body image

The World of Body Image: Boobs!

Following a recent fad called the Underboob Challenge, I started thinking about breasts. In case you missed it, the challenge involved women putting pens under their boobs, taking pictures and slapping them all over the internet. If the pen stayed under the breast, i.e. hands-free biro holding, then you could rest safe in the knowledge that your femininity was intact. Excuse me whilst I vomit.

I remember a time at school, before it was made into a social media fad, when it was a test to see if you should wear a bra. If the pen stuck, it proved that your boobs were big enough to get saggy and you had to act quickly before they reached your knees. I was barely a teenager and was already worrying that my boobs were too droopy. But now some smart arse has found a way to make it ‘empowering’ – the type of empowerment that tricks women into posting pictures of their knockers on the internet for all the pervy guys who want to wank over Bic’s under tits.

Do men really love big breasts? WHO CARES! It seems society has forgotten that our breasts are attached to our bodies, which contain brains and personalities. Breasts have become marketing tools to sell things from burgers, to cars, to beer. This has resulted in women’s breasts mainly being seen as sexual play things, made for men’s pleasure. People’s aversion to breastfeeding backs this idea up too; sexualized breasts all over magazines, on TV, even on billboards is fine but using them to feed babies? Eugh!

Whilst doing some boobie research I found lots of websites for rating breasts – one was called Boob Critic. The most worrying thing was that a lot of the pictures seem to be posted by men of their girlfriends, with a whole bunch of comments from random guys telling everyone the various places they’d like to put their manhood. I also found ‘Rate my Ex-girlfriend’ which is equally as gross – there’s a comment on this page which says: “I want to put my penis in your ex-girlfriend’s ear,” and that’s one of the nicer ones.

But there’s a lot of genuine appreciation of boobs, irrelevant of gender. They’re all soft and squidgy and lovely, and yes, it’s fun having boobs, but what’s the difference between someone admiring your breasts and ogling them. There’s a blurred line between sexiness and objectification, and I’m still torn over celebrities like Beyonce who have some great things to say about gender equality and feminism, but at the same time thrust various body parts around in order to make money.

I think it’s really about respect and control. Finding someone attractive and making them feel good about their body feels good if done respectfully, but taking a picture of your wife’s knockers and plastering them on a website is not a positive affirmation of respect and love for a partner (even if they get highly rated by strangers you don’t know). I don’t mean to blame the men because I realise that a lot of women will happily post bare-chested pictures of themselves, but I have to ask myself: why? Are they empowering themselves by doing that, or do they lack self-esteem and self-respect, looking for the approval of others to feel better about themselves? Only the person posting the pictures knows, and us disrespecting that person is not going to make them realise that.

Women are under conflicting pressures: we want to look attractive for the opposite sex but we want them to like us for who we are. If a girl decides to cover up on a first date instead of wearing one of her usual low cut tops, then she’s not being true to herself. I think that one of the main points about gender equality is that people of all genders have the equal right to make decisions about their bodies and what they wear.

It seems big breasts have always been a rather popular ideal, but it’s way more complex than that now. Women can be very critical when policing their own and other people’s breasts.

“Over a third of readers said a lack of perkiness was the main thing getting them down.

Exactly the same amount (one fifth) said they wanted to be bigger as said they wanted to be smaller.” – The Great British Boob Survey

So the Jordon look isn’t in fashion anymore, but that doesn’t mean there’s any less pressure on women to have perfect breasts; they need to have the right shape and perkiness. In fact, this goes beyond the breasts – it’s really about the chest/waist/hip ratio. If it was really all about big tits there’d be size 22 women modelling everywhere, but instead we often see pictures of ample-bosomed women with very slim waists. It’s setting a standard that’s even harder for women to meet. Having larger breasts often means you might have fat elsewhere in real life, but the media tells us we need to have the best of both – thin and large breasts – a look which people opt for plastic surgery in order to attain.

Some women say they have breast implants to feel ‘more confident’ or ‘normal.’ I’m sure there are a lot of people who are very happy with their implants, and I try not to judge what someone chooses to do to their own body. However, I would urge anyone thinking of getting surgery to consider if the two flaps of flesh on the front of your chest are really the root of the problem. Self-esteem is a hard thing to hold onto in today’s society and changing your breasts probably isn’t going to help in the long run.

Next time you have negative thoughts about your breasts, or any part of your body for that matter, try to remember that those thoughts are influenced by a whole life full of media consumption which skews the way we look at ourselves. Your breasts are just fine as they are.

– Mel Ciavucco
Author. Blogger. Screenwriter. Feminist. Likes cooking, yoga and cinema but not all at the same time.


2 thoughts on “The World of Body Image: Boobs!

  1. LOVE THIS! I especially love your point on how breasts are on OUR chests, but somehow communal property. I have never in my life got the pen to stick. From the first time I failed I thought maybe I should use the pen to write “Sorry my tits are so small as to be non-existent!” across the gaping void where I thought cleavage should be, because, you know, having a flat chest is an affront to womanhood. It never occurred to me that my breasts aren’t an offering on the altar of sexuality and are in fact just fat lumps on my chest that I’ve been socialized to believe MEAN SOMETHING. Loved this post! Great!


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