Puberty is like going through a fun house. One minute your arms are too short and your stomach is too wide, and the next your feet are abnormally large for your tiny body. And growing up around peers, specifically young, immature adolescents, only increases your self-awareness about disproportions and new body parts that suddenly appeared overnight. So when one 13-year-old girl in Missouri reported being harassed about her breast size, her mother called the school district to put an end to her daughter's humiliation.
The school’s first response? The only way for the bullying to stop was for her daughter to undergo breast reduction surgery.
Tammie Jackson said her daughter, Gabrielle, has been teased and tormented since last semester, and when she called the Riverview Gardens School District in Moline Acres to complain, the response was anything but comforting. The woman who Jackson first spoke to told her that the school could transfer Gabrielle, but since her breast size is so large, she would probably be teased elsewhere. The only solution this woman on the phone could think of was for Gabrielle to have a breast reduction.
According to Dove, only 11% of women feel comfortable using the word beautiful to describe themselves. Have we really sunk so low that it is easier to recommend girls have an expensive, invasive, and unnecessary surgery than to accept their bodies and love who they are? While breast reduction surgery is in many cases essential to a woman’s health and well-being, the decision is hers and hers alone. It is not a collective conclusion by a society who thinks a woman needs breasts either a size B or C to attract men.
Not only did this mystery woman on the other side of the phone line take a sledge hammer to Gabrielle’s body image, but she was also victim-blaming. “It makes me feel like now you are telling me it’s my fault, it’s God’s fault the way he made my daughter,” Jackson said. The woman representing the school district sided with the bullies when she told a 13-year-old it was her body that was the root of the problem, not the students’ unacceptable behavior.
The National Women’s Law Center (NWLC) pointed out that on top of being morally reprehensible, these comments are illegal. According to NWLC, “…school districts may violate Title IX when sex-based harassment by classmates (or peers) is so serious that it creates a hostile environment for the victim and such harassment is encouraged, tolerated, not adequately addressed, or ignored by school employees.”
The superintendent of the school district told reporters that the students involved are now receiving counseling on bullying and self-esteem. The comments are still being investigated. According to Superintendent Clive Coleman, they were a product of miscommunication, which is code for “We really hope she didn’t actually say that.”
And to all the big-breasted women out there (and any women, really), please do not listen to people when they claim you must change yourselves to fit in with girls who look only look like a size two because of Photoshop, or to meet a partner who looks like he belongs in GQ, or to avoid sexual harassment. Contrary to what it seems, you are not the problem. Everyone who equates self worth with a bust size is.