A local radio station has been touting all day about their contest that gives away free breast augmentation based on social media votes for “you and your best friend”—“breast friend”—courtesy of a cosmetic surgery clinic. As a child, adolescent, and adult psychiatrist, I’m here to tout fierce opposition to this contest.
I’m a feminist MD so I support women in making personal, informed decisions about their lives, including about abortion or going under the knife for breast augmentation. What I don’t support are the beauty and gender norms imposed on women by society, often patriarchy. And when a man’s voice proclaims to my teenagers and I on our morning commute how me and my best friend can win boob jobs based on how many likes we get on the radio station’s Instagram page, he’s really telling me that my friend and I are not good enough the way we are. Even if he doesn’t intend to send that message, it will be the lesson learned by some vulnerable people. It’s as if he’s telling your daughter, your sister, your niece, your mother, your student, your employee that she is not good enough the way she is.
Maybe I should thank the radio station and the cosmetic surgery clinic. I mean their degrading, damaging, misogynistic message will keep me in business. A majority of the young women and girls I treat are already scarred by social media comparisons, some of them rocked to core with how inadequate they feel every single time they scroll, and now you’re encouraging them to send in photos of themselves and their best friends so they can be judged online more than they already are. Only if they’re deemed worthy enough by a bunch of random people will they be qualified to get the look that is set forth by the western beauty myth.
But I will not thank you. I don’t want more business. I want a world where the young women and girls I treat will feel good enough just because they already are good enough. I want a world where women and girls will be encouraged to speak, disagree, earn, change policy, and be president. I want a world where my teenage daughter isn’t reduced to a body. I want a world where my teenage son isn’t bombarded with hyper-sexualized images and lyrics of women—and now, radio contest announcements that lure women to their very own best in show—that might train him to think of his future girlfriend as nothing more than an object were it not for the protective way my husband and I raise him.
I want a world where I can turn on the radio and no man will ever tell his listeners how women and girls can be better. Because here’s the truth—we already are.