Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Baffled About Breasts

Unless you've been living under a rock for the last decade, you probably remember seeing this lovely little dress. On national television.

And who can forget this? I'll spare you the image of what came next. Whether you were offended or not, it just wasn't pretty.

No doubt you've seen something like this or this in all kinds of public places. Museums, restaurants, schools, churches.

And you can always find these anywhere near water.

When it's very public, as it was in the first two instances, many people are offended. They write angry letters. Conservative action groups chime in with cries of "Off with their heads!"

But even those who are offended are usually glad to let these things blow over.

When the skin-baring is right in front of us, we wouldn't dream of saying a word. Especially not to the person's face.

That would be rude.

First of all, it's none of our business.

And it's just a little skin, right? They have a right to express themselves.

And what's wrong with being sexy?

Truly, the extent to which the female body is exposed and exploited in our society is staggering.

We're exposed to a mind-numbing daily stream of skin.

Breasts, it seems, make cameras especially happy.

Breasts are really very useful. Add a little cleavage and you can sell anything.


Those breasts are quite versatile.

And lucrative!

Ask any advertising exec. A couple of double D's can come in really handy.

Most of us go placidly and unquestioningly along with all of this.

That's just the way it is.

Many would argue that the baring of skin and a fascination with the nude female body is hardly a modern, western phenomenon.

And they'd be absolutely right.

From the dawn of time the body of the female, the goddess, has been painted, sculpted, passionately honored and adored.

The earliest societies were filled with images of the nude female.

And most of those societies went far beyond our level of fascination. They worshipped the female body outright.

Some might bandy the word "worship" around when describing our society's current attitude toward women's bodies.

They'd be wrong.

There's a vast difference between worship and fixation, between appreciation and exploitation.

Once upon a time, both men and women held an endless sense of awe and gratitude for all that a woman's body could do. Intimacy was sacred. There was deep adoration and reverence for a woman's ability to bring forth and nurture life.

Last month, a woman named Emily Gillette found out just how much attitudes have changed over the centuries.

Apparently this is a perfectly acceptable way to associate breasts with food.

But this is offensive, inappropriate and disgusting. Grounds for being asked to leave an airplane.

You see, as a society, we are mostly interested in what a woman's body looks like and what that kind of eye candy can sell for us, or do for us, especially for men.

And that has turned a woman's body from something sacred to an object of either passion or disdain.

We can see a woman's body as dirty or lucrative, provocative or beautiful.

But many of us are completely incapable of seeing a nursing breast, whether covered or not, as amazing, nourishing and worthy of simple respect.

I'm astonished at how far we've come.

And I'd like to think that we're better than this.


Anonymous said...

Right on Mama. It's absurd that we even need to address situation like this.

Anonymous said...

The way I see it we don't in fact honour the breast enough. God forbid we show a nipple on television! But blood oozing from the head of a body on a sidewalk is commonplace. I can scarcely allow the television to be on in our house past 5 pm for fear of someone being blown up, shot or beaten. But I would gladly allow my 3 year old to see a breast. This, however, is the offensive sight that the networks have decided to make sure we don't even catch a glimpse of. And what kind of message is that sending us. They even blur out a bit of butt crack on Survivor. Hmmm. Food for thought......

Anonymous said...

I never understand why nursing is so looked on as obscene. Seriously. Oh well, I didn't care- I nursed Nathan everywhere- even at a restaurant in Disney. Though, I dorned a blanket because I had no desire to see anyone elses' breasts, so I kept myself covered- but sheeesh- people worry too much.

Jonathan said...

I agree, 100%. Men are lazy and useless and women are sex idols. At least that is what they tell us in "the media". Even commercials on TV are often worse than some of the TV programs that are presented to us.

Velda said...

I remember being at a restaurant where more than a few young ladies wore low cut tops, but I had to feed my hungry baby in a bathroom stall. Maybe Carl's Junior will start making commercials of hot sexy mammas feeding their babies while enjoying a burger... "How to spend that extra 600 calories you get while breastfeeding"

As for the blanket issue on the plane, my babies hated being covered by a blanket while they were eating (probably because I didn't use a blanket at home). And I just wonder if a flight attendant would -ever- hand a blanket to a passenger that was too scantily clad?

Heather said...

" Maybe Carl's Junior will start making commercials of hot sexy mammas feeding their babies while enjoying a burger... "How to spend that extra 600 calories you get while breastfeeding""

Velda, I thank you. I haven't laughed this hard in a LONG time!

Velda said...

Somehow I can't help but imagine them dribbling the condiments all over their poor children.

Natalie Burwell said...

I am glad that there are still those who believe beauty can be natural and does not have to be plastic, airbrushed or bone thin. Maybe one day, the small number of us who think that the world should go back to appreciating and respecting instead of exploiting, will become the majority and it will then make a difference. Maybe one day... Thank you for posting the article. I am bookmarking it for inspiration :)