Total Drek

Or, the thoughts of several frustrated intellectuals on Sociology, Gaming, Science, Politics, Science Fiction, Religion, and whatever the hell else strikes their fancy. There is absolutely no reason why you should read this blog. None. Seriously. Go hit your back button. It's up in the upper left-hand corner of your browser... it says "Back." Don't say we didn't warn you.

Thursday, June 02, 2005

Expect the very breast.

A few days ago I posted about a horrid little quiz in which players are supposed to tell real from "fake" breasts (i.e. those that have been subject to surgical alteration) and are complimented, or criticized, based on their performance.

My assessment was that this places women in an uncomfortable double-bind, and cannot help but degrade their self-image. Slag, for his part, agreed, adding that the entire quiz itself is disgusting.

I am not bringing all this up because I disagree with Slag, nor because I just want an excuse to blog about breasts. Frankly, typing the word "breast" really doesn't bring any thrill. I bring it up because of another little ancillary observation that can be made. I took the quiz and achieved a score of 6 out of 12. Slag took the quiz and scored 5 out of 12. Finally, My Sainted Girlfriend took the quiz and scored 6 out of 12. I find this interesting. None of us, despite either having breasts ourselves, or being keenly interested in same, were able to do better than chance on this test. Given that the possible answers are "real" or "fake," our performance suggests that whatever criteria we used to make our selections, we would have been just as well off guessing randomly.

Yet, what remains interesting is that, presumably, we DID each have some sort of criteria for judging which breasts were probably real, and which probably fake. We have some concept in our minds defining what looks fake and what looks real. That these concepts were utterly useless is irrelevant- the point is that we judged based on some set of beliefs. What this means is simple: women whose breasts conform to what is commonly thought of as a "fake," look will be punished even if their breasts are natural, while women whose breasts conform to a "natural," look will not. This process simply magnifies the damage that such pressures may do to ordinary women. It isn't enough that breasts may not fit the beauty "ideal" of a society, but they also mustn't look fake. It isn't enough that lacking "ideal" breasts brings a lack of reward, but it also appears that having the wrong sort may bring sanctions.

This isn't a phenomenon limited to women, obviously. Various approaches men use to recover their thinning hair are also judged according to their naturalness, with more artificial techniques being regarded as absurd, or stupid. Yet, while this process operates for men as well, it does not have such dramatic consequences for men as it does for women. I daresay women are probably judged more on their breasts than are men on their hair.

Of course, I doubt that fashion, or surgery, will sit still for all this. The appearance of what is "natural" will simply become desired, and various sorts of interventions, surgical or not, will be used in an attempt to achieve this look. It's an endless sort of race between artifice, and the ever-shifting kaleidescope of social desirability. Yet, beneath it all, is a simple lie: the erroneous belief that real can be distinguished from artificial, and that one is intrinsically more desirable than the other. (I say intrinsically because, while breast implants likely have certain health consequences, and impair breast-feeding, these are more practical issues, and do not lie at the source of the supposed preference for "natural" breasts)

It seems like an odd thing to take issue with, but it is merely an example of a greater trend. It is not merely the creation of standards, but also the belief that such standards can be met, or that success or failure in this process can even be detected. This is the heart of the vicious cycle that defines value when no reasonable criteria can, and we must all be aware of it, even as we are subject to it.

Take the test yourself, and leave comments about your score. You're on your honor not to cheat, but I am curious: can anyone really do much better than chance?

And more importantly: does it really matter?

For those who are curious, I am not advocating the use of implants. As it happens, I rather dislike permanent modifications to the human form that are rooted in aesthetics and, yes, that extends even to ear piercing. I'm simply making a point here without trying to stamp my personal morality onto the issue of breast implants.

For those who are curious, yes I did verify that the test has some consistent set of right and wrong answers. For those who are really curious, send me an e-mail once you've posted your results and I'll send you the answer key.

Yes, I fucking worked it out. It isn't hard, just tedious. And you feel more than a little ridiculous while you're doing it.

9 Comments:

Blogger Belle Reve said...

I got 8 out of 12. I should add, one of my friends works for PB and specifically deals with the Cyber Club.

Friday, June 03, 2005 8:37:00 AM  
Blogger sep said...

i got 0 out of 12, and I'm a lesbian!
what the hell does that say?

Saturday, June 04, 2005 12:19:00 PM  
Blogger Drek said...

So far, my hypothesis is panning out- nobody seems to be able to reliably distinguish one from the other by sight. I'm so... proud? Nah. I've made a huge issue out of breast discrimination. "Proud" is not the term I'd use to describe my current feelings.

sir edwin: I'll need an e-mail addy if you want your answer key. Just send me a note at drek_the_uninteresting@hotmail.com if you don't want to post your own.

Monday, June 06, 2005 10:00:00 AM  
Blogger Slag said...

Sir Edwin,
The test only works with Internet Explorer. If you used another browser, you would have gotten 0 out of 12.

The first time I tried the test, I used Firefox and got zero. I thought that was suspiciously low (random chance should net 6 out of 12), so I tried again with IE.

Monday, June 06, 2005 12:33:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I scored 10 of 12. The quiz doesn't seem so hard if you look at the breasts a little more holistically (as much as the pictures allow, anyway). Pay attention to what the women's arms are doing. Lifted arms (usually) equals lifted breasts, and so doesn't automatically mean fake.

Wednesday, June 08, 2005 10:05:00 AM  
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