Health

Here's the Truth About Big Boob Shaming

December 24th 2015

By:
Lucy Tiven

Despite scientific consensus that boobs are awesome, when it comes to our breasts, it seems as though the cup (size) is always half empty.

Countless industries are capitalizing on the insecurities of flat-chested women, but big-breasted women have their own issues, and many voice their complaints in a Reddit community devoted to “Big Boob problems.”

ALSO: The Truth About Small Boob Shaming

“With depressing regularity, I meet people who 'can’t get past my breasts,'" Rowan Martin writes in the Guardian. “I’ve been advised to 'Get ’em out, love!' and 'Put ’em away, slag!' on the same day, wearing the same clothes, walking along the same street. Is it any wonder that my breasts and I have had a complicated, often confusing relationship?”

Boob shame goes beyond pubescent bra-snapping pranks and catcalling. In the workplace, busty women are easy targets for harassment. Elsewhere, big breasts can make exercise and other day-to-day activities strenuous and embarrassing.

“The issue becomes particularly confusing in the workplace. For those who have not, feelings of inadequacy or loss of sex appeal abound,” Jennifer Goudreau writes in Forbes. “Others who have too much struggle to appear professional rather than distracting. How can you win?”

Women with big breasts can often find themselves targeted.

On Thursday, famed Washington, D.C.-based public relations firm FitzGibbon Media shut down as its president, Trevor FitzGibbon, faced sexual harassment claims from female employees and a client who alleged that the married father of three groped her breast in a hotel room.

"I just thought he was in a needy moment," she told The Huffington Post. "I got a phone call, I was literally on the phone, he came over and stuck his hand right down and grabbed my breast. I was on the phone, it was a business thing, so I couldn't say some obscenity. I said, 'What are you doing?'"

It isn’t just male supervisors who are getting busted (or getting handsy), though. In some cases, office mean girls can be the culprits. A 2010 New York federal court case ruled that female employees' comments about a coworker's breast size could constitute sexual harassment. That worker, a telecommunications agent, experienced daily bullying from female colleagues about the size of her breasts.

After reporting the incident to a supervisor, the agent was told that her only option was to accept a demotion. She eventually took a leave of absence when the harassment escalated: Her coworkers wrote derogatory comments on a wall and pulled her shirt open.

Breasts: NSFW?

The alleged harassment at FitzGibbon Media is particularly shocking given the firm’s progressive ethos (its client list includes MoveOn, NARAL, and WikiLeaks). But the firm's busty female employees have plenty of company when it comes to sexual harassment in the office.

About 54 percent of individuals have experienced some form of sexual harassment at their jobs, with women comprising 79 percent of harassment victims, according to a 2008 survey conducted by the Association of Women for Action and Research.

Harassment claims have surged over the past decade. But complaints from female employees are still treated with levity. Former Citibank employee Debrahlee Lorenzana sued her employer, claiming that she was forced from her job because her supervisors said her figure and clothing choices were a distraction in the office. But her story became a national punch line about her being “too hot” to hold down a job.

“Debrahlee Lorenzana typifies the busty woman who isn’t taken seriously in the office,” Goudreau writes.

Sexual harassment is particularly prevalent in male-dominated industries such as marketing, finance, and tech. In those industries, harassment complaints are often attributed to a misunderstanding of company culture or to a complainant's inability to take a joke.

Take the December 2014 lawsuit against $4.5 billion real estate database firm Zillow. It alleges that the company’s female employees were "constantly solicited for sex by co-workers, ranked on their breast size, and fired if they refuse to play along.”

Zillow lawsuit

Things are also bad for women in the hospitality industry, where ogling patrons and offhanded come-ons are part of the job.

“The attention from both men and women is insanely different if cleavage is out," bartender Jazmin Conte says. "It’s shitty that you know they are staring, but the tips roll in faster. Also, male bartenders totally downplay what you do, 'cause they think you only have your job because 'tits.'"

Large breasts are even prompting women to go under the knife.

Big boobs don’t just invite unwanted attention. They can also cause discomfort, compromise posture, and complicate exercise and day-to-day physical activity.

In a study of 31 women who underwent breast reductions, 81 percent had neck and back pain, 77 percent had shoulder pain, 58 percent had chafing or rash, 45 percent experienced significant restrictions of physical activity, and 52 percent were unhappy with their appearance, Navin K. Singh, an assistant professor at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, writes on HealthyWomen.org.

Kindergarten teacher Allison Bernstein, now 28, underwent a breast reduction at age 20. She went from a 36 DDD to a more manageable 34 C/D cup.

Before the surgery, she recalls that guys assumed she was "easy” because of the size of her breasts. “The looks I got from people sucked," she says. "It was the first thing anyone looked at. No one looked at my eyes when I had a cleavage-y shirt on. People would think it was acceptable to touch them, ask if they were real, and many would just stare.”

Mainly, though, her decision to get the reduction was fueled by physical issues. “I was so tired of my back hurting,” she tells ATTN:. “It killed my posture, and I still can't stand up straight.”

Almost a decade after the operation, Bernstein says it was the best choice she could have made for her health and career. “I work with kids and bend down a lot, so I need my cleavage to be covered as much as possible,” she says, adding: “My boobs still look great, and my everyday life is much better.”

ALSO: Ariel Winter Has a Brutal Message for Slut Shamers

Breast reductions are a personal choice.

Angela Manes, a nurse at a post-op recovery center in Los Angeles deals with women who have recently undergone breast reductions, lifts, augmentations, and other plastic surgery procedures.

“This week I had a woman with breast reduction, and she told me she was a G before surgery,” Mains tells ATTN: “She wanted them as small as possible, and when I opened up the bandages to show her for the first time how they looked, she cried [out] of happiness.”

Mains says that the decision to get breast reduction is a personal one. A potential patient should fully educate herself about the risks and the recovery process. For one thing, there can be a lot of scarring, though it varies based on skin tone and may fade over time.

“I would recommend it to a woman if she was doing it for herself, NOT the stigma, and not for anyone else,” Mains says. “If it made her feel more comfortable in her own skin, I would recommend it. If it was for her significant other or for a job or anything else, then those are the wrong reasons to go through a major surgery.”

For those of us who choose not to go under the knife, at the very least, today’s national average cup size of 36DD means more varied and attractive lingerie options and a few less pokes from safety-pinned straps and unwieldy underwire.

ALSO: One Mom's Viral Christmas Photo Has the Internet Outraged