Sunday, September 30, 2007

The subject of breasts makes boobs out of us all

Orac and Tara, over at ScienceBlogs, both have stories on the work of Dr. Patrick Mallucci, a self-proclaimed expert on the "perfect" female breast. He is, of course, a cosmetic surgeon.
Patrick Mallucci spent many hours poring over photos of topless models in lads magazines and tabloid newspapers to formulate his theory.

In his opinion, the celebrity with the best pair is Caprice [Bourret] - and the woman with the worst is Posh Spice [Victoria Beckham].

This range would indicate that he limited his research to overly tanned, bleached blond, British, white women. That in turn indicates the flaw in his sampling.
Mr Mallucci said: "I studied a wide variety of photographs of the most popular topless models to work out the various proportions they had in common and what made those particular features attractive.

"These findings allowed me to form a template around which to plan a breast augmentation, and set a standard of aesthetics.

"Obviously personal interpretation and expression has to be accounted for, but this has allowed me to develop a template that I have been using successfully for some time."

The key aesthetic elements are nipple position and the proportion between the upper and lower halves of the breast, he said.

"The ideal is a 45 to 55 per cent proportion - that is the nipple sits not at the half-way mark down the breast, but at about 45 per cent from the top."

He is not so much defining the "perfect" breast, but the breast possessed by the most popular models among a subset of British men: the producers and consumers of lads magazines and tabloid newspapers. These men, presumably, do look at more than just breasts (though not necessarily much more). Legs, hair, abs, skin tome and a come hither stare all contribute the success of a mens' model.

Another article on Dr. Mallucci states, "The new research is sure to be useful in Hollywood, where starlets are constantly on a mission to improve their physical appearance in any way they can." Considering his flawed methodology and inflated claims, I hope they do not.

Tara, who has a daughter, points out the danger of giving body conscious teenaged and older women yet another unatainable ideal to measure themselves against. Imagine these poor women in the bathroom with a tape measure, protractor, and pair of calipers trying to figure out where to measure from. If she chooses the wrong starting point, she's doomed to be imperfect and undesirable.

Claims like this are viscious and destructive. They also have pernicious effects far beyond young women. The very idea that ther is just one "right" standard of phsical attractiveness, crushes those who fail to attain it, alienates those who can't even attempt it, and convinces those who admire another standard that there is something is wrong with them. I don't need to pursue a reducto ad absurdum argument of suggesting that a eugenic holocaust of all women who are not blond beach bunnies is in the offing. This homogenising ideal crushes art and is reactionary at its core.

The very idea that there is one right standard in anything regarding aesthetics or taste is the worst kind of conservatism. Mallucci's claim that there is a "perfect" breast not only denies women the right to be proud of who they are; it denies men the right to be proud of what they like. Mallucci is openly serving the forces of lowest common denominator commercialism. What he may not realize is that he is also crushing individualism, self-determinisation, and all of the freedoms that are at the core of Renaissance and Enlightenment values. While the shallowness and hedonism of his cause may make him appear to be at the opposite end of the spectrum, he is actually a close ally of the anti-modern program of fundamentalists and the worst anti-democratic right wing nuts.

In case there was ever any doubt in anyone's mind, I ally my self at the opposite end of the spectrum from Mallucci. I favor freedom, individualism, reason, and the Enlightenment. I, for one, do not want to live in a world of cookie-cutter blonds. My personal motto is: Don't celebrate diversity; practice diversity.

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