05 June, 2009

Let's talk about breasts...

Partly inspired by the sublime Jenny Mac's post yesterday, I feel like it's time to get this off my chest (oh ho ho!)

Jenny Mac asked why so many people feel as if a woman's breasts are public property, and I completely understand her point of view. We're looking at the issue from different ends of the spectrum - I am underendowed in the boob department. Having grown up in a strongly matriarchal family as the only girl with less than a B-cup, I've long struggled with my 'lack' - since I was 15 and realised that I would not suddenly 'blossom', I have felt inadequate and, yes, unattractive. I spent hours looking at ways to increase my bust, researching lotions and potions and pills that promised to gift me a bosom. I thought long and hard about saving up for implants. I habitually wore a bra with padding so thick it could deflect bullets, wore slimy chicken fillets and tried to convince myself it was worth the discomfort to look like I had a chest.

It took me until I turned 20 to actually question why I felt so bad. I had always assumed that it was simply a consequence of being unlucky, and that I should feel bad. I remember being in Marks and Spencers, getting measured for the eleventy billionth time in the vain hope that I'd grown to a B-cup. I remember almost wanting to cry when, for the eleventy billionth time, the assistant proclaimed me to be a 30A. I was 20 years old and an A cup, and wanted to cry because of it. And, as I looked in the mirror, I remember thinking - "How did I ever let myself feel so awful about it?"

And then I really started thinking about it. From an early age, I was surrounded by propaganda telling me how my body should look. My parents read The Sun, and my main education about the adult female body came from those improbably proportioned women. My mum was, and still is, quite busty. I believed that a woman should have a large bust, and I was offered no evidence to suggest this might be otherwise. And with the advent of plastic surgery, the few small-busted women who might have been role models in terms of accepting myself showed that they could not accept theirselves, and voluntarily opted for risky, painful, invasive procedures in order to rid themselves of their inferior, smaller breasts.

And what's changed? Newspapers still champion the body beautiful, which is still impossibly contradictory - you must be slim, but not skinny. Curvy, but not fat. Busty, but without a hint of sag and certainly not fake. Tanned, but not orange. Tabloids happily print non-stories as long as they can punctuate it with pictures of women in their bras. Sometimes they fail to acknowledge smaller-busted women completely. Such is the public perception of complete ownership of a woman's breasts that, when a busty tennis player decided to have a breast reduction, a petition was immediately set up pleading with her to leave them be.

Breasts have become like kitchen appliances, or garden furniture. They are advertised in all of our tabloids, garishly displayed on Page 3 or in a 'hilarious' nipple slip article. We discuss a celebrity's breasts with complete disregard for the fact that they are part of her body - they might as well be detachable accessories. We criticise Keira Knightley for daring not to disguise her awful small breasts, we drool over cleavage like dogs over meat. Is it any wonder that I, and so many other small-busted young ladies grow up feeling as if we are not good enough?

Dubious metaphors aside, breasts really have become public property, and I hope I haven't come across as bashing my bigger-busted sisters as I completely understand their plight - it is assumed that they'll love the constant stares, comments, wolf whistles, yells of 'get 'em out!'. They are treated as spoilsports if they won't share their breasts with the world, and are treated as sluts if they do show any skin. Our plight is opposite, but inextricably linked: we see boob job adverts on the Tube to work, we're neglected by bra manufacturers. We're invisible next to our bustier friends. We're instructed at all corners to push up, to enhance, to pad out. In fact, the only thing we're not told to do is question: who really has the right to make us all, big busted or small busted, feel bad about the way we were born? Why do we continue to accept this almost fascist attitude to our bodies, to the point where we can't wear what we choose in fear of being judged or ridiculed? Why do we lay ourselves on the surgeon's slab and have bags pushed into our breasts because other people have decided we aren't good enough?

Isn't it time to take back our bodies?


  1. Well said!! You aren't dissing big busted ladies at all, just stating ALL women's issue in this area :). I want my body back too! I felt like a spoilsport, ungrateful even, last night. Amen to this blog!

  2. I could go on for days on this subject - it just breaks my heart to see so many women at war with their bodies simply because someone else has defined them as not good enough. Instead of obsessively dieting, pushing our boobs up and fake tanning 'til we look like Kilroy, shouldn't we be raising our collective middle fingers and saying 'what right do YOU have to decide I'm not good enough?'

  3. And as an addendum, re: you being a 'spoilsport' - we've been conditioned to believe that a sexual response is instantly something we should be happy to get, that we should be grateful to be found attractive regardless of whether we welcome the attention. And why should that be? As my mum used to say, 'an erection isn't the same thing as a compliment'.

    When we're praised for our minds, our intellects, our skills and talents above our flesh, then maybe I'll be a little more lighthearted the next time a builder makes a lewd comment about my arse ;)

  4. Typo alert: "ALMOST fascist attitude to our bodies"? lol

  5. I know... to be honest praise regarding my work, this blog, being funny and so on always, ALWAYS means more to me. Always has, despite having terrible issues at school due to (hilariously) no breasts, big glasses and bad skin.... Of course I want to look attractive to my boyf, but I don't feel he makes me do that at all. I want to because I just...want to haha!
    Interestingly the subject of this blog praised me as "very eloquent" on something I had written at work today. Maybe it was his way of apologising. It made me feel a bit better. :)

  6. When I was 15 my mum took me to buy padded bras and suggested I look into getting a breast enlargemnt on the NHS. It's a miracle I have grown up not giving a shit about my A cup! I actually threw my last padded bra away a few weeks ago, it felt brilliant :)

  7. who knows: yeah, I just felt I was courting the trolls - the 'almost' is my concession for a slightly easier life ;)

    Victoria - my mum also offered to save up for a breast enlargement for my 18th birthday. Lord knows what that did for my self esteem. I've stopped wearing padded bras too...it's really liberating!

  8. Just think ladies - no worries about sagging for you! There are advantages! I once had a dream I was about a B cup if that. I was actually a bit gutted when I woke up...


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