! It’s really hard to describe. In terms of like what sensation feels like, nerve damage kind of feels like it’s like, off the sensation spectrum, like it’s not really a kind of feeling I had considered existed before.

Um, and you know… when I was with someone else who was trans, who I felt really comfortable with, who was getting a mastectomy, like, my chest was able- I was able to experience my chest as a part of our like, you know, intimacy together. A lot of other things went wrong in that relationship, but I did experience my chest, as a a part of my sexuality. And that’s very weird, to go from having something… potentially, with the right person you feel really really comfortable with, in terms of those issues, be a part of my sexuality, versus feeling dead, it feels dead, or painful.”

Removing healthy body parts is not a casual and inconsequential thing like getting a tattoo or a piercing. It’s an injury to the body and it can have lasting negative consequences. People can’t fully understand ahead of time what it will be like to no longer have one of the body parts they were born with. I think that surgery should be a last resort for people who cannot treat their dysphoria any other way. Normally in medicine and psychiatry the least invasive option is tried first and the most invasive and risky options are tried last. This woman in the article may not particularly like having breasts but judging by what she says here she would probably not be harmed by keeping them. However, she will likely be harmed by removing them.

The attitude that everyone can do whatever they want and surgery is no problem at all and people should just go ahead and modify their bodies as they please is not a good attitude to have. Women and girls should be taught that their bodies are acceptable the way they are, we should be taught that our appearance isn’t what’s important about us, and we should be safe and respected even while existing in female bodies. We won’t create a world where we can exist safely by getting surgeries, we’ll create it by making political changes.

I don’t think it’s good enough to let our analysis stop at the agency of the individual. Sure, people can do whatever they want to their bodies. I am not going to stop Marostica from having surgery. But I am noticing a trend that it’s getting more and more common for women to have mastectomies, and the important question is not “can people do what they want with their bodies,” the important questions are “why don’t women feel comfortable having breasts” and “why do so many lesbians and bisexual women feel that their breasts are incompatible with their desired look?”

Marostica says that after her surgery, “when I look in the mirror, I’ll see myself the way I really am.” I don’t think that’s true. How you “really are” is the natural you, the one that hasn’t been modified. The real Marostica has breasts because she is female. I don’t think that it’s possible for a woman’s breasts to be incompatible with her personality—women can have any personality they want! And I don’t think it’s reasonable to surgically remove healthy body parts just to have a certain look. The drawbacks outweigh the benefits. Your appearance isn’t important, but your health and safety are.

Lesbians used to just wear flannel and mullets, now double mastectomy is becoming part of the lesbian “look.” I think this is a harmful cultural practice and evidence that queer theory harms lesbians.

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26 thoughts on “Double mastectomy is the new flannel

  1. So, as someone who had a pretty extreme reduction mammoplasty, I’m going to comment, despite feeling kinda weird about it.

    Because it’s nearly a quarter century since I got my surgery and I’m still sorting out my head about it. I suppose I should state first off that I don’t regret having had it done. Even with having been reduced, I still have back problems and I do not look even remotely androgynous. And nerve damage sucks. It’s not a maybe, by the way. You *will* have nerve damage. If you are lucky, the area just goes “dead” and you can’t feel anything. I have mostly had that experience. Still weird and it feels like your chest is sort of covered in rubber, but much better than either the pain (I have a couple of wide spots on my scars from where I tried to make the pain stop early on. Be told.) or the itch that literally cannot be scratched. That itch sucks.

    I desperately wanted to escape the female body I had when I begged my surgeon to remove them. She refused, telling me my husband and children would one day appreciate them. And this is where I begin to feel seriously conflicted, because she was talking about my body. To a certain extent, I wish everyone else would just fuck off about women’s bodies. Men fuck themselves up all kinds of ways and nobody says a word, butmy surgeon literally saw my body as rightfully belonging to my husband and future children. That is so fucked up.

    But the decision I was making wasn’t made in the vacuum of interstellar space, either. Society attaches so much meaning to women’s bodies and in many ways especially to our breasts. Ever since I hit puberty young, my body has been interpreted as sending out signals I didn’t intend. And the wish to take control of that signaling is understandable. But I think we need to attack more broadly the interpretation of women’s bodies, rather than lining everyone up to shape them with the scalpel. (And when you consider that even with surgery, I’m still a DDD, you realize it doesn’t even work that well.)

    Liked by 11 people

  2. Here’s the thing: I wouldn’t recommend anyone have elective surgery in the US right now, if ever, frankly, if it can be avoided, and I think that ‘body dysphoria’ just does not warrant the risk, even for generally healthy people. Infection rates caused by antibiotic-resistant bacteria are higher than they’ve ever been, and these bugs have evolved to survive our first- and second-line drugs–Life finds a way, you know. I see these patients every day and I can tell you that the infections are fast and deadly, and recovery takes years off of many survivors’ life expectancy. Most people think hospitals are the cleanest environments you would ever expect, but they’re not, they’re literal deep pools of super-germs, and the antibiotic therapy required to kill the infections take weeks of IV doses, which means weeks of in-patient therapy, leading to potential secondary infections from the prolonged stay. If you recover–IF–you will be paying the costs for the rest of your life.

    Liked by 8 people

      • I pay attention to this stuff when it’s in the news and I can verify what bullydawg is saying. Over 100 people died about 10 years ago in the space of 18 months in Quebec from C. difficile. There were a couple dozen deaths in Ontario shortly after. That comes partly from cutbacks on cleaning staff. If you’re in Canada you can check out on the CBC’s website their Marketplace reports from a few years ago on dirty hospitals.

        While I’m talking about medicine, it is completely unethical to give people like the woman in this post double mastectomies. When friendpilgrim’s doctor refused to give her a complete breast removal she was following medical ethics rules. Maybe she did think of friendpilgrim’s breasts as belonging to her future husband, yuck. But she might have just believed friendpilgrim would change your mind. That she wouldn’t be in that tiny percentage of people who can buck social norms. What’s so weird now about these young women being able to get mastectomies like buying a bag of peanuts at a 7-Eleven is that’s completely against what surgeons are taught in medical school.

        So how come they’re not in trouble with their licensing body? All medical regulation is designed to fail. There’s a name for this about the industrial sector, it’s called “regulatory capture”. Where an industry, say pharmaceuticals, via lobbying ends up writing the rules for how it’s going to be regulated. And they write them so they’re full of loopholes. But please know if we all we’re flies on the wall in a medical school class there would be the teachers who are like ‘yeah do whatever you want, patients are assholes’ and there would be teachers explaining how, as a surgeon, to not fuck up somebody else’s life. The latter ones, the good ones, would absolutely say you shouldn’t give these people mastectomies. That the woman quoted in this post would be able to get one is something the vast majority of doctors would find really shocking.

        Thanks Purple Sage for a superb analysis. About a thing that makes me 🤢

        Liked by 2 people

    • Strewth, that’s scary. Oz hospitals have multitudes of problems but I was in and out of hospital in six days for heart valve repair and had NO infections or recovery problems, and it was all on the public system. The only things I’ve had to pay for are consultations with the cardiologist and surgeon at their rooms.

      Liked by 4 people

    • exactly! I almost died a few years ago after contracting a C. Difficile Colitis infection in the hospital after a non-elective surgery. Worst experience of my life and I would not wish it on my worst enemy.

      Liked by 3 people

      • I have no doubt of that. C. Diff has become quite common with the use of such strong antibiotics, and it is highly contagious, btw–even healthy people can contract it through contact with an infected patient or by touching contaminated surfaces. I shouldn’t have to tell people not to use a patient’s toilet when they visit someone in hospital, but we’ve had to post signs in all of the rooms for public health purposes.

        Liked by 3 people

  3. Whenever I read about elective mastectomies for cosmetic surgery reasons, I am reminded of the women I met while I was working in breast cancer services. Some had a choice, excision and radiotherapy or mastectomy, others didn’t have that choice. We had highly qualified specialist nurses to support them psychologically (and practically) as they went through the stress and trauma of having a body part lopped off. Through necessity, not choice.

    And yes, lymphodoema is a big issue. It was one of the complaints the breast cancer support group brought to me. There wasn’t enough information about it (we then published a leaflet), and it was treated as one of those minor (!) problems that women would just have to live with. When you can’t carry shopping, can’t do very much at all with that arm, use compression bandages most of the time, what price the beautiful androgynous look?

    Liked by 6 people

  4. At the gym there is a group for women who have had partial or complete mastectomies. They work out with a special trainer who shows them how to regain some strength and flexibility and use of their chest and arm muscles. I was talking to one of the women in it. I feel really sorry for those women and I am pretty sure they’d think anybody who joined their group without having to, would be messed up, to put it politely.

    Liked by 6 people

  5. Surgeons are going to surgeonize. It’s what they do. That they are part of a well-respected profession, have high social status and work within a professional structure that is supposed to have all sorts of checks in place to prevent unnecessary procedures doesn’t change the fact that doing surgery is how they earn a living. If their particular specialty falls out of vogue they lose out. So-called Informed Consent is a legal requirement that is complied with. It’s not a pep talk as to why you don’t need the procedure in the first place. Risks are minimized or obfuscated by lack of statistics or by minimal probability. There are all sorts of ways to lie or dissemble with numbers.

    A surgery doesn’t have to be a complete disaster in order to be a failure for the person who got it. Conversely, it need not be 100% successful in order to be considered a success to the entity who sold it. People who go for back surgery are shown “after” pictures of seniors playing tennis and rowing boats. They’re not shown pictures of people in wheelchairs who can no longer drive or who are bedridden for life.

    In my line of work I have learned that the average person is extremely naive when it comes to doctors and the powers of western medicine, is unlikely to seek alternatives or do any research on their own and has a childlike belief in their doctor’s godlike abilities. If this is true of full grown, educated adults, how much more so of youngsters with an activist agenda who need an authority figure to be on their team?

    Liked by 6 people

    • My surgeon was more disappointed by the results of my surgery than I was. I had complications while under anesthesia and they had to hurry up and get me sewn up. Also (another warning for those following after) years of binding down (yes, old school binding with ace wraps – do not try this at home.) had left my breast tissue extra dense, so I was one big surprise on the table, even after all the presurgical exams. I was offered reconstructive surgery to be paid for by my surgeon. I turned it down.

      Even without a second round, I was in serious pain for months. I was removing bits of dissolving thread from my scars for months. I was exhausted all the time. Even a reduction manmoplasty is a major surgery that takes a long time to recover from. I’m an athlete and I could *feel* the loss of flexibility and strength following surgery.

      But I also didn’t go in expecting to be sculpted into a specific shape. I just wanted to get rid of as much breast tissue as possible. The surgeon had far more exacting ideas of my “ideal shape” largely shaped by late 80s fashion than I did. I wasn’t going to wake up, look down, and see Jennifer Grey’s body, no matter what (which is what she seemed to be aiming for). Well, I wasn’t going to wake up looking like Annie Lennox, either, which I would have preferred, but there you are.

      I just wish I could have lived in a society that respected my personhood without expecting me to reshape my body to earn it.

      Liked by 5 people

    • Excellent comment. When I was given my form to consent to an op two years ago, I asked questions. My surgeon nearly fell off his perch. For everafter he always referred to me as the woman who asked about the consent form. Truth is, I only knew about it from working in the health service. Otherwise I would have been another lemming.

      Me and Francis got on. I didn’t really have a choice. I had a dislocated bi-malleolar facture. But still, they. Should. Explain. I made him go through it out of principle. And I was in my mid fifties with ten years of NHS work behind me.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Very well put! “Informed consent” is ass coverage that was originally invented for drug trials. There’s no money and no practitioners involved in helping people make good decisions about complicated medical care stuff. The transcult and it’s its desires fall into this messed up thing.

      And just look at Wrong Body’s attempt to describe the sensations of nerve damage! It’s a phenomenon she literally did not know existed. She has to decide on this surgery without even knowing what she’s weighing it against. And it’s not like there are people who’ve been living with nerve damage you could explain what it’s like. Even in a pamphlet, FFS. 🙄

      Liked by 1 person

  6. This article was fascinating to me; as a straight, adult woman, I have always despised my breasts since only really becoming aware of them after puberty (aged 16) when I realised what an impact porn had on the boys in my school and the girls’ responses to that (often to play up to it). I’d been blissfully naïve as a child of the male gaze and the total fetishisation of breasts in British culture as I didn’t really identify with being female.

    Soon, in my teenage sexual relationships I was on the receiving end of negative comments about my breast size – which I definitely *won’t* post here, as I’ve realised how triggering it is for me when other women do it – which sets us women against each other in competition.

    It also dawned on me in terms of this fetishisation how much teenage girls and women are reduced to their breast size, in the same way men judge each other by penis length; Naomi Woolf I think summed it up best when she hypothesised that men should try having their penis growing somewhere visible so everyone can clearly see the size and girth of it through their t-shirt for a day and this might equate to how women feel all the time.

    Even now, I wear baggy, shape camouflaging clothes with jeans and training shoes as a form of self-protection, so I can run away if any man tries to attack or assault me. This is my uniform.

    Although it is an unfashionable outlook, I despair at other women who sexualise themselves in their day-to-day garb as it only suggests wanting acceptance by men in a world where straight women must compete for attention.

    I can completely understand why some women feel they need to undergo a double mastectomy, as I once self-harmed many years ago after yet another flippant comment about breast size from a boyfriend.

    I can’t watch many films or TV programmes, as you might imagine, as they make me extremely furious when we only see the woman naked so that’s Game of Thrones et al. out of the window. Looks shit anyway ;-D Try to retain a sense of humour. Oh yeah – and punch a misogynist in the nuts for me. Good for the soul!

    Liked by 3 people

  7. It really makes me sad when I hear about all these women and teenage girls getting their healthy, normal breasts removed, particularly when I see little girls being fast-tracked into it just because they like the “wrong” toys and activities. It’s not something that can be undone if you change your mind, like retiring a piercing or getting a tattoo covered up. You’ll also be left with permanent scars, and, as discussed in this post, nerve damage. I only have a little bit of scar tissue from removing my rejecting navel piercing this August, and I’ll be able to get it redone after it’s healed a bit more. That’s not an option with double mastectomy. I also imagine this is a huge slap in the face to women who’ve lost their breasts due to cancer and would give anything to have them again.

    Though I might use masculine pronouns if someone has had all the surgeries, or has at least had a double mastectomy and been “living as a man” for so many years the body no longer looks particularly feminine, that still doesn’t mean I think this person really is male. It’s still a woman’s body, a woman who got her breasts removed, has been taking artificial cross-sex hormones, and has had a fake penis attacked. As for women who want to sport an androgynous look, why not just cultivate that style without removing or binding your breasts?

    Like

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