Breasts, Cleavage and Feminism

The other day, Emma Watson was under fire for a picture she had posed for were she showed quite a bit of cleavage. As the interview stated, she could not be a feminist if she was wearing something like this.  This was her response:

 

It’s an odd paradox. Feminism is surely something that is supposed to bring people together especially women, and celebrate sisterhood but why is it so often something we use to judge others and be criticize of HOW we try for this to happen?

Females are judged on a separate scale to men. Men can happily run around in running shorts bare chested and no one will blink an eye, but women are immediately judged by their appearance because it is the very thing they are defined by.

As a girl with big breasts, the subject resonates especially hard for me. I feel constantly judged and slut shamed for wearing any outfit especially if it shows cleavage. A couple of years back I had a facebook photograph of myself that I liked my smile. However people thought it was ” Slutty” and were ” Shocked” at it and asked for me to take it down.

me march

On another occasion I had a photograph of myself at the beach in a dress.  Someone joked at how ” booby” I looked and tried to mock it, despite the fact that there are countless pictures of them in tiny bikinis. It seems the double standard is clear : If you have big breasts you aren’t allowed to show in a dress, you should never run and you should be cognizant at all times of how to sit stand lean or bend down.

I am constantly finding that women are ” Horrified” if I wear a dress with cleavage, or if I bend down or even stand a certain way. Often when I was younger I would make sure I would disappear in my shirts and wear as many scarves as possible. I would purposely look unflattering so as not to offend. It took me a long time to realize that what I wear does not mean I am not responsible of how others feel about it and in many ways this is a direct result of the rape culture we live in.

Last summer I was talking to a friend of mine and I came out in a jumpsuit I was particularly proud of since it cost me seven dollars. We were talking about assault, as I told her some of my painful stories of men following me in the streets. She told me ” Well maybe it was what you were wearing or the vibe you gave out … I mean after all that gives attention”. The idea that, somehow what I wear makes me responsible of a man harrassing me and stalking me, calling me names and even grabbing me and making me fear for my safety is ludicrous. What we should wonder more is WHY this happens to so many women, why so many men think this behavior is acceptable.

Breasts are a topic that make people uncomfortable , which is absurd because the very reason they exist are not even for sexual reasons but for lifegiving ones that celebrates motherhood. We distort this ideal to think that breasts are not only just sexual, but somehow belong to others. Having big breasts mean you get a lot of unwarranted attention, or made to feel guilty because somehow you want to feel nice. It makes you feel defensive that someone who is genuinely interested in you might have ulterior motives to do with your chest. The problem is not that it’s a nice feature to have, the problem is that it is something we are taught to be ashamed of and worse, it is not something that belongs to us. Somehow , because one has big breasts, we have to be judged by some other insane standard.

As the BBC article states

Ms Smethers says: “The real issue about all of this is the pressure on young women to look a certain way, to be judged on their appearance so if we are going to focus on anything that’s what I would be more concerned to be prioritised.”

Dr Mackay questions why the debate has been reduced to a celebrity exposing her breasts rather than issues such as women’s economic positions and cuts to women’s services

One time I was temping where I had to proctor a police entrance  exam. They told us to go in our best possible dress, as it was winter I went in a basic sweater dress. I had a jacket in my ammunition as well as a scarf in case it was needed. The other temp was a man who came in a rumpled shirt and khaki pants with a coffee stain on it. The first hour at 6 am I went with the woman in charge to take out the exams. She too was wearing a sweater dress. I went to the bathroom and by then most of the men were there to take the exam. There was another woman there and she was giving me a dirty look. The first woman said  ” I need to talk to you, you need to leave…” . I was perplexed. What had I done? SHe told me ” Please you know what you are doing”. When I told her if my dress was too insulting I had a scarf I could wear to cover myself up if that was necessary. She said ” Just leave you are making a scene”. Meanwhile the man who came in completely unkempt was allowed to stay, later on they accused me of not ” being professional”.  I sent a photograph of what I was wearing as proof that there was nothing much wrong with it. I got my check. Here’s the dress I wore:

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The point of that story is to say that somehow someone’s standard is different just because you are built differently.  Instead of focusing on what we wear we should focus on someone’s character, their personality and who they are as a person. There are plenty of issues we have to fight for including wage gap, lack of education, rape culture, violence against women among many other topics. Yet, somehow, it’s easier to focus on what we can control which is what someone wears and how they conduct themselves. Meanwhile, women throughout the world are going through horrific abuse and the very real issue of male privilege is still altogether prevalent. What women wear is the least of our worries.

While we all have standards of modesty, judging others and belittling them is not acceptable either. We waste far too much time focusing on externalized notions of what it means to be a woman and not enough time focusing on educating everyone on redefining womanhood.  Ultimately, having the freedom to make decisions- even bad ones- is what freedom of choice is. I’m not going to be ashamed of what I look like, and I am done feel responsible for other’s judgement or aggression. What matters to me is that I feel comfortable in my own skin, the only one who can truly judge is God and myself and that I am doing my utmost to help younger girls in low income situations become the best person they can be .I want them to look up to me not because of what I wear or who I am with but how we can all become active agents of change.

 

 

The Chubby Mermaid and the Scarecrow

As a pisces, I have always been attracted to water. There is something altogether peaceful and soothing about immersing myself into the ocean. I always ended up close to water, be it the pond by my Grandparent’s house, the ocean that is 20 minutes away from my mother’s house, the still swan and lake in Chertsey. Feeling water around me helps me to submerge into my surroundings. The sound of the water, the feel of it in my toes and the smells transport me away. Most of . my memories were with water.

As a child I was also quite fearless, disappearing into busy streets and going off into malls by myself. It was no surprise that I took to water quickly and learned how to swim. Even when water can become deadly, like the time I twisted into a whirlpool in the ocean in Tenerife, water has never been anything that I feared. When I am without it, I feel desolate and dry.  I was convinced, therefore, when I was seven that I truly was born a mermaid but somehow I had been stranded on bare land. I dreamed of going back in the ocean and my favorite story was that of the Little Mermaid, even if the fairy tale was quite sad.

My parent’s friends Carol and Andrew came to live in El Salvador a year after we moved. They were larger than life, but their son was tiny and skinny with large tufts of hair never quite placed in the right way. He reminded me of a scarecrow, and we spent some time in our childhood making up stories of my cat being sent to the moon. However, I was independent and thought boys were annoying so I often ditched him to explore on my own.

One day, we went to the beach. The beach in Atami is riddled with rocks and black sand. There is a huge drop to the beach as the resort is placed far above it and one of the most popular things to do was to frequent the water slide.

Another interesting part of the beach in El Salvador was a rocky salt water pool. The giant rock stood high above the beach but when high tide came the water would change. This pool changed it’s depth anytime high tide came making it go from a shallow pool to a deeper one in a matter of seconds. It was more than a little dangerous, being that you could easily be swept up to your death with the tide reaching the beach and falling to your death. There wasn’t any lifeguards or anyone safeguarding them, which in retrospect is more than a little baffling.

Carol was watching us from the pier as we went into the pool and neither Jason nor Carol could swim. But Jason insisted on going where I was going, and me being a chubby mermaid and him being a tiny scarecrow it was hardly a good idea.  At first the pool was great, the salt water and the slippery rocks and warm water was extremely relaxing.  You couldn’t even see the shore, as Atami rock pool was almost going past the tide.

Atami Escape Resort

I grew bored of the pool so eventually  I walked away from it. I was sort of far away when I heard a commotion. Jason, who was tiny and skinny and white was flailing in the water. The waves had come in making the pool far deeper. His little stick arms were flailing desperately back and forth yet everyone was just standing around looking and not helping.  I ran past them figuring at least someone would help but Carol could only try and go in somewhat. Without thinking, I jumped into the water. I remember seeing Jason fall into the deep, his white form like a ghost , I remember the force of the tides and I remember grabbing him out of there. Luckily he was lucid enough that he didn’t require CPR.

It seems interesting this story, because it was the closest I came to death but I also remember it clearly for everyone was waiting for someone else to save him.