Breasts – What On Earth Are They For?Tuesday, December 3rd, 2013
Here again, is the beauty of having a forum for my own thoughts, opinions, and philosophies. The luxury of it being written is that anyone can choose to read it or not read it, have an opinion about it, comment on it or best yet, to really think about what is behind just the words.
I have breasts on my mind today. It seems as though breasts, similarly to people’s opinions on “right or better” choices in childbirth, tend to cause a lot of emotion in people, whether or not they even have them. Breasts are beautiful; they are part of who we are as women. We work hard to protect them from cancer. Whether they are small or large, natural, or enhanced, they certainly take up a lot of space on the collective brains of Americans.
Breasts are also how nature designed mammals to feed their young. Even though we like to believe we are smarter than other mammals, we are, in fact, still mammals. And frankly, as far as nature is concerned, our intelligence hasn’t actually served us all that well. I’m going to approach this from a less obvious angle. How have we gotten so far away from ourselves that we can’t be comfortable with our breasts simply being part of our bodies? Is it really necessary to make them into an entity of their own?
The looming question that always seems to come up with breasts is; what are they actually for? Are they sexual? Are they functional? Does it have to be either or? Why can we not enjoy them sexually when we wish to and also be comfortable with feeding our babies with them? Whatever we’d like to think, this is a much larger issue than whether breastfeeding women should be welcomed to feed their babies in public places or whether they should be kept from feeding their babies in public places.
Let’s face it. We, as Americans (collectively speaking), have some very distressing and misguided beliefs on sexuality and body image. Does it really matter if you want to wear a bikini on the beach and your body isn’t perfect? Is it truly shocking if your child walks into a room and casually sees you when you are changing clothes? Why did Salma Hayek’s choice to nurse a hungry baby in Africa (once) warrant a national discussion? The truth is that it didn’t.
Don’t get me wrong. This is just as much about women who go out of their way to “show” the world that they have the right to expose their breasts while nursing. If it is one thing that really gets me going, it is the politicizing of matters that are private in nature and should remain so. I am incredibly pro-breastfeeding but, candidly speaking, it would bother me too if I were sitting on a subway and the woman next to me slapped on a breast pump. Certainly, she should take care of her own needs but where is the line drawn where privacy and courtesy are concerned? Here’s where I am going to get a whole bunch of incensed emails.
Whatever happened to us having a general sense of etiquette and in keeping our private matters, well, private? How about also simply minding our own business and carrying on our lives without having to announce what it is we are doing every step of the way. I breastfed my son for a year, and if we were out in public and he was hungry, I nursed him wherever we were. I just didn’t put a sign out front. I even nursed him in the company of my very private father and frankly, it was no big deal because I was discreet. I took care of my baby while being gracious and considerate to those around me.
I’m going to come right out and say it. I happen to feel perfectly fine about my own breasts; in fact, I rather like them. And, shockingly, they don’t actually look just the same as when I was twenty. Oh well. They are part of me, just as those wrinkles I’ve earned over the years are. And – however, I choose to use them will continue to be a private matter for me. Collectively, I think an awful lot of people would be better off (and infinitely happier) if they spent less time paying attention to other people’s skin and more time getting comfortable in their own. I, for one plan to continue to wear my bikini.