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“Breasts are a scandal because they shatter the border between motherhood and sexuality.”
Iris Marion Young

I am a human being. I have eyes, nose, legs and I also happen to have breasts and a cleavage because I am a female. Did I just scandalise you by mentioning the unmentionable? Well, so be it.  I am  not ashamed of myself and my anatomical make up. If I can talk about my other body parts with ease and comfort why can’t I talk about my breasts with the same ease?

Most modern cultures treat women’s breasts as an object of sexual desire and nothing more than that. This pair of female anatomy has gained so much  popularity in the department of sexualisation of objects that codes of conduct have been  written around them by the moral police of every society. There are rules laid down for the exposure of the breasts. Laws of indecent exposure are codified around them and the women are made to feel ashamed of possessing them.

A recent incident in India brought out how female breasts and cleavage are perceived by the media in the Indian context. An extremely prominent National English Daily the “Times of India” had published a “story” in the online edition of their newspaper about a prominent film actor ( Sept 14th, 2014).  The headlines screamed “ Deepika’s  Cleavage Show” and was accompanied by a photo of the actor  with the camera zoomed in on her cleavage. There was a justifiably angry rebuttal from the actor saying “ I am a woman, I have breasts and cleavage. Any problem?”. The response by the Times of India was highly patriarchal in its approach and content to say the least. The response goes on to call her a hypocrite for raising an outcry for a “ generous compliment” when she has gone and done various dance and stage shows  and flaunted her body in various magazine covers in the past.  Perhaps, the esteemed newspaper has forgotten a minor detail here in its zeal of labelling a woman for standing up for herself. The minor detail being the ‘’consent”. Whatever way Deepika has chosen to portray herself  in the various platforms mentioned by ToI were out of her own free will and with her consent. ToI, on the other hand had published a photo of hers with the sole aim of generating of sensationalizing something where nothing exists.. It is a very roundabout manner of saying “ She asked for it”. How is it any different from the people who blame a woman’s dress for her rape? Further by saying that just as they have zoomed in to her cleavage, they have also shown the  six packs abs of other prominent male actors. Is ToI trying to insinuate that  human body, whether male or female, are meant to be objectified and scrutinised in the name of “free press”? ToI may not deem it as ‘invasion of privacy”  because no hidden cameras were used but it is indeed a gross invasion of privacy when a camera zooms in on a body part with an objective to garner higher readership.

 This whole episode clearly  indicates  towards the obsession of a woman’s breasts as a sexual object.  The current generation has been raised on this kind of a regressive thought processes regarding this anatomical part as shameful, sexual, forbidden, big and upright, and existing solely for the pleasure of men. Women’s breasts are everywhere. On huge bill boards with an anorexic model  wearing a barely their innerwear [M1] designed by Victoria’s Secret or on  adult websites for the sexual gratification of men and even on streets where stick thin mannequins have larger than life breasts.

What is this preoccupation with woman’s breasts that a mere glimpse of them either generates a controversy or makes a teenage boy go into the throes of sexual pleasure? The basic anatomy of the breast is the glands, fatty tissue, ducts, and nipple. An anatomy whose primary function is to nourish a hungry child. Instead of accepting it as a part of  a woman’s body with a functionality to satiate  an infant’s hunger, it has been turned into a national and international obsession.  

Men have breasts too, however they are far from being seen as objects of sexual desire? What is so unique about  the breasts  that sets them apart? The sexual attitude that modern cultures have developed concerning a women’s chest has classified them as sexual organs, another part of the female genitals.  This is a faulty assumption  as breasts have no role to play in childbirth what-so-ever.  Yes, it is true that if the right kind of simulation is provided to the breasts, women do get sexually aroused. This is probably one of the reasons why they are categorised under the  erogenous zone. From the point of view of sexual pleasure, aren’t ears, lips, thighs and feet erogenous zones as well? Why don’t we sexualize them?

The organ that nourishes the hungry has been transformed into something that  the patriarchy thinks needs to be hidden from public view even when it is fulfilling its primary function. Breast feeding in public is greatly frowned upon.  Images of mothers breast-feeding their babies till recently were removed by Facebook. Women in the South Asian countries often breast-feed their babies in private or in a public place cover the baby totally with their sarees ( Or other such  materials), lest  it is view as “indecent and outraging public morality”.

Another fall out of treating woman’s breasts solely as sexual items is the setting up of beauty standards  that revolve around this piece of female human organ.  Emphasis on just the right size and swell of the breasts has given rise to a multi-billion dollar industry that reinforces these standards. From La ‘senza and Victoria’s Secret having a special collection  of “push –up bras” that would instantly turn a small breasted woman to a sexually desirable  dame all because her breasts would be perceived as  “ big and beautiful” , to the cosmetic surgeries that provide  breast enhancement at a hefty cost. The pick is yours. The social conditioning is so much so that  women sometimes refuse to breast-feed their babies for the fear of their breast getting sagged and by that logic unattractive.

Women should own up their bodies and refuse them to be treated as a location where a patriarchal  gaze can come and rest without their permission. As Julia Roberts said in “Notting Hill”  “....they're just breasts. Every second person in the world has them......they're for milk, your mother has them, you've seen a thousand of them... What's all the fuss about?”














Nice article

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