There’s a fascination with women’s breasts that goes back for millennia.
They’re vessels via which we feed our babies. So they’re important from a childrearing perspective. But other than fun to play with, they’re a body part that many times requires extra articles of clothing, whose level of importance is grossly overstated.
Why is it that society uses this body part to define so much of who we as women are? And more importantly, why do we continue to accept and play into it?
As kids, we’re fascinated with what the other sex looks like.
There’s a pure and natural, “you show me yours and I’ll show you mine.” But that applies more to our lower parts. When we’re young, from the waist up, we have pretty much the same anatomical makeup whether boy or girl. There’s not a lot of fascination there.
Except when you have stacks of Playboy and Penthouse magazines in the basement of the house you just moved into, as I did. Months of women’s perfectly formed breasts, scattered throughout the pages, waiting to be idealized.
My interest peaked even more when there were rumors that my fifth-grade math teacher had posed for Playboy. Miss Fitzpatrick was pretty, with long blonde hair, who wore crochet skirts and go-go boots. To have stacks of Playboy and Penthouse magazines at home in the basement was one thing. To have a teacher who was “chosen” was a whole other realm of cool.
How are we as women and girls held in high esteem, and what does it mean to be feminine?
As a young girl approaching puberty, it created a really confusing message. Especially confusing amidst ongoing sexual abuse.
When I think about it now, there was nothing feminine about those magazines. Rarely were the pictures in place to depict the whole woman on the page. As an adult, I know that wasn’t the point.
The objectification of me and my breasts began before the age of 10.
I’ve always been proud of my “girls.” Perky, well formed. A college boyfriend once referred to them as the perfect half-peach. Even through all this, I was never one to have them popping out of my shirt. I didn’t want to be objectified by them, which is odd when I was doing this all on my own. I wanted to be seen for me, while underneath I was judging myself against a false ideal of perfection and how I needed to be and be seen in the world.
It’s been said that you don’t need more than a mouthful. Myths float in the ethers that the first champagne coupe was modeled on Marie Antoinette’s left breast. While Marie may not have been the first, there have been many since.
It’s fascinating that we can imagine and have a visceral experience with the woman whose breast provided the shape of the glass from which we drink. Marketing on our emotions and deepest desires, while we empty our wallets.
Even as kids we had fun with breasts and food. Getting my mother to let me have the Land O’ Lakes butter box was a good as Christmas. There’s a cool trick the kids in the neighborhood learned, a simple creation that fed our fascination. The packaging changed, for good reasons. If you’ve never seen it, watch this.
Women have used their breasts to gain men’s favor for centuries. But now there’s a more perverse power dynamic. That in this day and age when women want equality, they’re still using body parts as leverage. I guess it all depends on what you really want.
A part of me is angry.
That so much of women’s status has been placed on the size and shape of a body part. That in our breast’s “perfection” we’re somehow seen as more or less worthy. That these are still the messages we’re teaching to our young girls. And that so many women continue to be influenced more deeply than they realize. How incredibly damaging this perception is that permeates our collective psyche.
I’ve been well aware of how society objectifies women. My career on Wall Street engrained those messages. What I didn’t realize is how much I’d subtly continued to objectify myself. I could be pissed that it took so long for me to see this aspect. And yet seeing it now is freeing up this old layer of the past. Sometimes the lessons we learn come out of left field, or in my case, a right breast.
It’s interesting, now in the waiting game, still with more questions than answers, I’m seeing how this energy played in my field all these years.
I’ve had mental images of my right breast removed, my chest flat in that area. Who will I be if I were to lose this breast? The same person I am now. Will someone love me less with one breast? The fear of this has come up. But the validity of who I am is in no way, shape or form tied a body part. Any potential partner who sees me as lesser-than has no place in my life.
In the past, the old thought patterns would have driven me to automatically elect reconstructive surgery. Now, probably not. It’s an incredibly personal decision and those who must make this choice do what feels right for them. I’m not sure I want something foreign in my body.
All of that energy put into how I saw myself, into my anatomy, can be further focused in a more positive direction. Inward to the essence of who I am. In an ironic way, it’s taken breast cancer for me to break these vestiges of the past.
As I contemplate what will happen, I’m connecting more deeply with my femininity. Gentler in thought and actions, softer clothes. Aspects of me that have been forgotten for a really long time.
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