What’s the Difference Between Baseball Players on Steroids and Women With Breast Implants?

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So Yankees star Alex Rodriguez has admitted to taking performance-enhancing drugs (ESPN story here).   The news “tarnishes an entire era” in Major League Baseball, as President Obama commented, but is anyone really surprised?  I wasn’t.  Ho-hum.

One aspect of Rodriguez’s admission that did interest me was his explanation of why he took the drugs:

“When I arrived in Texas [to play with the Rangers] in 2001, I felt an enormous amount of pressure. I felt like I had all the weight of the world on top of me and I needed to perform, and perform at a high level every day,” Rodriguez told ESPN’s Peter Gammons in an exclusive interview in Miami Beach, Fla.

This pressure, this needing to “perfom” strikes me as not entirely different from the reason that some women get breasts implants.  They feel pressure to look a certain way, to conform to the pornified expectation for how women should look.  In reviewing the book Playboy: The Complete Centerfolds for the online supplement to n+1, Molly Young describes how pictures  in the magazine have changed over time: “Things go downhill in the 1980s as breast implants became popular: the new boobs are globe-like and tactile only in the way that bowling balls are tactile. Some of them cast a glare, like cartoon balloons.”

Ok, so A-Rod got paid for his (enhanced) performance and yet claimed for years that he was clean.  That is dishonest, deceptive, unfair to others who did not take steroids.  Women who get  unnaturally-sized breast implants are “paid,” too — with male attention, with male approval, with (however tenuous) attachment to men who value the woman’s conformation to the “cartoon balloon” vision for women’s bodies.

This being said, I don’t disparage women who have or want breast implants.  If a woman makes a knowing choice about the health risks of implants, I’ll embrace the fetishized “choice” rhetoric and support her choice.  I’ll refrain from any theoretical two-step alleging false consciousness. I don’t believe any of us ever make “pure” decisions, BTW, and I don’t want to participate in any feminist litmus-testing (which I reject as devisive).  

What makes women with purely elective, cosmetic-only breast implants different from Alex Rodriguez is that they (usually) don’t pretend to be “clean,” or unenhanced.

-Bridget Crawford

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