Developing huge knockers a little younger than your peers generally sucks, because everyone knows ta-tas are hilarious, which means you’re about to become a target of fascination, teasing and harassment.
It sucks even more when you’re a little older than your peers, as is the case with Gabrielle, 13, who’s in sixth grade at Central Middle School in Moline Acres, Missouri. She’s being bullied by her classmates because of her breasts, and when her mother Tammie called the school district to address the issue, she was told that her daughter should get a reduction.
Well, OK, let’s be fair: She called the district to discuss the issue and they talked about the possibility of transferring Gabrielle to another school to get her out of the bullying situation. But, Tammie says, the woman on the phone proceeded to add that Gabrielle was probably going to get harassed anyway because of her breasts, so she should consider a breast reduction.
Because when you’re bullied (or reprimanded at work) because of something about your body, something that Tammie feels G-d gave her daughter, obviously what you should do is change that thing. Too fat? Get skinny, it’s easy! Too short? Get taller! Too tall? Get shorter! Nose too Jewish? Have it fixed! Have acne? Clean it up already!
BREAST REDUCTION: IT'S A BREEZE!
The specifics of breast reduction surgery vary by patient and case, but in a nutshell, it can last from two to five hours, and requires general anesthesia; some patients also need to be hospitalized overnight for monitoring. Patients can expect to spend up to a week in recovery and they need to follow a rigorous post-surgical routine to protect their breasts and avoid infection. They can’t engage in regular physical activity for around a month.
This is not a trivial procedure. It’s going to cause scarring, permanent changes to the shape and size of your breasts (you hope), and loss of nipple sensation. No one should be suggesting that this procedure is an appropriate or effective solution to bullying; I wouldn’t really recommend breast reduction surgery for anyone at the age of 13 unless the patient was having severe complications related to large breast size (like extreme back pain) or there was another medical problem. It’s a tough procedure, and the breasts are still developing, which means it’s not a great time to be doing surgery up in there.
All this sets aside the larger point: Maybe Gabrielle likes her breasts. She probably doesn’t like them very much right this very second now that they’ve made her a target for bullying and a subject of national news, so they’re existing in a charged environment, but it’s entirely possible that she will grow to love them. Some women dig their large breasts and are really glad they have them, and enjoy celebrating that particular aspect of their bodies. Heck, some women just love their breasts, period.
The person at the school who recommended a reduction (not, I suspect, official school policy for situations like this) is effectively saying that Gabrielle should be ashamed of her body and should seek to cover it up and change it. That if she doesn’t want to be harassed by her peers, it’s her responsibility to undergo an invasive surgery with serious potential risks (complications of anesthesia, severe infection, damage to breast tissue, problems with future breastfeeding).
IS THE PROBLEM HER BREASTS, OR YOUR ADMINISTRATION?
And there’s more. Gabrielle’s brother Elijah also experiences bullying, in his case due to scars from heart surgery. His bullying is extreme enough that he’s expressed suicidal thoughts. Did I mention he’s nine years old?
This seems to suggest that there’s actually an active culture of bullying and harassment in their school district. The issue here is not that her brother has scars or that Gabrielle has mammary glands, but that their school district is tolerating bullying behavior. And if anyone needs to change something here, it’s the district, which needs to start working on addressing its bullying problem and talk about how it intends to improve the situation in the student body.
This is not, as the school district allegedly said, an issue of self-esteem. This is an issue of systemic bullying and harassment and a culture that’s been allowed to persist on school grounds. And this should be viewed as totally unacceptable. It should have been addressed long before students were being told to get breast reductions, that’s for sure.
Effective anti-bullying programs are comprehensive and they can be complex to administer, but there are resources and materials out there. There’s a growing awareness of the potentially high costs of bullying on school campuses, so no district can claim ignorance about the issue at this point. Nor can schools claim that materials to help them address bullying problems aren’t available, because they are, although a campaign that truly works needs to involve not just staff, teachers, and students, but also parents and the community at large.
NOTHING WRONG WITH BIG TITTIES
Bodies are diverse. People are diverse. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with that, and young women (as well as young people in general) should never be told that they need to change something fundamental about themselves in order to be more acceptable. Telling women they need smaller bazongas if they want to avoid bullying is feeding into a larger and really gross culture about women and bodies.
It suggests that if Gabrielle and her mother refuse a reduction, Gabrielle is to blame for any harassment that she experiences in the future. That as long as she has big breasts, she should just accept and expect bullying. There’s even a whiff winding through the air of a suggestion that maybe she likes the attention; because otherwise, she’d have a doc trim things up a bit, right?
Plus, if she gets a reduction now, she’ll never be able to grow up to be Emily. And every young woman should have that opportunity.