There was a time when I could walk through any store and find bras that fit my plain old 32B sized breasts with no problems. All I had to do was choose a color, a style, and find the correct label with my size on it. It’s still the same, but there are no regular bras to be found anywhere: they are all either padded for the small breasted or medium breasted woman or under-wire for the large-breasted woman. Even the girls’ section, for teenagers, is full of padded bras, sending them the message that their breasts aren’t good enough unless they pad them. I wander along the aisles of Target, Macy’s, TJ Maxx, Walmart, and Kohl’s aimlessly, in search of the bra I want, but is no longer available to me. Why? Because I have small breasts? And because I have small breasts, I am supposed to pad them, fluff them up and out as they used to in the fifties circa Marilyn Monroe’s cone-piercing chest?
I have no shame for my breasts. I don’t care that they are small, petite, or nondescript. They are my breasts, they hide beneath my clothes, and they do not define me. When I meet someone, I do not want them to look at my breasts, or define me based on their size. What is it with our society and breast-obsession?
The only time my breasts became larger was when I was pregnant with my children. I still remember my brother-in-law staring at my full-budded boobs while I was stuffing my four month pregnant stomach with roasted chicken and string beans. He gave me a lop-sided grin, nodded his head in appreciation and said something along the lines of “At least you gotta be proud of those babies.” The food got stuck in my throat and I felt like gagging, depriving my baby of its food just to have a smidgen of satisfaction by spitting all of it upon his smirking smile. I wasn’t even showing cleavage, but the rounded mounds of my pregnant breasts were seemingly inciting awareness, open discussion, and appreciation I did not warrant.
I was offended by a few things:
1. BREAST BEWARE – Don’t look at my boobs. There is a reason I clothe them, shelter them, deprive them of sunlight and roaming eyes. They are mine, privately owned, privately shown. They belong to me, and if I choose to, they belong to my children when they breast feed. You have a wife — go look at hers. I cannot describe the chilling angst and dismay I experience when men’s eyes falter upon my chest. Their eyes, their glances, and their appreciation of my form are unwanted and uninvited. My breasts are not there for public display, and I most certainly do not find comfort or self-esteem in appreciation that stems from masculine eye-invasion.
2. BREAST IDENTITY – Like China’s bound feet, American society has chosen the female breast as the center of feminine beauty. The rounder, fuller, and pert the breast, the greater the appreciation, the lovelier the woman. The female body has taken on the requirements of society’s ideals, and women run to surgeons to be sliced open and have extraneous and unnatural “padding” implanted. The Breast Site, which does not condone breast augmentation, says that “According to the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery (ASAPS) statistics, nearly 250,000 breast augmentation procedures were performed last year, an increase of 147 percent since 1997.” The numbers have tripled among women and teenagers since 1997, and I wonder why women, and their daughters, think it’s OK to be cut into for the sake of vanity. Of course, there are women who have these surgeries as a result of cancer, but I am not talking about them. I am talking about women who allow society and men to define what it is that makes them beautiful, unique, and wonderful to begin with. The average cost of cosmetic surgery for breast augmentation is anywhere from $4 – 10,000. But think what you can do with this money other than forsake it for vanity, for the perfect body image that only exists in the hands of the guy of girl who air brushes flaws from the scantily clad and buxom-fitting forms of high-priced models. Take some classes at a local college and fill your brains with knowledge and skills that could feed your low self-esteem with a degree, a job, a career, and a hefty pay check. Invest in a hobby, a love of something that feeds your insides and makes you feel good about yourself and who you are. The possession of big, protruding breasts only makes one group of people happy — the men that look upon your cleavage. You think you’re happy and confident when you see their eyes drift upon your sex, crowning you Queen of Sex Appeal, but deep down you’re not. The fact that you need their appreciation to feel good about you is telling enough. The only one that can give you self-esteem is you. The only thing that can make you feel good about yourself is achievement, accomplishments that require skill, talent, and intelligence. Getting a boob job is not a skill. It is not an accomplishment. And the foreign blob of silicone that sexualizes you does not fill your insides with anything more than temporary satisfaction – a temporary reprieve of the way you really feel about yourself. Those raw and candid shots of self-reproach and insecurities you carry around each day, they return despite the presence of big breasts and masculine appreciation.
3. BREAST HISTORY – Marilyn Yalom’s The History of the Breast chronicles the historical context and definitions of the human and female breast. Once revered, not for its sexual powers, but for its lactating powers, the breast signified a woman’s natural ability to save humanity. Breasts nurtured babies; they only thrived because they were fed by the breast. The Greek Amazons, who lived among women and only met with neighboring men to mate, cut off one breast to accommodate the extension of the bow while in battle and and used the only available one to feed their female infants. These were times when the female breast was centered on female power in battle, in sustenance and survival. But today’s breast is the focal point of masculine desire, and women go along with it. We dress the breast up, padding it so that it sticks out and pops up. We wear low V-neck shirts so that the depth and sight of the two mounds that meet and rub against one another are seen by foreign eyes. We use ornaments like diamond necklaces to drop into the middle of the cleavage drawing even more attention to the big-sized twins. We do everything in our power to show them off, whether they are real or fake, and we do it for attention, for self-gratification. We feel good when others appreciate the grandeur of our breasts, as if they are pieces of fine art assembled for a public exhibit at the Museums of “Unnatural” Identity. But this is not power. When we adhere to preconceived notions and definitions of what it means to be as woman — when we allow society to define us as soft and nurturing and sexual and “breast-ial” — when we go into surgery to change ourselves, have objects placed inside of us in the name of beauty — we are not powerful. We are not strong or even important. We are not valued as anything other than the hosts of masculine desire. We exist for them — for their sexual gratification. Our breasts, big, glorious, exposed, and full, exist to please them — and this should not please us. The Amazon warriors cut off their breast so that they could be stronger, faster warriors in battle. Feminists in the 70s ripped off their bras and burned them to show their independence and liberation from patriarchal labels and laws that singled them out as “feminine” and thus, the weaker sex, the softer sex, the sexualized and domesticated sex.
When men stare at my 32B’s, and some do before they realize there’s not much to see, I want to bitch-slap them in the face for their disrespect — because it is disrespectful. And when I hunt the stores for bras that are not padded, not under-wired, just plain old bras, I get miffed and perturbed. Even the clothing industry is trying to tell me that I have to be different — that I have to change the appearance of my small ones so that society can approve — so that men will be pleased. The message is clear — we are not good enough unless we please men. We are not good enough unless we do what they want us to do. We are not desirable unless our breasts are big, juicy, grabbable, and adaptable to the desires of men. Media whores and red carpet Goddesses tell us the same, their bikinis and gowns accentuating the full-breasted and exaggerated mounds of perfection that peer at us via the camera lens and smack us in the face from magazine photos. Women, free yourselves. Demand recognition of your skills, your accomplishments, your talents — talents that don’t include cosmetic surgery that distorts our image and distorts our minds. Cover your breasts and let the outside world look for something other than your sexual appeal — let them mine and locate your true beauty – your intelligence, your smarts, your talents — they are more everlasting and more valuable to you and society than your breasts!