Too small, too big, saggy, asymmetrical or too judgy. Carrying a mass on your chest and holding it by a belt tied to your back or even letting it free is a tough job. Perhaps because they are groped, pinched, stared, pushed and what not. Above all shamed due to their shape, size, deep cover or even while breast-feeding. Breast shaming is one of the most common abuses that exist in urban space. Be it small or huge, women are solicited with unusual names, looked down upon, catcalled by anyone including the loved ones or even the doctors treating them.
They are made to feel conscious about their breasts and are asked to follow “instructions” for ‘bettering’ them. Breast shaming doesn’t only limit to its size or shape, but is also extended to the notions people hold pointing out on cleavage or a breast cancer patient or a non-binary person and even breastfeeding-in-public. The more you put pictures with less cover on social media, the more you are trolled and shamed. The more you chose for an off-shoulder dress the more eyes are glued to your breasts.
Breast shaming is one of the most common abuses that exist in urban space. Be it small or huge, women are solicited with unusual names, looked down upon, catcalled by anyone including the loved ones or even the doctors treating you.
For women, the struggle of managing breasts and the norms attached to it, begins from the phase it starts developing. A 13-year young girl is not a kid anymore because her breasts have started to grow. The norm that she is being brought up through the society starts, when she is asked to cover it with a cloth and asked to wear a garment that covers and supports it: the bra. Above all, she is also taught to save her boobs for her ‘would-be-man’ and to keep it away from any other contact. The nuance that our society holds not only highlights our double standards, but also elevates the kind of upbringing we are giving to the forthcoming generation. Every growing girl of 14-18 years witnessing her breast developing, is holding the kind of treatment society bestows on her and the shaming that desperately needs to be eliminated.
Society’s Obsession With Breasts
“That’s a very delicate part and you need to take proper care of it,” says a misogynistic society who is scared of the Indian culture but is so obsessed with them that they can’t resist fantasizing about them. For every Bollywood movie, they want a female to wear a deep neck blouse and win the audience at the box office. For every commercial or even the launch of products, they want a lady to appear in a dress with a low cover that increases there sale. From posters to porn stars, this patriarchal society haunts women with perfect chest size. Or rather, as a bait to lure people.
For every commercial or even the launch of products, they want a lady to appear in a dress with a low cover that increases there sale. From posters to porn stars, this patriarchal society haunts women with perfect chest size. Or rather, as a bait to lure people.
“I was a chubby kid and I grew up with my body as it is. In my higher school, my breast size was bigger enough to catch the attention of my peers. One of my friends approached me and asked “Do you have more than one male partner? Because they are quite huge and it’s not normal.” This incident had a bad impact on me then. But as I grew up I found that all the lies and notions that were enough to bully me did their job well,” says Akansha Priyadarshani, who is currently based in Mumbai for her education.
Another woman who shared her experience of breast shaming chooses to be anonymous and she writes, ‘I was slammed for being skinny by my friends and never took it seriously. But once I remember I was cornered by a friend and told, “You are so flat that you’ve nothing to offer a man too. Get some good oil massage or medical treatment. I don’t think any men will come close to you after noticing your small breasts”. I was feeling ashamed and guilty for being skinny. I even started reading about products to increase my size. Maybe I was insecure or guilty of not having bigger boobs. But gradually I discussed it with other friends and found myself in good company.“
“My relatives told me about the bigger size when I actually noticed my boobs. They shamed me for having a huge size. And I became so conscious that I started having medicine to decrease the size and hide it from people,” says Priyanka Priyamvada, based in Ranchi.
Women are fighting a great mental trauma due to this shame that we have failed to teach them the importance of self-love.
“Jokes And Memes Are Candid”
It was not long when actresses such as Sonam Kapoor fell prey to breast shaming due to her flat breast and made memes on. And nobody found that shocking, instead of a few articles that came up denying the fact that she has flat breasts. We as an audience have consumed the fact that as women you need to keep it – “the bigger, the better”. There are more people living around us who have been verbally or physically abused due to the size of their breasts. “Do you masturbate a lot or have slept with more male partners? Your body weight doesn’t go with your chest size.” “Have you considered breast binding? Because I fail to make eye contact every time I see you.” And we have so hilariously laughed at this denying the fact that it’s a remark on someone’s physique.
Protests On Breasts
In the 18th and 19 centuries, women in Travancore who belonged to lower caste were not allowed to cover their upper body or were taxed heavily. In protest to which, Nangeli, who was a Dalit woman cut off her breast in order to refuse payment of tax. Later she died of excessive bleeding. The village which she comes from is called Mulachhipuram or the land of the women with breasts.
A year ago in Kozhikode, a professor’s remark that said, “Muslim women are not covering their chests with hijab. But showing part of it is like a slice of red watermelon being displayed,” went controversial. In reply to which an activist Rehana Fathima and her friend posted a picture of a topless picture with watermelons covering her breasts. Facebook blocked their account in response to this fury.
Breastfeeding is a duty that comes after motherhood and as women, we celebrate that part. It was in recent years that women have come to a public sphere and discussed on a public platform about this. In 2018, 50 countries have legalized breastfeeding in public, but India has no such legal status. Mostly because of the prevalent social system that exists.
One encouraging thing that we found a year ago was that a popular Malayalam magazine Grihilakshmi had a woman breastfeeding a child on the cover page. This idea came from a picture that was shared by a man of his wife breastfeeding, which resulted in cyber-bullying from both the sexes. The caption on the cover reads – ‘Mother tell Kerala: please stop staring, we need to breastfeed.’ Quoting culture and carrying a social stigma is another way to term breastfeeding as vulgarity. Later Kerala high court claimed it as ‘not obscene’. The shame that people carry in their eyes are generally the collective thought process of how chauvinism prevails.
Breast holds a significant part in a women’s life. Even if we try to ignore its existence or try to cover and hold it with underwires, laces or push up bras, we can’t resist thinking about it. Perhaps because each one of us were told that we wear a wrong size bra or to be less active in sports if you’ve bigger breasts or that you are quite old to have flat breasts so on and so forth. Everyone around us has made us feel that it is not our cup size, it is us and that we should take proper care.
Most of the things just drained into getting us very conscious about this part and less of accepting it as it is. We have more people around who have been celebrating about their breast and felt no shame in flaunting their imperfections.
Artists such as Indu Harikumar are coming forward with such illustrations that empower women of every age to feel proud and confident about their breasts. She has started this on her Instagram page where her paintings and illustration are getting enough support from women all around.
Featured Image Source: Beauty Redefined