Williams mentions being hypersexualised at work when she worked in accounting prior to her reduction. “Even if I’m dressing professionally, something that may look really nice and normal on somebody else could look so provocative on me,” Williams says. “I wasn’t trying to portray that, but it’s just there.” She adds that dating is also easier now because she’s met with less aggressive behavior.
That idea of what looks “nice and normal” is, essentially, an arbitrary result of the way much of modern-day society is structured. In fact, “What is considered a ‘normal’ or ‘healthy’ breast size is rooted in a system of white supremacy with patriarchal values and a culture saturated in misogyny,” according to New York City-based psychotherapist Alessandra Tantawi, LMSW. “This leaves women in an impossible position of feeling they are not enough and too much all at the same time.”
This catch-22 continuously leaves some people feeling like having smaller breasts will make themselves less likely to be sexually harassed. Ideally, no one would have to undergo major surgery with a year or more of recovery time to feel safe, respected, and seen in the world. That said, this surgery has proved to be an empowering choice for people no longer willing to deal with offensive behaviour based on their bodies.
Although Tantawi mentions this societal dilemma in the context of America, Mukeshi details a similar hardship while growing up in the U.K. She’s the eldest daughter in a “fairly conservative” Indian family, so “you can imagine how difficult that was for a teenager brought up in the western world with huge boobs,” she shares. “Being oversexualized by strangers while punished by my own family were huge drivers [for my surgery].”
As a teenager, Mukeshi was often met with stares and inappropriate comments regarding the way her body appeared in her clothing, which made Mekushi feel as if she was being punished for the way she naturally looked. “I was constantly on the receiving end of aggression from men and women,” Mukeshi recalls. She was once assaulted in a bar by a woman wielding a beer bottle, screaming insults slut-shaming Mekakushi for her clothing and her breasts.
Mukeshi is not alone in her experience of having her breasts dictate the way she’s perceived. ”Girls and women often feel ‘less than’ for not being developed or sexy enough or too much due to being policed, experiencing nonconsensual attention, and being hyper-sexualised at very early ages due to having larger breast sizes,” Tantawi says. These experiences can result in shame, psychological distress, and trauma on both sexual and emotional levels — all of which can be detrimental to adolescent development, and can create risk factors for sustainable psychological well-being in adulthood, Tantawi adds.
Now, with almost 10 years between today and the day of her breast reduction surgery, Mukeshi points out that she hasn’t experienced the same hostile behavior from strangers as she did prior to the procedure. As a result, navigating the world unexpectedly seems safer — in her day-to-day life and while traveling. ”I’m less self-conscious now, which has meant I’ve actually been able to make memories that I wouldn’t have had the capacity to make when being so uncomfortable in my body,” Mukeshi shares.
Although she couldn’t change society’s stigma around larger breasts, Mukeshi was able to take her quality of life into her own hands and improve it on her own terms — just as our experts confirm is the case for many people post-reduction. Coleman also shares the emotional relief she’s felt after making this same choice for herself.
“[Post-op] life has just been good,” Coleman says with a smile as we wrap up our interview. “I can’t even count the moments of joy anymore. Prior to surgery, I could count the moments where I was like, ‘Okay, I was happy.’ I’m just happier. What a time to be alive.”
This article originally appered on Allure.