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Trans women who get breast implants are “erasing flat-chested women,” Gender Critical Redditor charges

I don’t think it’s trans women who are making small-breasted cis women feel bad about their boobs

By David Futrelle

So-called “Gender Critical feminists” — aka. TERFs — are constantly coming up with new excuses to be mad at trans women. The most ingenious effort I’ve seen of late comes from a Gender Crit Redditor who has managed to convince herself that she’s being oppressed — and “erased” — by trans women getting breast implants.

“Top surgery erases women with small breasts,” Brrrontosaurus declares in a rant recently posted to the Gender Crit subreddit that so far has gotten well over 200 upvotes.

If you’re having trouble parsing that declaration — as I did at first —
Brrrontosaurus explains, sort of, what she meant:

[T]he idea that if you “identify as a woman” you need breasts in order for your body to align with that feeling implies that flat chested women are somehow less valid [as] women.

Well, not really, not any more than any cis woman getting breast implants or reconstructive surgery does. Are women — cis or trans — who grow their hair long “erasing” short-haired women? Are women who wear heels and makeup thereby declaring that women who wear neither are really men?

Somehow Brrrontosaurus never gets around to asking these sorts of questions, nor does she stop to wonder why it’s only trans women who get her “so pissed off” (as she puts it) for getting implants.

Female beauty standards are a large and complicated issue, but they weren’t created by trans women — and generally speaking it doesn’t seem terribly feminist to rage at women (cis or trans) for conforming in various ways to conventional ideas of femininity (or, in many cases, twisting them around into something empowering).

Gender critical women know this, of course, and will defend their own use of lipstick and other accoutrements of femininity — even if they often feel uneasy about it. But when it comes to trans women getting implants — or wearing lipstick, for that matter — they have no sympathy.

Trans women didn’t invent the idea that small breasts are somehow inferior or unfeminine; they’re subject to the same pressures to conform to beauty standards as cis women, thought for them the stakes are higher.

And of course the Gender Crits know this as well. The thread inspired by Brrrontosaurus is full of stories from small-breasted women describing how they were teased and bullied over their “mosquito bites” when they were teenagers.

“I was crying a lot when all of my friends in middle school were developing breasts,” reports someone called popttartopine.

I felt so disgusting and unlovable because I learned early that boys liked breasts and that you had to look a certain way to be a woman, it was horrible, I wanted to kill myself because I wasn’t like the other girls and students were talking about me and laughing, calling my breast”raisin” or “mosquito bites”.

Carmine-Warrior also had issues with bullies:

[W]hen I was growing up, I was consistently bullied by boys and girls about my small size. It started at 11 when the boys would walk up to me and ask, “Why is your chest as flat as your back??” I definitely had thoughts over the years about if augmentation would make my life easier even though I am accepting and satisfied now.

Terf_fret had a similar story:

I had no breast growth as a teen and it distressed me so much. I would literally dream of growing breasts. I spent so much effort trying to find the perfect padded bra that wouldn’t show through my clothes because I didn’t want to be harassed. Isn’t it crazy?? My distress came 100% from patriarchal messages.

None of those telling these stories report ever being bullied about their small breasts by trans women; the culprits are school bullies and the occasional rude lingerie saleswoman. But the Gender Crits take the rage they clearly and justifiably still feel about the bullying they endured (and the patriarchy itself) and direct it at trans women instead. And so the bullied become the bullies, attacking trans women regardless of whether they’re trying to live up to beauty standards or defying them.

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Lumipuna
Lumipuna
2 years ago

I suspect the more dedicated transphobes on Reddit and elsewhere are consciously working to build the double narrative that

“trans women are artificial constructs performing stereotypic femininity more eagerly than actual women, to the detriment of women’s liberation”

and

“trans women look distinctly, unavoidably masculine and often don’t even try that hard to be convincing as women, inasmuch it would be possible”

Policy of Madness
Policy of Madness
2 years ago

It’s almost like cis women and trans women are all reacting to the same performative beauty standards in contemporary society. I guess trans women who wear makeup are erasing cis women who don’t? But cis women also commonly wear makeup. Probably a lot of TERFs do. So maybe that’s why they don’t use that as an example.

You know what would be truly radical feminism? Affirming that all women (and there’s no reason to exclude trans women from this) are valuable human beings regardless of how they look. Packed into this is a simultaneous affirmation that small-breasted women are valuable people, and large-breasted women are also valuable people. That your choices are valid, whether you’ve chosen to have surgery or not. That you shouldn’t feel obligated to have surgery, but if you make that choice, you did it for reasons that felt valid to you and that should be acknowledged.

Radical feminists have mostly made peace with the makeup question (mostly) and they need to make peace with the surgery question, too.

re: too much surgery

There’s a subreddit dedicated to goggling at people (mostly women of course) who have gone overboard with surgery. It’s allegedly focused on botched surgeries, but it’s clear that most of the surgeries featured went exactly how the recipient wanted, but that the recipient wanted something that slingshots them way beyond conventional beauty standards. Think huuuuuuuge lips full of filler, or giant breast or butt implants. This subreddit used to feature on the “popular” feed a lot, but I reckon someone complained and reddit removed it, because I haven’t seen it for a while. It’s pretty grotesque, the way they feel entitled to comment on other people’s bodies.

Naglfar
Naglfar
2 years ago

@PoM
Re: going overboard
I think people should have the right to have extreme body modifications if they want (including extremely large breast/butt implants), but I think it’s wrong to mock and give unsolicited opinions on people’s bodies, as a general rule.

Sheila Crosby
Sheila Crosby
2 years ago

I have a bunch of thoughts.

1) I recently saw a TERF on Twitter who apparently believed that transwomen’s breasts were entirely silicone, not the normal result of hormones. She was quite sure a transwoman couldn’t breastfeed because DNA. Another TERF living down to the TERF science standard. So maybe they’re assuming that all transwomens breasts are the result of surgery?

[For those who aren’t sciencey*: your DNA doesn’t change at puberty. My cis-woman breasts and those of my transwomen friends’ are the result of hormones. I’ve heard of women who are havng trouble breastfeeding getting hormone injections (prolactin was it?) and without being an expert I’d have thought it more likely than not that it would work for transwomen too.]
*Not being sciencey is fine, but I do think you should check facts before you attack people.

2) A woman’s healthcare is a matter for her and her doctor and everyone else should BUTT OUT. I wonder what percentage of people complaining about transwomen’s breasts agree with the above when it’s about abortion?

3) Some of us got bullied for having big breasts. And assaulted.

4) Transwomen did not create the current beauty standards and they get the “damned if you do, damned if you don’t” treatment even worse.

5) When are we going to get retractable breasts? Crank them out for sexy fun times and wind them back in for professional setting, sport etc.

6) Who the hell decided that breasts aren’t professional?

Jarnsaxa
Jarnsaxa
2 years ago

Early developers with big breasts got made fun of too. It’s not fun to be woman shaped when everyone else is still kid shaped, and it’s also not fun to have to wear a bra before anyone or dread phy ed because now running means flopping, because sports bras aren’t really a thing yet.

I still envy women with small chests, and most of my RP characters are small-chested.

Naglfar
Naglfar
2 years ago

@Sheila Crosby

I recently saw a TERF on Twitter who apparently believed that transwomen’s breasts were entirely silicone, not the normal result of hormones.

I’ve seen that, and I’ve also seen TERFs say that if a trans* woman produces milk it would be poisonous to babies.

I’d have thought it more likely than not that it would work for transwomen too.

There are a few cases in the last few years, although the women did need exogenous medication to induce it. Cis men can breastfeed as well if it’s induced (although it occasionally occurs naturally at random, it’s rare), but don’t produce much milk because they don’t have as much breast development.
I’d like to lactate one day. It would be very gender-affirming to produce milk.

A woman’s healthcare is a matter for her and her doctor and everyone else should BUTT OUT. I wonder what percentage of people complaining about transwomen’s breasts agree with the above when it’s about abortion?

I don’t know how TERFs feel about abortion, but I do know that a bunch of them protested Planned Parenthood because of informed consent HRT being available from them. So it’s possible that at least some are anti-abortion or at least don’t see abortion access as being as important as hurting trans* people.

When are we going to get retractable breasts? Crank them out for sexy fun times and wind them back in for professional setting, sport etc.

If this were real, that would be awesome. ObSidJag mentioned something like this as part of a comedy routine she was describing in a previous thread.

One sort of related breast question: Do big breasts produce more milk?

Policy of Madness
Policy of Madness
2 years ago

One sort of related breast question: Do big breasts produce more milk?

Potentially? Breast milk is produced by glandular tissue, while most breast mass is fatty tissue. So a large breast might have more glandular tissue and produce more milk. It’s common for breasts to enlarge during the last stages of pregnancy as the glandular tissue expands.

But it’s also possible for a smaller breast to have more glandular tissue than fatty tissue and produce a ton of milk despite not having the same kind of total mass. So it’s possible to go either way.

Sheila Crosby
Sheila Crosby
2 years ago

It’s my non-expert understanding that big breasts don’t usualy produce more milk, but it can be harder for baby to latch on and still breathe.

One famously big-boobed British comedian said she ocassionally had to ask perfect strangers in the bathrooms of motorway service stations, “Would you mind holding this nipple for a second while I get him latched on?”

Lucky me, I could take a long maternity leave so breastfeeding almost always happened at home.

Sheila Crosby
Sheila Crosby
2 years ago

It’s my non-expert understanding that big breasts don’t usualy produce more milk, but it can be harder for baby to latch on and still breathe.

One famously big-boobed British comedian said she ocassionally had to ask perfect strangers in the bathrooms of motorway service stations, “Would you mind holding this nipple for a second while I get him latched on?”

Lucky me, I could take a long maternity leave so breastfeeding almost always happened at home.

@Naglfar Poisonous to babies? I’m 99.9% sure that any human milk is human milk.
I hope you do get the chance to lactate. There were some bad moments when he was teething but mostly it was precious cuddle time, plus way more convenient than messing about with bottles. Definitely right for us. Of course my memories are a bit hazy by now since my “baby” is now 6ft 3″ tall.

Lumipuna
Lumipuna
2 years ago

AFAIK most mammals produce substantial amounts of milk (in proportion to their body size) with rather inconspicuous mammaries (esp. before glandular swelling). This applies to the closest human relatives, while human breasts tend to have varying amounts of “extra” fat tissue.

Apparently, women with unusually mall breasts can produce at least typical amounts of milk – sufficient to feed one child? Though I don’t know if they could produce unusually large amounts of milk? OTOH modern dairy cows, which are bred to produce humongous amounts of milk, seem to have much larger udders than wild cattle. They probably need that space just for the glandular tissue.

Naglfar
Naglfar
2 years ago

@Lumipuna

OTOH modern dairy cows, which are bred to produce humongous amounts of milk, seem to have much larger udders than wild cattle. They probably need that space just for the glandular tissue.

A difference is that the cows are selectively bred to produce more milk. To the best of my knowledge this has never occurred in humans (as it would be horribly unethical), although it is probably a result of sexual selection that humans are the only mammals with enlarged breasts when not lactating or pregnant.

Alan Robertshaw
Alan Robertshaw
2 years ago

@ lumipuna

modern dairy cows, which are bred to produce humongous amounts of milk, seem to have much larger udders than wild cattle.

It’s a mix of selective breeding but mainly hormone supplementation. For dairy farming you want as much of the cow as possible devoted to milk production. Calories used to maintain the rest of the cow are just wasted expenditure. This article explains it well if you can track down a hard copy.

Lyons DT, Freeman AE and Kuck AL. 1991. Genetics of health traits in Holstein cattle. Journal of Dairy Science 74 (3): 1092-100

Farmed cows produce up to 12 times the amount of milk than their unmodified sisters.

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Naglfar
Naglfar
2 years ago

@Alan Robertshaw, Lumipuna
Here’s a link to the article.
IIRC farmers did a similar thing to egg-laying hens to make them lay more eggs.

Alan Robertshaw
Alan Robertshaw
2 years ago

@ naglfar

Ah thank you ever so much for that! Your google-fu is strong! (and certainly better than mine).

There is a suggestion of a link between cattle hormone supplementation and early menarche; but whether that also leads to increased breast size is still undetermined.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3038976/

Monsanto went to great lengths to keep this quiet; but they lost an ag-gag court case.

https://www.huffpost.com/entry/monsanto-forced-fox-tv-to_b_186428?

As it happens their products are banned in the EU. One of our post Brexit concerns is that the UK will have to allow their use as part of any UK-US trade deal.

IIRC farmers did a similar thing to egg-laying hens to make them lay more eggs.

Indeed. The Red Jungle Fowl, from which all domestic hens are bred, lays around 12 eggs per year. Farmed hens produce around 300. Again that’s a mix of selective breeding and supplementation. They’re also given supplements to make egg yolks a more appealing colour.

Masse_Mysteria
Masse_Mysteria
2 years ago

@Naglfar

This also shows that TERFs don’t know much about corsets. Most corsets are made to compress the waist, not the breasts (note: I am not an expert in corsetry, please correct me if I’m leaving anything out).

I also don’t know all of the things corsets have been used for, but AFAIK the argument about binders being the “modern day corset” was that it’s a garment meant to alter the shape of a woman’s body, and that in olden times, women had to wear corsets to get the desired shape for their body, and now they have to wear binders.

I know that early breast development can lead to kids (or their mothers) doing drastic things trying to hide said breasts, but I’ve never heard of anyone trying to get all the women to wear binders, and actual corsets still exist, so the comparison is just nonsensical.

Naglfar
Naglfar
2 years ago

@Masse_mysteria

it’s a garment meant to alter the shape of a woman’s body, and that in olden times, women had to wear corsets to get the desired shape for their body, and now they have to wear binders.

Although it would certainly be possible for cis women to use binders, the only people I know who use them are trans* men or AFAB non-binary folx. I see way more of the opposite: women’s bras being designed to increase display of breasts and cleavage rather than decrease them.

The main TERF objection to binders seems to be that they could help trans* mascs have less dysphoria and feel better about their bodies. Which is rather the parallel to how they don’t like breast implants that could make trans* femmes feel better.

LindsayIrene
2 years ago

It’s not fun to be woman shaped when everyone else is still kid shaped

Yup. My sister and I got attention from grown-ass men when we were far too young due to getting boobs early. And then we both got big ones, which led to bullying, harassment, and assault. I was groped by gangs of boys every single day of middle school. Every day. Consequently, I have never once enjoyed having my boobs touched in any way. They are a completely non-sexual body part to me.

Lumipuna
Lumipuna
2 years ago

Naglfar:

A difference is that the cows are selectively bred to produce more milk … humans are the only mammals with enlarged breasts when not lactating or pregnant.

As I said, both humans and dairy cattle tend to have unusually large mammaries, but for different reasons. Cow udders are presumably more filled with swollen gland tissue (as opposed to fat), allowing more production per apparent size. Even then, is it possible to have super high production with small, er, udders? If it were, we’d likely select for cows with smaller udders for practical reasons.

Otrame wrote, on a friend:

She proved that being flat-chested didn’t keep you from using those breasts for what nature intended. In fact, when her baby was about 2 months old, a friend had a baby but was too ill to nurse her at first, so my friend acted as wet nurse for several months, feeding both babies with her flat breasts.

I’ve understood humans tend to also have mammary gland swelling during lactation, resulting in additional breast growth. Presumably this would be more noticeable if you have initially small breasts, with little fat but lots of gland tissue (a little like, er, the cows discussed above). That’s why I’m mildly curious about otrame’s anecdote – does it disprove my assumption?.

Alan:

It’s a mix of selective breeding but mainly hormone supplementation. For dairy farming you want as much of the cow as possible devoted to milk production.

I’m passingly familiar with Finnish dairy farming system and I’m pretty sure hormone supplements are not allowed here. A cow might still very well exceed 100 tons during lifetime or 10 tons in a peak year. (For human body size, that’d be about 1500-2000 kg per year.)

The limits are indeed metabolic – I know that even with humans, there are jokes about having to eat all the time when lactating.

Otrame
Otrame
2 years ago

@Lumipuna

My friend’s breasts did swell slightly during her pregnancy and stayed slightly larger while she nursed her baby. But even with that hormone-produced increase in mammary tissue she still had barely noticeable breasts. I’ve seen lots of men, even relatively slender men, with bigger breasts than my friend had even while nursing two babies.

Fact is, there is a lot of variation in how women’s breasts react to pregnancy and nursing. My already large breasts didn’t get bigger, but did get much firmer. My average-sized sister had to buy a bigger bra size during her pregnancy and then went back to her original size once the baby was weaned.

Lumipuna
Lumipuna
2 years ago

Thanks for clarification, Otrame.

Masse_Mysteria
Masse_Mysteria
2 years ago

@Naglfar

Although it would certainly be possible for cis women to use binders, the only people I know who use them are trans* men or AFAB non-binary folx.

From what I’ve heard, cis women use binders for cosplay or cross-dressing purposes.

The main TERF objection to binders seems to be that they could help trans* mascs have less dysphoria and feel better about their bodies.

It’s really counterproductive, too, especially as a health trolling thing. AFAIK, those horror stories about what damage binding can do to breasts are about people who’ve used improvised or otherwise unsafe methods. I feel like I’ve seen so many Internet discussions where women vow that they’d destroy any binder they find in their kid’s possession, like that’s going to stop anyone from binding if they want to.

Shadowplay
2 years ago

Although it would certainly be possible for cis women to use binders, the only people I know who use them are trans* men or AFAB non-binary folx.

Quite a number of my cis colleagues do – enough that the Army has a small arrangement with one of the manufacturers. They’re not trying to flatten completely, mind, but they want way more support and “get these bloody things out of the way, I’m trying to break his neck” than a sports bra gives.

Naglfar
Naglfar
2 years ago

@Masse_mysteria

It’s really counterproductive, too, especially as a health trolling thing. AFAIK, those horror stories about what damage binding can do to breasts are about people who’ve used improvised or otherwise unsafe methods. I feel like I’ve seen so many Internet discussions where women vow that they’d destroy any binder they find in their kid’s possession, like that’s going to stop anyone from binding if they want to.

I recall one particularly awful GC post (I’m not going to dig it up again) where they relentlessly mocked a non-binary person who bound their breasts using something homemade and was injured in the process. I’ve seen similar fearmongering about hormones and puberty blockers, yet similarly when people aren’t given what they need medically they will seek out other means which may be less safe.

@Shadowplay
I didn’t know that women in the army used binders. Come to think of it, I hadn’t really thought about that.

Moon Custafer
2 years ago

@Lumipuna:

Any moment now a flat-chested woman (cis or trans) will exist and thereby reverse the balance by erasing all the busty ones. Or is it only women known or suspected to be trans who have this power to bend everything to their own image?

@Snowberry:

and you could get similar results just by gaining whole a lot of body fat.

Lynne Cox ftw!

@Masse_Mysteria:

From what I’ve heard, cis women use binders for cosplay or cross-dressing purposes.

They’d probably be good for 1920s reenactors.

Naglfar
Naglfar
2 years ago

I found some statistics estimating what percent of cis women have breast implants, and it looks like about 4% of women in the US do (though the article says this could be off by quite a bit, as it’s just a rough estimate from limited data). I did not find statistics for trans* women in particular. However, going off of the fact that about 0.6% of the population is trans*, if we assume that about 0.6% of women are trans* women, that means that even if every trans* woman in America were to get breast implants (which is obviously not the case), there would still be over 6 times as many cis women with implants.

Another interesting takeaway from the article is that while breast implants have been rather stable in popularity over the last few years, the number of butt augmentation procedures performed has increased significantly (though since multiple procedures on the same women are counted separately it’s still hard to tell how many women are doing it, and this also includes fat transfer or other non-implant procedures). I’m curious if, since some trans* women might get butt implants as well, if TERFs think that erases flat-bottomed cis women.

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