How did a movement that promoted self-acceptance become an inspiration for plastic surgery?
There have always been beauty ideals that we're supposed to strive for, a determined type of facial features, body type, or even height. But these days in particular, it seems like our whole body is under a gigantic magnifying glass called social media, scrutinizing every millimeter to tell us what’s wrong with it. Through the many photos and videos that we see every day, we’re constantly told that we should change everything about our bodies to reach those standards. The pressure to look "perfect" involves everything from achieving a thigh gap to getting rid of your arm vagina, but if you thought we couldn’t go farther in this crazy quest to achieve the perfect body, let me tell you, you couldn’t be more wrong. Apparently, the number of women undergoing plastic surgery on their nipples has increased recently, after models and celebrities like Kendall Jenner started embracing the Free the Nipple movement. So, how did we get to this point?
The Free the Nipple movement started a few years ago and encouraged women to ditch their bras and embrace their breasts without shame. The main aim of the movement was to protest against nonsensical censorship and body-shaming about a part of our body that’s as normal as a limb or the male counterpart. That’s pretty much the basics. The movement that started in 2012 became more popular last year after a group of top models started embracing the movement and uploading pictures on their social media with their nipples protruding from under their clothes, captioned with the famous free the nipple hashtag.
In this way, thousands of women started wearing t-shirts showing their support for this movement, which asked for something quite simple and essential. Nipples shouldn’t be concealed as if they were something forbidden, and women should do whatever they please with their bodies. Because of this, it doesn't really matter who is promoting the message as long as it reaches, in a proper way, as many women as possible and motivates them to think about their bodies and their agency. The problem is that the way that the movement became viral proves that, after all, it is important to think about whose example we're following and their reasons to champion the movements we believe in.
So, apparently, instead of inspiring women to reclaim their bodies and wear whatever they want regardless of the fact that they have breasts with nipples, the movement has led many to get surgery in order to look more like the models and celebrities participating in the movement. Ironically, thousands of women around the world are worried that their nipples don't look like Kendall Jenner's, or in more specific terms, that they don't have the "ideal" designer nipples: light-colored, perky ones with small areolas.
Dr. Norman Rowe, to whom we owe the term “designer nipple,” is a specialist on the perky nipple with small areola look. According to him, many young women just want to emulate their favorite celebrities and feel as confident as they are when wearing the latest trends, like sheer or see-through tops. Personally, I don’t have anything against plastic surgery, but the idea of altering our bodies to emulate a celebrity, or better said, to get their confidence, goes beyond my understanding. In my opinion, confidence isn’t something that you can alter with a scalpel; it’s something you have to build from within.
According to Rowe, the cost of the procedure depends a lot on what the patient wants and needs to achieve that specific look, but they start at 700 USD and go up for a treatment that might last up to two years. In general, what he does is change the size of the nipples and the areolas, or change the color. In addition, sometimes the surgery can go beyond the nipple and lift the breasts, so they can look exactly like the ones we see on social media.
So, it’s not just a matter of filling your nipples with botox to make them look more protruding. It can even extend to major alterations and dangerous surgical procedures only to look like a girl who might change her mind about bras tomorrow and start wearing them again. I mean, I don’t know if that’s going to happen, but after reading Jenner's essay (that was erased sometime after its publication), for her, the idea of going braless had much more to do with a fun aesthetic rather than a strong ideological stand.
The thing is that many women actually associate a perky and light-colored nipple with femininity and beauty, as if boobs were the only thing that determined that. Honestly, I think we have to really reconsider the impact social media has on beauty ideals that might seem harmless, but that can end up pushing people to the limit to achieve these ideals.
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Cover photo by @thefutureisfeminism_