This Is A Post About Breasts.
I looked at myself in the mirror and assessed. As we do.
Not terrible, I thought, which is much kinder than I usually am to myself. My 32-year-old body has never borne the burden of birth and so, for the most part, while things might not looks as fresh as they did when I was 22 and I’m certainly not as thin, most pieces are still in their proper places. Mostly. My hips are oddly misaligned, and I’m willing to forgive the slight pooch my lower abdomen has decided to adopt in lieu of child. I’m actually stronger than I’ve ever been. My arms have definition, my triceps don’t flap independently from the rest of my upper arm when I wave, and I can almost — almost — complete a chaturanga transition without breaking form.
I consider this a feat.
The only thing, really, that makes me scrunch my face in total criticism, (aside from the pooch, which I apparently haven’t forgiven as much as I thought), is the white glare of my breasts. They stand there, still pretty and pert if no longer completely gravity defiant, yet they mostly resemble two blinding high beam headlights against the gentle spring tan of the rest of my skin.
Why is it, I thought, that when Justin takes his shirt off at night, he doesn’t need to bear the burden of nipples brightly highlighted by the pasty white triangles of his bikini covered skin?
My friend Ava was flustered. “You won’t believe what happened at the base pool,” she said. She’d recently given birth to twin boys and was somehow managing to maintain a breastfeeding regimen for both of them. It wasn’t uncommon to find a baby attached to Ava’s breast throughout most of the day because it turns out keeping an infant nourished — or in her case two infants — is a hell of a lot of work. Apparently she was doing that, nourishing one of her infants, covered, at the base pool, when a lifeguard asked her to stop. Incredulous, she looked around at the other women there who were scantily clad in tiny bikinis, and then at many of the men baring even more. Stomaches spilled over the top of swim trunk elastic, tattoos were exposed, freckles speckled shoulders, and zits spackled backs.
It’s the human condition, my friends. Un-airbrushed and hairy.
And of course totally acceptable. Ava wondered how that was less offensive than her feeding her child.
And I have to wonder, too.
I suggested Ava buy a couple of these adorable little breast beanies for the twins to wear when she’s breastfeeding or just, you know, all of the time so we could start desensitizing the masses. This seller carries them in multiple skin tones.
Like, for real. You can tell me. Is it a nipple thing? I thought so at first, but then I realized men can flash those puppies around all day long and no one cares. Then I thought maybe it was the feeding action — her utilizing a part of her body for the very thing for which it was biologically intended that somehow offended, but it occurred to me that even if she didn’t have a child to feed and had just wanted to lie there and soak in some even sun exposure without inducing the high beam effect, the fact is that here in the U.S. at least, it’s just not done.
“You’re going to nude beaches in Spain?” people would ask. “With your sister-in-law?” they squealed. “And her boyfriend?” Incredulity. It’s a pandemic.
Fear of exposed female breasts is likely a cultural issue derived from a country settled by puritans. Just as it’s culturally accepted in some parts of the world to physically deform clavicle bones with heavy rings and in other parts of the world to eat dinner with your fingers, a practice has to be common before it’s no longer noticeable.
The fact of the matter is, not everyone in the world views female toplessness as taboo. Or even nakedness in general. And while I only had the courage to slip my bottoms off once, under water, for about 7 seconds, the truth is that it didn’t take long for me to get used to the idea of letting the girls fly free. It felt so much better. Less sweaty. More breezy. And a helluva lot more fair. Neither Justin nor I brought souvenir headlights home from the Balearic Islands.
But I Don’t Want To See That
The biggest excuse I hear against female breast exposure is, “But what if she’s… you know… well endowed? And like… they’re just hanging there, you know? It’s gross. I don’t want to see that.”
Well guess what?
There are a whole lot of things in this world that I don’t want to see but have been exposed to against my will at some time or another, the least mentally burdensome of which is a low-hanging pair of mammary glands. I didn’t want to see poverty in Georgia. Or my dog die when I was 13. And I certainly didn’t want to see what’s really inside a chicken nugget, but you know what? Like in the case of the nugget, I’m fortunate enough to have the human ability to selectively choose ignorance, despite what I’ve seen.
Remember that time Chef Jamie Oliver showed those kids the disgusting truth about nuggets and they WANTED TO EAT THEM ANYWAY?
It’s a beautiful thing.
Speaking of beautiful things, unchecked judgement and ridicule of another person’s body is one of the ugliest things about being human.
But I DO Want To See That
The other big excuse is the hypersexualized status the breast has reached in this country. It’s not just breasts, it’s OMG BOOBIES!!!! “I don’t want my small child or teenage son to see that at the beach!” mothers scoff. Indignance. Yet another ‘tude they probably need to invent a pill for.
Well guess what?
Your small child doesn’t see breasts and think, “BOOBIES!!!” He sees breasts and thinks, “LUNCH!” Or, if he wasn’t breastfed, he thinks nothing. Because he hasn’t learned to sexualize that part of the female anatomy yet. And if your heterosexual teenage son hasn’t yet seen a pair of breasts in a magazine or on HBO or in the real, pasty-white flesh, HE’S LYING TO YOU. Probably because you’re indignant. And also selectively ignorant. (See “But I Don’t Want To See That” above.)
This type of mentality is the same as banning girls from wearing tank tops to school because it might distract the boys. It’s ludicrous, and here’s why: When they grow up and gradumatate, boys are going to see all kinds of things in the world that might make them feel lustful — a low-cut top, a high-cut skirt, and maybe even a set of real life breasts at a nude beach in Spain. And if you think they’re incapable of learning how to control themselves as teenagers, by that same logic they will not be able to control themselves as adults. And that, you guys, is how rape culture is born. It’s why “Her breasts made me do it” actually sounds like a viable excuse to some men today.
I think that all of us are better than that.
If I saw shirtless Channing Tatum washing his car in his driveway, sweat dripping off of his freshly waxed chest while the water runs down the hood of his freshly waxed sports car, society and general decency would dictate that I manage to control the urge to plaster myself to his muscular back and instead just keep walkin’. Is it really too much to hold men to the same standard?
I’m supposed to control myself how? And what if he’s holding a PUPPY?
The only real way to overcome the naughtiness of it all is to make it mainstream. Normal. Not that big of a deal.
I’m not saying the top half of women’s bodies should be completely desexualized and I should be allowed to walk around Nordstrom Rack without a shirt on. All I’m asking for the right to bare my female breasts in all of the same places a male can bare his man breasts. It’s a double-standard, and no one should be okay with that.
I’m also asking that, occasionally, female breast exposure be allowed even where a man’s typically isn’t. Like if a breastfeeding mama happens to let a nipple slip at a restaurant or party even though she’s remained mostly conscientious of staying covered under the “no shirt no shoes” umbrella, she shouldn’t be persecuted or made to feel dirty. And she certainly shouldn’t be relegated to isolating herself in a bedroom or cold bathroom stall like she has some kind of disease.
This is America, guys. Land of opportunity. Of freedoms. Of hopefully, one day, equality.
This is about the right to bare breasts.
Who’s with me?
It annoys me how poorly people treat those who are breastfeeding, especially since it’s illegal in the US to ask someone to stop or leave, even if they’re in a restaurant or other private property. Check out #freethenipple, there’s some cool stuff happening there, as well as bikini tops in multiple skin tones to look like bare breasts. It’s crazy that we’re fine with women’s nudity, as long as men and corporations are in control of it.
I had no idea it was illegal to ask someone to stop! Someone on my FB page wrote that until a month or so ago, it was illegal in Virginia to breast feed in public unless it was state or federal land. Whaaaat? So apparently women still need to be leery of state laws in some cases.
Love the bikini top idea as a means to defiance, but really. It still negates the joy of letting ’em loose, which I think, en masse, is the only way for this country to get over itself. I love #freethenipple though! Although I’ve seen some things get extreme… public decency still counts when it comes to toplessness — for both women AND men — in certain locales. :)
Oh snap. You know that it’s ILLEGAL to not allow a woman to breastfeed in public. I won’t even get started on how wrong that lifeguard was. While we’re on the subject – how bout this: http://www.airforcetimes.com/story/military/2015/04/23/breastfeeding-policy-rescinded-mountain-home-air-force-base-idaho/26242121/
For me, wearing a cover while nursing Riley in Costa Rica… I WAS the freak. NO ONE covered up there, I literally had people lift the cover off to check out the baby. Boobs are a body part people! Maybe if Ava had put on some nipple tassels no one would have been bothered.
I seriously had no idea! Except I said to Delia above that someone on my Facebook page said that until a month ago it was illegal to publicly breastfeed in Virginia unless it was state or federal land! Wtf? Smart of that base to rescind. It’s time for people — especially the military — to get with the current times.
IF I ever do have a kid, by the way, I’ll keep your nipple tassel idea in mind. ;)
Ugggg…I just don’t get what the big deal about breastfeeding is. They had to make a law to make it ok to do the the most natural thing on earth? You don’t even see the boobs when you are feeding….people are so funny. NOW…back to the lifeguard. Why do those guys think they can boss us women around?!!?!? My little story also relates to feeding my kids and the lifeguard. In my case, the older Italian lifeguard caught me feeding me kids some sandwiches and then letting them go swim. Ha, ha, ha….this guy! He saw the kids jump in the pool and turned around: “Signorrrrraaaa…..did your kids just finish eating?” Me: “yes…why?” And of course I had a huge smile on my face trying to contain my laughter, because I knew where he was headed. Yes…this guy told me they had to wait TWO HOURS before swimming after eating. I mean..these kids were just jumping around in the water, not swimming laps. Anyway…I let the kids stay in the pool and that man was SOOOO mad at me. Ha, ha, ha…..lifeguards!
No kidding right? It’s only something that women have been doing since… um… they were human? It’s crazy. And how nuts of that lifeguard! Two hours is crazy! The rule is because you might cramp. Your kids are not going to cramp if they’re not actually swimming and just playing in the shallow end, plus you were watching them. Yeesh. I grew up with a pool and there are MUCH scarier things to worry about than your kid getting a cramp after eating. That’s much more likely to happen to us adults. ;)
Hi Katie!!! Yes….the breast feeding thing is super weird. I will never understand the problem. EVER….people are so funny. And yes…back to Mr. Italian lifeguard…he was an older guy…and for sure the older Italian men love to boss me around. Anyway…when I was young, we had that 1 hour rule too, (because of the cramp thing), but my mother always ignored it and let us play in the beach or pool and we were fine. To be honest, I let my kid have a snack in the car on the way to his swim class where he DOES swim laps and he has never even had a tummy ache. I have tried to explain this to many Italians, but are not buying it. (Specially the older men). But then again, I live in a country where a “shot of air” to your neck could kill ya. Ha, ha, ha…Anyway..have a good weekend!
ugh. agreed and agreed. I have never understood this whole dilemma. First of all – men SEEK out naked breasts as a huge part of their life. They have no issues when they’re on a 5’11 beanpole model, but on a breastfeeding mom? naw.
Secondly, I have also embraced my 32 year old pooch in lieu of children, and ya know what? It ain’t so bad :) But the girls… they do get pretty pasty. But ya know what’s worse? Those hairy AND zitty backs. The combo is devastating. To my eyes.
Haha! YES! I’d rather see boobs than hairy zit backs at the beach. Time to start making men wear shirts. ;)