Baring the Female Breasts: Beyond Objectification

There is so much more to a woman’s relationship to her breasts than meets the naked eye. In this post, I am thrilled to have two of my favorite bloggers, KS of Kosher Adobo and Jennifer Berney of Goodnight Already, joining me as we pay homage to this most famous of feminine body parts.

Two Tahitian Women by Paul Gauguin http://tinyurl.com/ocvkvkc (Wikimedia Commons)

CHERRY

I am a junior in boarding school. Behind me is a “Save Sex” poster and a perfume ad: “Femme Fatale: When the female of the species is more dangerous than the male.” It’s the night before the first day of school. I am tugging on the neck of my shirt, admiring my bra strap. Every bra I owned just a year before was white or beige, looking more like bandages for my then AA breasts. But this 36B brassiere, red and lined with lace, which I bought with my mom, was bold, and I want to show it off. In a girls’ dorm after lights out was the safest place to share my joy. Check out my new bra, I say, lifting my shirt for N., who took me to Victoria’s Secret for the first time.  N. owns silky negligees and has more experience than I, but she delights with me, anyway. Having grown up with sisters, these female friendships are as natural as breathing. Beautiful, she says.

I loved the curves of my changing body.  It was expanding, taking up room, and it was exciting. I wanted to make out with the world – but I didn’t want anyone to put his hand up my flannel shirt. (Or maybe I did but I hadn’t fallen in love, yet, much less kissed a boy.)

Though I couldn’t express it, then, that first red brassiere became one of my earliest lessons in femininity and self-acceptance. When I think about who I was at sixteen, I imagine a woman, who would be ready for love and men someday, but, until then, she could keep whatever it was – her breasts, her secrets – her own. She would find beauty in her own reflection and in other women’s eyes.

KS is a textbook TCK who was born in the Philippines, raised in Saudi Arabia, and has lived in New England, USA, for the last twenty years. She writes about her intercultural marriage, diversity, and reproductive health on her blog Kosher Adobo.

 

THE USEFUL BREAST  

Once, at a crowded farmers market, an acquaintance of mine broke from our conversation to pull one of her breasts out of the top of her sundress and nurse her infant daughter. Though I tried not to react, I could not hide my alarm. I approved of public breastfeeding, but did she have to make it a spectacle?

As I prepared to welcome a baby, my own approach to public breastfeeding was to conceal as much as possible. I ordered nursing tank tops, nursing shirts, and a hand-made nursing cover—a small curtain that ties around a mother’s neck, designed to hide both her breasts and her baby. Why wouldn’t everyone use these? I wondered.

My son arrived, and our early days together included meandering walks where he would nap against me and wake up, hungry, the moment I settled down at a café. As it turned out, the nursing cover wasn’t so helpful; I actually needed to see my nipple to align it with my newborn’s mouth. And once he had latched I did not want to cover him with fabric. I wanted to see his eyes and his soft whorl of hair. The café was a friendly place, but still, I overheard strangers refer to me as “that woman over there who is breastfeeding.” It didn’t matter that my breast was hidden by my shirt—I was still a spectacle.

I wish that we could learn to recognize the utility of a breast in the same way we recognize the utility of a hand.  Bared in the bedroom, or half hidden beneath lace, of course breasts hold erotic allure. But just as I must sometimes remove my gloves to find my keys or write a check, I must sometimes lift my shirt and unhook my bra to perform the serious task of feeding my child.

Jennifer Berney lives in Olympia, Washington with her partner and two sons. She blogs at Goodnight Already

 

LOVING MY BREASTS

If my breasts could talk, they would tell me that they like it when I show a little cleavage. Give us a bit of sunlight, let that heat tickle our skin! I’m tenderer with my breasts than I used to be—unwilling to use them to be objectified; more eager to self-savor the sight of them, ripened and full as they peek over t-shirts or hang naked before the mirror. And underwire… my breasts love underwire!

At my last medical appointment, the doctor asked if I knew whether the breast cancer gene runs in the family—we do have a history. No, I replied. Well, maybe you should find out, she said.

My first thought was Angelina Jolie and her mastectomy, reconstruction—two procedures that, even with insurance, I cannot afford. But would I want to if I knew the odds were stacked against me? To lose my breasts, whether by choice or because I must, would be devastating. I’ll take my chances, I tell the doctor. Then again, maybe if I had children, like Angelina, I too would choose differently.

My breasts aren’t that sensitive when it comes to physical sensation—at least not like what you read in romance novels where a suck, a flick, a lick can elicit moans of ecstasy. When I was younger I would pretend all that, worried about what it might say about me if I didn’t make some noise.

These days, my breasts will settle for nothing less than real pleasure even if it means sometimes feeling nothing. Because my breasts, like the rest of me, are no longer afraid to demand tenderness… a little roughness…whatever they need. My breasts know that their worth doesn’t depend on looking good or putting on a show.

My breasts, with their ability to feed a life, are their own kind of superpower.

Diahann Reyes is a freelance writer and performer. She lives in Los Angeles and blogs at Stories from the Belly: A Blog About the Female Body and Its Appetites.

 


287 Comments on “Baring the Female Breasts: Beyond Objectification”

  1. Atrakcyjna kobieta na odpowiednim miejscu !

  2. Thea says:

    I just wanted to say, that was beautiful.
    I dream of having children one day soon, and dearly hope I have the bravery to breastfeed in public without worrying about the people staring.

  3. Bravo for ‘baring all’ and posting on a subject that’s been objectified so much, for so long, that their glory has become hidden. I remember vividly when, at 11, I realized my breasts were starting to be…breasts. I literally sank to my knees and thanked God. They seemed like a miracle. And 15 years later, they were just as much a miracle when I breastfed my first child an hour after she was born. Beautiful writing in these three posts – thanks for opening the subject.

    • diahannreyes says:

      Thank you, Pam. It has been really glorious to see the three pieces together and the organic honoring of the breasts that came through. I love the image of you dropping to your knees and thanking God for your breasts.

  4. 2good4u2c says:

    Reblogged this on 2good4u2c and commented:
    A beautiful read

  5. Beautiful piece ,hell lot proud to be a woman!

  6. Dara says:

    Interesting post. It feels like there is still a very long way to go before a large section of society will move on from the incessant adolescent sexualisation of women’s bodies. Advertising, movies/TV and music all have to hold their hands up and admit that the objectification of breast and other body parts only seldom enhances anything to do with art or product. It’s lazy, it’s dishonest, it’s manipulative and it continues to be incredibly damaging and divisive.

    Women can still be liked, loved and desired in every possible way without reducing them to a pertness index for mainstream approval.

    Thanks for posting.

    • diahannreyes says:

      “Women can still be liked, loved and desired in every possible way without reducing them to a pertness index for mainstream approval.” Well said, Dara.

      I do believe there is progress in that people are becoming more aware that the objectification exists- as opposed to par for the course. And I agree- there is still a long way to go!

  7. This a wonderful piece. Thank you for sharing. I am new to blogging and I am writing about the issues we are facing as women. Check it my blog sometime and give some feedback. I would like to hear your opinion. The link is below:

    https://observationproclamation.wordpress.com/

  8. rohanmehta26 says:

    Great read! Keep up the work

  9. Lawren L. says:

    Reblogged this on Lawren Lipscomb and commented:
    Interesting read!

  10. ltina202 says:

    Reblogged this on tinaness202.

  11. filemissile says:

    Thank you
    Fantastic Blog
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  12. Reblogged this on Deserted Sunflowers and commented:
    Beautiful…

  13. Elo says:

    This is a wonderful piece – as a well endowed woman I have gone through my own hate-love relationship with my breasts and while I talk about them in my writing you have just inspired me to write an ode to my most precious breasts. Thanks so much 🙂

    • diahannreyes says:

      Thank you, Elo. I definitely was struck by the potency of seeing the three pieces by the three of us side by side. I look forward to reading your ode to your breasts on your blog.

  14. An Activist Abroad says:

    Absolutely beautiful, many thanks for sharing these wonderful thoughts on breasts. I

  15. Reblogged this on Off The Shelves and commented:
    A wonderful blog post that I believe everybody should read. And in the comments, blogger ‘Dara’ writes –

    “Interesting post. It feels like there is still a very long way to go before a large section of society will move on from the incessant adolescent sexualisation of women’s bodies. Advertising, movies/TV and music all have to hold their hands up and admit that the objectification of breast and other body parts only seldom enhances anything to do with art or product. It’s lazy, it’s dishonest, it’s manipulative and it continues to be incredibly damaging and divisive.

    Women can still be liked, loved and desired in every possible way without reducing them to a pertness index for mainstream approval.”

    A refreshing article to read with some really insightful comments; much more appreciated than the usual barrage of trolls you see commenting on similar Facebook posts.

    • diahannreyes says:

      Thanks so much for sharing with our readers. I agree that the comments also added much richness. It’s not about not talking about/enjoying our bodies but getting to do so without their objectification. And based on mostly everyone’s affirming responses, it sounds like this is a collective need!

  16. […] read here.) Would a “real” feminist enjoy wearing tank tops that show off her cleavage? (The answer to that is […]

  17. […] theme, multiple perspectives: Stories From the Belly writer Diahann Reyes invited two of her favorite bloggers, KS of Kosher Adobo and Jennifer […]

  18. reocochran says:

    Did we start connecting when I wrote about how many art pieces where Mother Mary was nursing her baby Jesus were either hidden or destroyed, Diahann? I wrote a post awhile ago and was appallef. It made the whole beautiful story sad for me. Take care and enjoy your Sunday! 🙂

  19. sincerelythenorm says:

    Reblogged this on passionlovehappiness-.

  20. […] at Stories From the Belly invited two of her favorite bloggers to contribute to a post on “baring the female breasts.” When you think of someone, reach out via their contact page. If they don’t offer a […]


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