Friday, May 26, 2006

Boobs, Boobs everywhere!

Did anyone see the BBC programme "My Breasts and I" last night? It was excellent. There were a couple of dodgy moments when the presenter (Jenny Frost) got all shy about her breasts and explained that she happily poses (not topless) for lad mags but wouldn't expose her boobs for a documentary in case her family saw it. (?)

The segment on bare breasted women in New York was entertaining. A photographer was exploring people's responses to topless women going about their daily lives. He was trying to understand why some societies think its okay for men to wander around topless but not women. I often wonder this myself. I HATE seeing men walking along topless simply because I know that were I to do the same thing I would likely be arrested or worse. I digress. Just as I was starting to fume that all the women being snapped were perky breasted youngsters, out popped two of the largest bosoms ever, both pointing south and looking well used. I was thrilled to bits. I actually punched the air and shouted "YESSSSSSS!" We need to see those breasts. We need to know that those breasts are great.

My only experience so far with breast cancer was twenty five years ago when my lovely nana had a mastectomy. All I remember is not being able to cuddle her for months after the op. and I was always aware that she had a "funny" bra with an already filled cup to make her look "Normal". We did not discuss anything about how she felt about her body. I later found out that my Grandad had held her after her operation, looked at her scar and told her she was beautiful. Knowing this has coloured my opinion of mastectomy and reconstruction.

There was a very moving segment on breast cancer survivors and the effects of mastectomy and subsequent reconstruction. In my ignorance I had never even considered what happens if you want nipples that are a darker colour than the reconstructed breast (you can have a kind of tattoo effect). I had never thought about how they make the new breast or what other options there are if reconstructive surgery is not for you. One woman showed a stick on breast-shaped prosthesis that looked like it would seriously irritate the tender skin to which it was attached.

I wish the programme had included women who choose not to have reconstruction and do not wear prosthetics. I wish it was okay for women to lose their breasts to cancer and not feel ashamed of their changed bodies. I know now that some women feel unbalanced without two breasts, something I had never considered before, and I understand that this is a reason for prosthesis. I still think we need to see breast cancer and its effects; we need to see women living with mastectomy and loving their bodies. I'm questioning as I write...would I think this way about prosthetic limbs? If not, why not? I am not ashamed to say that I held my own breasts while I watched.


yclepta said...

Excellent post - I saw the programme and at first I thought of changing channel because Jenny was embarrassed at having small breasts and the focus was on bras - I don't wear a bra, and unfortunately this option was not offered.
But I thought the topless women in the street were fantastic! I totally agree that I have always been angry that it's ok for men to take tops off when it's hot but not for women. I was disappointed that Jenny did not join in, but I understand how a photo of her could be really misused out of context by the tabloids - I however didn't hear her say she does lads mags. Shame...
I also agree that I would have appreciated hearing from a woman who has chosen not to have a post-mastectomy reconstruction - but I paused for thought when you said that about prosthetic limbs - good point!

Liberty said...

I agree, it was very empowering, but I still think it would have been more so, if Jenny had joined in and defied the Tabloids. The publicity might have been beneficial.

I thought she was a bit edgy on Breastfeeding in Public, at least of older children. Breastfeeding is just such an important in tool in normalising breasts, using them for the express purpose for which they were designed.

I too was disappointed on the bra issue. May be that requires a whole other documentary. There are so many women now who are against bras. What are bras for? Why do women wear them? Are they harmful? What happens if you don't wear one?

Channel 4, did an expose on bras a few years ago, and you can find a copy of the transcript here:

For more information on the New York breast freedom photography project:

Finally, for probably the most informative website on bras, the bra free lifestyle and why bras can be seen as a symbol of repression of women, see our website (Goingbraless)