April 15, 2010

For every Britney there are countless Kates

I was still reveling in Britney’s unaltered Candies photos circulating the feminist blogosphere, specifically, and the internet, in general, when I read at HuffPo that Kate Hudson celebrated her birthday with a new set of breasts (story at UsMagazine, too). As I was digesting this bit of disheartening news, @RevoltRealWomen posted the link on twitter (I told you information travels quickly out here).

Why am I disheartened? When a woman as beautiful and as “perfect” (by mainstream cultural standards) feels insecure enough to get breast implants, there’s a big fucking problem out there for women. It’s an example of how impossibly perfect, and utterly *unreal*, these standards are. I’ll be blogging more on this topic in the next few days.

This also explains my skepticism on the importance of Britney’s photos. As I blogged last night (full post here):

Do these efforts matter? Well, yes. Of course.

Do they represent “change?” Not exactly. Real change will occur when these images are not the exception but the norm and these images do not represent a handful of images and in a sea of millions of taken-for-granted but absorbed images that counter their positive message.

For every body image “victory” like curvy French Elle or Britney untouched, we have countless Kates altering their bodies and succumbing to the endless pressure exerted by a merciless industry, body snarking as sport and beauty standards that can only be reached through outrageous and dangerous body practices such as going under the knife for elective plastic surgery.


  1. I agree with what you’re saying… but in Kate’s case… Honestly, she could never fill out clothes in a balanced way (did you see the yellow dress in ‘How to Lose A Guy in Ten Days?) She was FLAT as flat can be. I’m looking at her implants… and they look proportionate to her body type. I would be disgusted if she got “Pam” breasts or something… Then again I suppose she has enough money to get clothes specifically made for her so they’d fit… I dunno… This is a case where I kinda don’t blame the gal. I think she looks great both ways.

    Comment by Krista — April 15, 2010 @ 9:01 am

  2. I love the natural photos of Britney. She’s naturally curvy and it-is-beautiful! Maybe Hudson is tired of being passed around and figures the bigger set of “girls” will keep a guy.

    Comment by Jean Deaux — April 15, 2010 @ 9:25 am

  3. @Krista Yes, her implants are not outrageous, mammoth sized orbs BUT I did not see anything remotely “wrong” or unattractive about her former figure. Her “flat” breasts suited her body type, lean, toned and low in body fat (gain weight, your breasts will increase in size). I loved her look. Absolutely loved it in the same way I love Gwen Stefani’s perfectly suited, small, breasts. Beautiful! My problem is why we don’t see the beauty in all these natural shapes. Not all body types are the same.

    @Jean Britney may be shapely (muscle tone,hips, butt) but she is certainly not what I consider to be a “curvy” woman by any stretch. She is still out of the norm yet she is considered “curvy” by industry standards. Crazy, isn’t it? As for Kate, I don’t know if she consciously thought that larger breasts would “keep the guy” but is symptom of cultural expectations that value women with larger breasts. When I analyze these issues I am not judging the individual woman’s decision but I am interested in analyzing the cultural climate that prompts a beautiful woman to make such a choice, a choice influenced by the proliferation of one-dimensional images of beauty.

    Comment by Melanie — April 15, 2010 @ 9:54 am

  4. @ Mel: I ABSOLUTELY agree with your response! You’re breast size is proportionate to your body fat = more fit, less boob.
    Period. I LOVE Noomi Rapace’s body in “Tattoo…” So, fit! SO BUFF! No boob. At all.

    Comment by Lani — April 15, 2010 @ 10:27 am

  5. As a small-breasted woman myself, I understand feeling insecure about my small boobs. When I lose weight and get fit, they’re the first thing to go! I’ve never fit well into a triangle top and if I go bra-less, I’m seriously flat. However, every year I love my little boobs a bit more and realize I would never want a pair of “bolt-ons” to fit some patriarchal and Hollywood ideal idea of what beauty is. Being under constant scrutiny would be tough for anyone to withstand, and it appears as though Kate succumbed to the pressure to be “perfect” by Hollywood standards. I say let’s praise women like Kelly Rippa who refuses to get implants as a point. She has said she feels she represents all the small-chested sisters out there and is opposed to giving in to the pressure to fit some ridiculous carbon cut-out of what a woman are told they should look like.

    Comment by Rhonda — April 15, 2010 @ 11:42 am

  6. Look, the most stimulating, beautiful thing about all women is their personality and mind. Kate certainly didn’t need to augment herself to be more attractive, but if doing so makes her feel better about her looks, great! This goes for any woman as long as they accept their bodies and are comfortable in their own skin before they do it!

    Comment by webegeeks — April 17, 2010 @ 7:00 am

  7. I’ve never heard of anyone getting optional cosmetic surgery because they felt good in the skin they’re in.

    As for “personal choice,” ok but my analysis is a cultural analysis that recognizes that our individual choices are made within a cultural context. We are obsessed with breasts in this country and, as a result, it is no surprise that we have a higher breast implant rate than Brazil which sees the object of female beauty in the butt. I don’t in any way blame Kate or belittle her choice. I am interested in examining the cultural that facilitates and encourages body rejection for the sake of profit.

    To add, I doubt I would be as self-hating in my own post-natal body if these baby bounce back stories to did not dominate the tabloids. Lets face it, this pop culture environment is hard on women, hard to love your body as is without modification or alteration…we’re not talking make-up and hair dye. We’re talking surgery.

    Comment by Melanie — April 17, 2010 @ 7:14 am

  8. @Melanie Thank you for this post and comment #7. As a child, I was offered plastic surgery for the scars on my fingers (skin graft after third-degree burns) and was terrified I was going to be given something similar to Barbie fingers. I was much happier with my real fingers. I was offered plastic surgery again at about 14 for scars on my arm from an incident with a glass door at age 10 (scars I did have issues with until I was about 18), although I remembered my fear as a child and decided I wanted a ‘real’ body still (thank goodness). This article by Padma Lakshmi meant quite a lot to me when I first read it: http://www.lakshmifilms.com/padma_lakshmi_press2.htm

    But even as scars are reconciled personally (definitely not by all the critics of women’s bodies), the issues of cellulite appear to grow everyday. Even on the front page of feministing.com there was a banner at the top of the page and a square video ad lower down for “Sono Bello” Liposuction, “Find out what’s behind that muffin to.” When ads like this are so prevalent, it’s no wonder there is so much self-hate for our bodies. There are inherent risks and dangers in every procedure, but plastic surgery is especially dangerous. Girls at my high school were getting implants and when the silicone leaked into their bodies, they would get them re-done. I just wish Kate Hudson’s story wasn’t such a norm.

    Comment by EmilyK — April 18, 2010 @ 1:28 pm

  9. Kate has nothing to be insecure about. She is very beautiful and just wants to keep of with the rest of her fellow actresses. Our media has made it seem like big breasts is needed to be beautiful and even actresses in Kate’s league have to meet that standard. After all, Kate is in the media and she’s been chosen to show that big boobs are in.

    Comment by Michael — April 19, 2010 @ 4:12 pm

  10. True, Michael. And that’s my point. Cultural norms inform seemingly “personal” choices.

    Comment by Melanie — April 19, 2010 @ 4:35 pm

  11. […] made headlines less than 48 hours after Britney Spears released her unretouched photos, I had to ask, Do these efforts matter? Can these images combat the images […]

    Pingback by Unretouched Photos: Empowering or Just More ‘Empower-tainment’? : Ms Magazine Blog — April 20, 2010 @ 11:23 am

  12. Its horrible how in today’s society in addition to the regular stresses hat come with everyday life, women are also under the stress to look like these touched-up, unrealistic women in magazines. Due to this ridiculous control of the media, women all over the world who are naturally gorgeous are getting unnecessary surgery to fit the part of the women in the magazine. Even worse than surgery are the girls that starve themselves so they can have that skinny figure. Is all of this worth being called pretty by some shallow magazines.

    Comment by Sadaf A. — October 20, 2010 @ 12:38 pm

  13. Unfortunately, in today’s society everything is centered around what the media tells us, which is mostly about women’s bodies. It is really sad how no matter what a woman does or how skinny she is or how “perfect’ she is, it is never enough. And it is never going to be enough because we live in a society where the companies that make the clothes, cosmetics, lotions, beauty supplies etc always want us buying more. The reason photos are always retouched and the models and actresses look so perfect is we strive to be like them and buy whatever it is they are selling. In our male-dominated society, large breasts are highly emphasized and set as the ideal look for women-that women need to have large breasts to be sexy, loved, or successful.

    Comment by Debora R — October 20, 2010 @ 2:28 pm

  14. Today we are obsessed with looking up to date, the sexiest, the hottest we can be. Girls are getting younger and younger everyday who are under going cosmetic surgery. Personally I also fall into this category that seeks perfection in every way possible. Its sad to admit it but its the truth, I strive for the perfect look and consciouslly know what I am doing is not normal.

    Comment by Delyla M. — October 20, 2010 @ 4:26 pm

  15. I also agree that it is unfortunate that Kate got breast implants, however, it seems very expected. She’s constantly in the public eye and there is so much pressure on her on what she needs to look like that there really was no way she could have felt comfortable in her own skin. It doesn’t matter how “pretty” you may be, when you are so overwhelmed with the pressures and misconceptions of beauty, its hard to see what it really means to be beautiful. As for the Brittney photos, 99.9% of all reproduced images from the media are photo shopped and airbrushed. However, I still found it very refreshing to see these photos as a reminder that these airbrushed images are unatainable and stand as impossible standards of beauty that are cruel and unfair to put on anyone.

    Comment by Jade — October 20, 2010 @ 11:17 pm

  16. My opinion of this is that Kate has nothing to be insecure about. Due to our media, it has been said that to be beautiful you have to have big breasts. All that Kate is doing is looking at the appearance of other actresses that she is surrounded by and this is why she did this. In addition I think that it is horrible that women of today in our society are suppose to look like these women on top of all of the other things that they have going on in their day to day life. Due to the media, women all of the world are getting reconsrtuctive surgery’s to look like these women and so they can call themselves and be called pretty and beautiful.

    Comment by Joshua. S — October 21, 2010 @ 11:30 am

  17. I’m disappointed that Kate fell into the plastic craze. She’s always been an actress that I admired on screen. She exuded confidence and natural beauty in the past. This craze of plastic surgery is becoming globally popular all over the world. In foreign nations like Korea and China, young women look at Kate and other Hollywood actresses as icons. These women strive to look like Hollywood stars and reconstruct their entire body by going under the knife. For every additional star that becomes a plastic doll in Hollywood, another young woman becomes a victim of social ideal. Media obviously feeds young people with these ideals, as it serves the “axis of all evil”.

    Comment by Joanne S. — October 22, 2010 @ 1:44 pm

  18. It’s sad to see people undergo plastic surgery because they aren’t satisfied with themselves and some remain unsatisfied post-surgery. In our society today, plastic surgery seems to be the norm and acceptable almost everywhere, even on TV shows which encourages it. As for the retouching of models, a slow trend has started of non-retouched ads, but it’s not considered a change until it’s the norm which is completely right.

    Comment by Dalal C. — October 25, 2010 @ 11:43 pm

  19. I too am saddened by the way in which both women have gone about changing their bodies. However it is Kate’s “birthday presents” that are the most disheartening. This is because she is such a talented and bubbly person (or at least from what I have seen on screen) yet she feels that all of that is not enough compared to the cultural ideal that being beauty means having large breasts. Being someone who does not have the coveted DD boobs, this gives a very disheartening message to all us A cups out there.

    Comment by Karly R. — October 26, 2010 @ 6:54 am

  20. Just like you said, we shouldn’t target individual woman and judge them on their plastic surgery(s). But instead we should be questioning why so many more masses of women are going to these extremes? And with that said, what can society do to lower them. I think it could only help if the mass media would only portray real women.
    Personally, I am not completely happy with my body, but I know I will never go to extreme measures such as plastic surgery to make myself into something fake.

    Comment by Leora S. — April 19, 2011 @ 4:21 pm

  21. And also, Kate is human, meaning that even though in are eyes she is perfect, she is still exposed to the media and the tribulations that society has but on women. Unfortunately, in today’s society women are only valued by their looks.

    Comment by Leora S. — April 19, 2011 @ 4:24 pm

  22. I remember when the Britney pictures came out and I was so excited that finally someone was owning up to Photoshop and editing out imperfections…but then I realized the same thing, how can I be excited over that when that is the exception to the “skinny” rule?? It definitely needs to be normalized more in this society

    Comment by Danielle G. — April 20, 2011 @ 7:51 pm

  23. Although images of unaltered photos like the ones release by Britney are inspiring, they will constantly be overshadowed by images in media and of people like Kate, who fit the standard or change to fit the standard that is expected to be “beautiful.” It will take a lot more to bring about change in this superficial world.

    Comment by Tiffany Majdipour — November 1, 2011 @ 12:26 pm

  24. Seeing Kate Hudson undergo surgical alteration is truly insane. If the women that are “perfect” (by society standards) can’t accept themselves, then how can the other 90% of “normal girls.” We are so fooled into thinking that we can attain these standards of beauty when the standards we are trying to attain are photo shop and plastic surgery.

    Comment by Biana Bitman — November 1, 2011 @ 2:54 pm

  25. I think that the only time the “norm” is going to change is when the media uses untouched photos instead of the unrealistic ones. If they used the first picture of Britney more people would feel secure with their bodies, because she really does look like everyone else. In the second one they make her look so “perfect,” yet it’s so far from the truth.
    I agree that sometimes breast implants, if done right, aren’t that bad. For Kate they do look proportional to her body and not really noticeable. If that is what she needs to feel beautiful or complete, that’s sad, but I don’t see an issue with implants that fit right and go unnoticed.

    Comment by Michelle A — November 2, 2011 @ 3:46 pm

  26. Not only are everyday people resorting to plastic surgery, but even Hollywood stars like Kate Hudson are thinking about them. I think these are the last people we’d expect to get their breasts enlarged (and for them, implants shouldn’t cost too much). This is because they’ve already gained so much power and publicity through their career, and getting larger breasts will only get them even more power and fame. This proves how desirable larger breasts are by mainstream cultural standards. On the other hand, I hope it wasn’t her boobs that got her her new partner. I’m so jealous of her newfound love…

    Comment by Bridget T. — November 26, 2011 @ 10:25 pm

  27. I don’t know if there will ever be a day when unretouched photos are used in advertisements, but the only way to break the normative standard of beauty and stop using women’s insecurities as profit would be to use unretouched photos. In addition Kate Hudson getting breast implants just shows you the profound affect the media has on body image.

    Comment by Chloe Shenassa (women studies 10 scholars) — December 6, 2011 @ 6:56 pm

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