The New York Times tackles cleavage wrinkles and makes me stabby.

Image via Back 2 Retro

We now have two new additions to our ever-growing list of body parts the world wants us to feel bad about: Cleavage wrinkles and big feet.

According to the New York Times: "Cleavage wrinkles are deep, vertical creases caused by hours spent sleeping on one’s side, where gravity forces the top breast to bend farther past the body’s midline than it should. The lines can also be caused by sports and push-up bras, which smush the breasts together and are often worn for hours." Now, products like the ChestSavers bra ($56 to $78) and the Kush Support ($19.99), are on the market, designed to be worn between your breasts while you sleep to prevent the dreaded boob-squishing. Just like the products invented by the marketers of Dove deodorantSpanx and Bye Bye Cankles to combat horrifying things like ugly armpits, cankles, and muffin-tops. And don't even get me started on the popularity of a gross cream designed to whiten skin with a special ingredient - nightingale poop.

A few weeks before the Times' expose, The Daily Mail ran a feature in which big feet were the subject of female body angst. According to the Mail, a study from Debenhams department store stated that women’s feet have increased by an average size-and-a-half in the past 20 years – from a 4½ in 1990 to a six in 2011. The study claimed that 82% of women with size eight or nine feet said their feet made them feel particularly ashamed. In addition, almost two thirds of women hated asking sales assistants for help, and a further third were uncomfortable taking their shoes off in public.

Though the New York Times piece seems to target women who have had their breasts surgically augmented, the fact is that all women now have yet another thing to worry about, and for some, yet another object to purchase in order to "fix" their bodies. Naturally, the Times never dares to question the mixed beauty standard the article suggests - that women are supposed to have breasts so large that special garments are needed to hold them in place, while demanding that other parts of their bodies remain small, tight and flat. The piece also manages to ignore the fact that it is impossible for the skin around the breasts to remain forever tight and wrinkle-free, whether you are small-chested or well-endowed.

These two articles are a tiny portion of the message given to women that we must constantly remain vigilant in the fight towards perfection. Whether the issue is stretch marks, body hair, inner-thigh fat or sun spots, there is a product marketed to target that area and make women hyper-focused on our bodies. My friend Sal called this manufactured discontent - stealthy marketing that targets out body confidence. Like much else in our society, none of this occurs by accident, but rather by design. Using low self-esteem to manipulate and control populations is not a new trick. For eons, mankind has used these techniques to control people and group them. Dividing people along racial, class, and other lines, and programming people to feel they are "inferior" is an easy way to manipulate people.

Psychological experiments along this line have shown that once people are told they are an inferior class, they will behave in a manner that fulfills these expectations. Students told, in an experiment, that they are prisoners, tend to act like, well, prisoners. Young students with brown eyes who are told, in an experiment, that they are inferior to students with blue eyes will not only believe, but act in a manner consistent with the expectations.

It is an easy task to program people to believe that they are less than whole or even less than human by training them with a controlled set of expectations. It is no longer acceptable in America to teach people they are inferior based on race, religion, or even class. So appearance is the new discriminator, and an easy way to keep consumers in line and get them to spend money on things they really don't need.

Whether the issue is cleavage wrinkles, big feet, blotchy skin or "problem areas", being conscious of the attempts of companies to manipulate our self-esteem in order to sell products is a valid way to battle negative body image. Emptying our wallets in order to "fix" our imperfections not only generates profits for both the media and companies marketing these products, but also keeps us enslaved to the idea that we need to be perfect, and that our bodies are just not good enough.

Our bodies go through massive changes as we grow older. It's inevitable. And there is nothing we can do about it. In the end, spending money on special bras and support tools isn't going to eliminate cleavage wrinkles and sagging. These things will happen, because breasts can not defy gravity. And being ashamed of having big feet isn't going to make them go away. So I'm vowing to keep my money in my wallet, to be spent on useful things, like thrifting and movies with my kids and dinner out with friends. In the end, those are the things that make me feel good about myself. And that's what counts.

What do you think of the Times article? Do pieces like this make you feel more self-conscious about how you look? What products do you buy with the purpose to "fix" what you consider a flaw?

Like this post? PLEASE take a minute and vote for me in the CBS DFW Most Valuable Blogger Awards! I'm a finalist!


  1. You. Are. Badass. And totally right. Love this today!!

  2. I love this post! I have struggled with body image very quietly for about a dozen years or so. I feel like I need to compete with my girlfriends or the wives of my husband's co-workers who are waifish and lean and willowy and lovely women. I am 5'4", about 118 and my measurements make me a clear pear (or teardrop as they're calling it now). I have a poochy little tummy that has been there since puberty and never really goes away. I have stretch marks (from a crazy year in HS when my weight was all over the map), vericose veins, and cellulite. I'm also roughly the same color as elmer's school glue. I have struggled with not having perfect hair, or perfect skin, or a perfect tan. I'm not muscular and toned like my runner friends. I'm not a size two like my friends who stay at the gym till it closes. BUT I do truly believe that I am fearfully and wonderfully made by God and that I am who I'm supposed to be. I do workout, and I do eat well - although I'm not gonna starve or deprive myself as life is short and all that. What is more important is that I love my family, adore my husband, couldn't stand to live without my puppy, have the best time with my friends, enjoy cooking and travelling and music and trying new things. THAT is me. Not my bust size. Not my shoe size. And certainly not my waist size. I still have trouble letting go of other people's expectations and being the best me that I can be every single day, but I refuse to be a number or a statistic or another set of measurements that don't measure up.

    Thank you for this! It's reiterated my belief that I need to be the best version of myself that I can be - not a second place version of someone else.

  3. Here here, woman! Your preach it! I agree with all of your points in this post.

    "Beauty" is a measure of your health. Eat balanced, sleep, do what you love and don't stress about all these little things like wrinkles and spots like the ads want you to and you'll look the best you can look, I sincerely believe in that.

  4. My big feet don't make me feel ugly or insecure. I'm just angry that most shoe manufacturers, if they even go to my size at all, assume that women with big feet want ugly shoes, and we only want them in black, or sometimes brown. If we're lucky.

    Maybe it's age, but I'm getting more and more immune to the idea that things like cleavage wrinkles are something I have a duty to prevent or if it's too late for that, mask or correct. Immune, but it still hacks me off something fierce when I see yet another potential source of bodily self-loathing being promoted.

  5. LOL I'm a size 11 and am not afraid to take my shoes off in public or to tell people what size shoe I am. Over the years I have felt bad about the difficulty of finding shoes my size - especially cute ones. But it certainly hasn't kept me from looking, trying or asking sales associates. Now I walk into a shoe store with a super clearance sale and ask them to bring me every size 11 sale shoe they have. That's how I scored my favorite peach-colored heels! - Katy

  6. Seriously.... whether the products exist or not (and personally I am fine with them existing, we all have our personal hang ups and we should be able to address them if it works for us!), I think it is ridiculous that NY Times felt it necessary to write an article on it. After all there seems to me that there always exist more important news topics than putting a spotlight on women's imperfections.

  7. I swear to you I mean no offense by this because I really appreciate how hard you try to be thoughtful and insightful. But when I read this, all I could think is anyone and I mean ANYONE. Who is concerned about vertical breast wrinkles absolutely and utterly needs to get a life. Start working at a food kitchen, get your hands dirty by helping someone with real problems. I really can't see anyone with a brain caring. This post could be filed right under 1st world problems that 3rd world countries like to roll their eyes at. It makes my stomach hurt thinking this is what our country is truly concerned about. God help my son and the future generations.

  8. I realized in high school that I have cankles (thanks, ankle bracelet fad), and I also realized that I just didn't care. I mean, I've never had a guy tell me he couldn't date me because of my ankles. I've never had a problem wearing shoes because of my ankles (my narrow feet and large calves cause so much trouble, it's possible I just don't notice). I mean, they're ankles. What are we, Victorian?

    The only people I know with cleavage wrinkles (I mean people who are not wrinkled all over, for whom such a distinction would be moot) are people who are both amply endowed and tend to fry themselves in the sun. But maybe they figure afternoons on the lake with a pitcher of beer are an ample recompense for cleavage wrinkles? Sounds good to me. Sometimes you have to choose between having a look and having a life.

    I have only one body part I obsess over, and it has nothing to do with the media and everything to do with my family/friends making comments to me as I grew up. I've been upset forever about my thighs. I've always had muscular thighs and short of brief bouts of starvation in my teens and 20s, could never get them down to the size I wanted. They cause me a lot of fit issues, and I honestly would wish them smaller if I could. But I refuse to not wear a bathing suit or shorts or show my knees. It's too hot, life is too short, and I'll break your neck with my thigh muscles if you bug me about it.

  9. Wait --- a size 8 shoe is considered big? hmmm. I'm a giant at 8 1/2 then!

  10. This is effing ridiculous. Not your post. Your post is brilliant. But that the Times even ran this is BS.

    I guess I'm just a hot damn mess then because at 6'0" I wear a size 10 shoe (quelle horror) and at 36, the skin between my breasts is starting to wrinkle. It's a wonder I even go out of the house, much less have a blog.

  11. Vanessa - Debenhams is a British department store chain, and a size 8 shoe in the UK is equivalent to a US 10. 8, sometimes 9, sometimes a BIG 9, if I'm lucky, is where most women's shoe sizes end.

  12. Great post. It reminds me of an article I read about a woman concerned about the size of her ear lobes. What?! I think we have gone too far when you think about having surgery to make your ear lobe smaller. And foot size? It is what it is, be thankful you have them!

  13. Awesome! I recently came across your series about blog-posting and since, I LOVED to read your blog. It's interesting and you're talking about interesting things. Couldn't believe when I read your post! I mean, don't get me wrong, I take your side. We should focus on things that REALY matters, not on wrinkles we don't even have yet. Beauty comes from inside. I used to think I have ears way too big until this summer... when I realized people don't even notice my ears... Thank you for your post!

  14. boo. my boobs are huge and i'm sure i have wrinkles. i don't mind. why are they looking at me boobs anyway? i second Jen. you are badass.

  15. I think what people say about other people's appearance in comments all over the internet is far worse than anything "the media" can come up with. Far worse.

  16. Congrats on the nomination- I voted!! I love the picture at the top of the article- so perfect. Another thing for women to feel bad about. GREAT.
    Do Dallas Cheap

  17. You are so right. This new-disorder-every-day thing makes me nuts. (And I feel stabby any time anyone uses the term "cankles").

    I intend to flaunt my cleavage wrinkles (AND feet) everywhere I go, just to spite the Powers that Be.

  18. Great post. I was checking continuously this blog and I am impressed!
    Extremely useful info specifically the last part :) I care for such information
    a lot. I was looking for this certain information for
    a very long time. Thank you and good luck.
    My web site - F4X Youth Enhancing Bodyshaping System for women


I love my readers! Comments are welcomed and appreciated.