Whatever you want to call them, breasts are a funny thing. We are obsessed with them; their size, their ability to stick out of tops, their uncanny knack of popping up in a car ad. They are like little bouncy space hoppers bouncing around our magazines and advertising boards. They’re either too big, too small, too saggy or just too weird looking (you know who you are…)
As a society we have a very confusing relationship with them, we are full of mixed messages and contradictions. I personally got along quite happily without mine until sometime in my teens when I gradually realised that people no longer looked me in the eye. That was the start of a love-hate relationship that mainly consisted of hate for the next ten years or so. Tolerable on most days, hated on others, in the winter they made my jumpers look awkward and meant I couldn’t fasten my coat up properly, and in the summer they prevented me from wearing little vesty tops with no bra whilst playing volley ball. Clothes that look quite classy and stylish on the hanger can look positively indecent once these babies are stuffed inside them. From Audrey Hepburn to page three lovely in one swish of the changing room curtain.
People assume certain things about women with big breasts and you need to be pretty thick skinned to be able to carry off such a huge statement. And there are no role models. In books and films you never get a serious/interesting/clever character with big bababbas; they are always the flighty one, the ditsy secretary, the femme fatale. If a character has big breasts then that is what she is, there’s no room for anything else in her personality. If a character is going to be murdered, it’ll be the one with the double-d’s.
I can’t think of a male equivalent, because men aren’t judged in the same way that women are. I was going to say that men wouldn’t like it if women stared constantly at their groin area, but then thought that maybe quite a few of them would. I might try shouting, ‘Oy! Get your cock out for the girls!’ at a man as he’s walking down the street with his kids. Or maybe I should stare pointedly at a man’s crotch and then ask if I can rest my head on it, telling him that you don’t get many of those to the pound. (Yes, I’ve had these things, and more, said to me). Me and my breasts have arrived at a bit of a truce now where we can both inhabit the same body without any conflict and I’m not saying that you shouldn’t look at a person’s breasts, ever, I can appreciate a nice looking cleavage as much as the next person, but just don’t assume that’s all that person is.
The paradox of breasts means that it’s perfectly acceptable to have them displayed across advertising boards if they are trying to sell us a lipstick, but then people, and that includes men and women, take offence at the sight of a woman breastfeeding in public, as if to say ‘How dare you?’ Don’t you know that breasts are sacred?!’ They are all about the sex.
October is Breast Cancer Awareness month. Sadly, most of us know someone who is either dealing with it, or has dealt with it at some point and it is still the second biggest cause of death from cancer in women, young and old. According to the results of a recent survey, half of the women questioned don’t check their breasts, and a third of them have never spoken to their daughters about it so there’s no doubt that we definitely need to raise awareness. What worries me though is the way this is being done.
At the moment you can buy everything in bright pink; wristbands, t-shirts, even condoms and vibrators. But how does this help? It feels like a great big marketing scam and makes me feel uncomfortable in the same way that things like Comic Relief do. People buy a pink wristband, or give some money to a man in a bear suit holding a bucket and that’s it, contribution done, you can go away and forget about it for another year feeling like a really good person.
Sunday October 13th is apparently No Bra Day where we are being encouraged to ‘set the tatas free’. Really? And this will help how? This reminds me of the women who have a picture of their cleavage as their twitter avi, again, in support of breast cancer. They’re not making a statement, they are alienating the very women who need to hear the message. I’m lucky enough to have never been through breast cancer, but I imagine that if I had, the last thing I would want to see would be women parading their healthy, non surgery-scarred breasts in front of me.
There is also a lovely slogan that says something like ‘I stare because I care’ and that just makes me want to slap somebody.
You could argue that all of this is still raising awareness, and that would be true, but I think that bombarding women with these mixed messages is damaging and missing the real issue. We need to educate women, talk to our daughters and remove some of the stigma associated with breasts.
So you go off and set your tatas free while drinking from a pink sports cup, brandishing your big pink vibrator while playing volleyball, but make sure that you also do something that really matters, not necessarily donating money, but by talking to each other and your children and your partners and your friends. And please, keep your bra on, you’ll have someone’ eye out.