Statement from ABSOLUTELY
By the time I started this film, I believed that my mother’s
illness was caused by her silicone breast implants. Her decline
in health had been a gradual one and it took some time before
we connected what was happening to her health with her implants.
It was not surprising to me that silicone implants, which no matter
how you look at them, are two bags of various chemicals inserted
into the chest cavity, could be wreaking havoc on her body. When
she first had her implants put in at The Mayo Clinic in the early
1970’s, there was virtually no information available about
the pros and cons of implants. Her doctor there said they were
safe and we all believed it. I was young, in high school, and
not paying close attention.
Even after her first rupture a year after her first surgery,
I didn’t think twice when the surgeon said he would put
in a new implant. Over the years, various mysterious symptoms
came – extreme fatigue, chronic rashes, fevers, joint pain.
Eventually, my mother found a doctor that believed the silicone
in her body could be causing this constellation of symptoms. When
I started to pay attention, I believed it as well. It actually
made logical sense to me. My mother had two ruptures of silicone
implants – where did that silicone go and what did it do
in the body?
In 1999, I picked up a prominent newspaper and I read a front
page article that read “Mayo Clinic Study Finds Breast Implants
Safe”. I thought how could that be… safe? Then came
more questions- how was this study done, were there other women
who experienced the same problems as my mother, were there doctors
who believed implants could cause problems, how did the FDA regulate
this product, and ultimately why did women want this product?
The first time I filmed was in Washington D.C., at a rally on
Capitol Hill. About two thousand women came from all over the
country to demand that the US government require manufacturers
to do more research on implant safety. I roamed the crowd putting
the camera and microphone in front of anyone willing to share
their story. I heard the same story, the same symptoms, the same
despair from women from all walks of life, from all over the country.
Was this coincidence? Chance? Was anyone paying attention? If
this were a group of men harmed by a particular product would
the world be paying closer attention?
I didn’t set out to make a film that proved implants were
harmful. I intended to make a film that looks at all these questions.
The challenge of course is that I brought a point of view to the
table. I believed and still do believe that implants have the
potential to be harmful to a woman’s health. I also believe
that I can have a point of view and be open to listen to people
who believe implants are safe. We live in a world today where
people’s opinions are either black or white. However, now,
the desire, the need, and marketing of implants are all grey areas.
There are no definitive answers.
I wanted to understand and listen to the conversation around
breast implants –the regulation of implants by the FDA,
the science on implants, the business of implants, women’s
knowledge about risk, existence of informed consent, the desire
for implants, and the cultural promotion of implants.
Of course, in the 10 years it took to get this film funded, made,
and out into the world, the subject of breast implants has taken
on many faces and points of view. As of today, the popularity
of the operation is on the rise and has been for several years,
along with corporate profits. Breast implants remain a prescribed
part of the recovery process for mastectomy patients—implants
are presented as a given for women losing breasts.
For augmentation patients, the cultural aesthetic of breast implants
is one that is desired and sought out. Just recently I heard an
interview with an up and coming actor and he was asked “Do
you like women with real breasts or fake breasts?” (As though
this is a legitimate, important question.) He replied, “It
doesn’t matter as long as they look good.” That is
the optimal phrase – LOOK GOOD. The messages are bountiful
in today’s media that we must all “look good,”
women and men alike. Breast implants are now marketed as the “Naturelle
Collection” with different styles to choose from, as though
we are buying a dress.
My ideas and thoughts about breast implants and what they represent
in our world today have of course changed and evolved as I have
made this film. My goal was to make a film that made us all think,
question, and debate not only breast implant safety but also the
quest for perfection and beauty that we all confront at every