We don’t talk much about Modern Family around these parts, mostly because it’s a weekly pile of generic slop whose maddeningly high awards count keeps rising every year, depriving far better shows and actors and writers and directors of some nice recognition they might need or at least deserve. That being said, I’ve always like the character of Alex, the brainy, oft ignored middle child. When the show happens to have a rare good episode it’s usually centered around Alex.
Ariel Winter, the 17-year-old actress who plays Alex, gave an interview to Glamour this week in which she opened up about her decision to get breast reduction surgery. At 5’1”, with a size 32F chest, Winter talked a lot about the physical discomfort caused by her frame.
It was so painful. I had a lot of back problems. I really couldn’t stand up straight for a long period of time. It started to hurt so bad that I couldn’t take the pain. My neck was hurting so bad and I actually had some problems with my spine. I had been discussing my chest with doctors for many years, but when I finally said, “I’m thinking of doing this,” he said, “Your back is going to thank you so much.”In addition to the pain this young girl had to deal with (as if that weren’t enough to struggle through), she also had to deal with normal teenage insecurities— times a million. Every girl (every child, really) goes through a period of feeling completely alien in her own body, but girls who develop early or quickly have a whole different sort of hell to go through. Winter recalled the impetus for her surgery.
I went to a swimsuit store with my cousin a few months ago and couldn’t find a bathing suit that fit me. I really felt bad about myself. I didn’t feel happy. I just kept saying, “What am I going to wear? There’s nothing for me to wear at the beach, at the pool.” I can’t go to a party with my friends and wear the same thing as them. I have to be completely covered up otherwise I’ll look a certain way that I’m not intending to look.That’s the thing: how she intended to look. So often, and through no fault of their own, larger girls are seen as promiscuous or more emotionally and sexually mature, just based on their cup size. Bras, bathing suits, and school dress codes are basically a cruel joke. It can be hard to find clothes that fit, and things that might look modest on one girl are entirely different on another, with no difference at all in intention. But not only was Winter struggling to feel comfortable in her body; she was doing it in front of millions of people.
It was really hard. There was so little that I could wear that was age-appropriate. I’d have to wear the dress that was super tight and formfitted everywhere because if I didn’t, it didn’t look good. I didn’t really have an option other than to wear fitted clothes. Everyone would [say], “Why is she dressing so mature? That’s so inappropriate for her age!” I understood what they were saying. It’s not like I wanted to pick out those inappropriate dresses, it’s just that I didn’t really have another choice, or I was going to get ridiculed. It’s hard when you’re a teenage girl and you already have a lot of ridicule and then you pile on more, and it’s kind of…it just gets too much.
Remember this girl is only 17. She was 15 when all of this started. And it wasn’t just weirdo pervs in comments sections drawing attention to her body. Widely known magazines and websites were doing it, too.
That’s pretty much all I was known for and that upset me. It made me feel really uncomfortable because as women in the industry, we are totally over sexualized and treated like objects. Every article that has to do with me on a red carpet always had to do with ‘Ariel Winter’s Crazy Cleavage!’ Or ‘Ariel Winter Shows Huge Boobs At An Event!’ That’s all people would recognize me by, not, “Oh, she does great work on Modern Family.”
It would be really super cool if we could stop shaming girls (and women! and humans in general) for any number of things having to do with their bodies. In the meantime, major props to Winter, who at 17 is giving a big ol’ eff you to the shamers and taking control of her body. As for how she settled on a D cup:
I knew for sure that I wasn’t going to go bigger than a D because the whole point was to get rid of it! I was a 32F and that was too big for me! My doctor said we shouldn’t go bigger than a D, and I agreed. He said he didn’t think we should go smaller than a C, and I agreed. And the reason I said that was because I have always been a curvier girl. Always. And I enjoy being a curvier girl. I don’t want to be disproportionate again. I have a big butt, I like having a big butt. I didn’t want to have a big butt and no boobs!