Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Supporting Bare Boobs

It's not about this:
the Braza Bra

It's about arguing in favour of a woman's right to take off her shirt.

How stupid, right?

I mean, it's stupid that we have to argue about this and try to make it clear to everyone why it should be acceptable and actually have to argue with police who don't know it's been legal in Ontario for decades. But some people - mainly men, judging by the comment on various articles - are still having a hard time with it. And it's really, really stupid that 8-year-old children and their parents have to deal with this crap. So we'll keep arguing. Here are some concerns (in bold below) raised on the issue:

There are so many more important issues out there. People are dying of starvation, and lions are being shot by dentists. This is a non-issue, really.

Climate change is here to stay, and it's only going to get hotter. (Yes I can too make any issue become an environmental issue.) If only half the population can cool off by taking their shirts off when they're dripping with sweat, then that's only going to be a bigger problem as the mercury rises. Anyone overheating should be allowed to ditch a layer as needed.

And about those other issues? We can work on more than one issue at a time. It's totally do-able. The fact that there are worse issues out there is never a good reason to stop working on discrimination issues, which are often foundational problems requiring more attention than they're generally given.

But what about the children?

Children learn what's shameful from us. If adults are nonchalant about bare breasts, then kids will be too. Any trauma caused by the sight of non-sexual nudity is from the context adults wrap around it not from the nudity itself. It can be funny to see people showing more than we're used to, but once we're used to it, then it's no longer a big deal. We're all used to women showing off their ankles now, and that used to cause quite a stir!

Breast are sexual in a way that a male chest is not.


A total void of sexiness, amiright?
For people closer to my age.
'Nuff said?

Breasts are sexual body parts. When I see them, I can't control myself.

There is a bizarre notion that exposed breasts are sexual breasts even when they're being used to feed children or just hanging out doing nothing. This is just plain incorrect. Because someone is turned on by something they see doesn't mean that what they're looking at is necessarily objectively sexual. Lots of body parts are enticing to others yet we don't cover everything. And men CAN control themselves. If they choose not to, then they should bear the consequences (assuming, of course, that there will be some serious and predictable consequences once day).

Okay, but breasts are more than just attractive body parts. They're erogenous zones actually used in sexual acts.

Breasts are pretty sexy; no arguments here. And they can definitely be a significant part of sexual antics. BUT so many other body parts that are regularly open to the gaze of the general public are erogenous zones used in sexual acts.

sexy ice-cream pics from here
We don't expect men and women to hide every part of them that's attractive nor every part that's potentially used in a sexual act.

sexy hand/foot drawing
And if we want to be really sexy, it's often best to cover up a bit. Baring all isn't as sexy as baring a little. So, technically, it could be argued that naked boobs are less sexy than partially covered boobs, so, therefore, by the logic of this concern, women should be banned from just partially covering their sexy bits. Which is stupid (the banning bit, not the partially covering bit).

Women won't bare their breasts anyway because they're afraid of being sexually harassed.

This is unfortunately very true. This CBC article seems to address this, sort of. The article doesn't really clarify the interviewed professor's opinion on the issue as much as it acknowledges one concern some women might have: Should women really bare their breasts if it's only going to lead to street harassment? But isn't that the same kind of question as: Should women really wear tank tops and short skirts if it's only going to lead to street harassment? There's a policing attitude in those questions that implies that women are in control of when they get harassed. (Not that the prof being interviewed is asking that question - it really wasn't clear what she thought.) Here's the problem with this line of reasoning: women can get cat-called in a snowsuit and assaulted while they're wearing sweatpants and a hoodie. I just got home from a cottage visit in which I whipped through this excellent book on campus rapes (which has made me very feisty on this one), and I'm pretty sure what women are wearing has scant correlation to whether or not they're assaulted. In fact, women bold enough to go topless could be less harassed because of their perceived assertiveness. Women don't get sexually assaulted because of their clothes; they get assaulted because of a chance encounter with a rapist.

Are women afraid of being harassed because of what they're wearing - or not wearing? Absolutely. But that's a different problem that needs a different solution than suggesting women cover up for safety. (Not that the prof was suggesting that, but it certainly could be read into that article.)

Women won't bare their breasts anyway because they're afraid they don't measure up.

Yup. This is also true, but it also sucks. Women are bombarded with idealized images of what's "normal" to the extent that they think they're aberrations to be shunned or exiled. But maybe a little more exposure to real women on the street could actually diminish that problem. If women everywhere, of all ages, walk around topless, maybe we'll all realize that actually very few have perfect, perky, symmetrical, stand-up boobs that don't need any support. And then we'll feel great by comparison - or at least good enough to stop comparing ourselves to each other in some twisted competition for attention from the male gaze which we don't even want so much once we get it.

Furthermore, because only a few people take advantage of a law doesn't mean the law shouldn't exist. A minority of people marry people of the same sex, but we're pretty clear that it should be an option open for everyone. We need to keep it on the books that women can take off their shirts anywhere a man can. Whether they actually do or not is a neither here nor there.

I'll go to the march on Saturday, but I'll likely be fully clothed.  It's not just because I worry about harassment or about measuring up, but because I worry about losing my job for doing something weird with students around. And it is weird... so far. It's deviant behaviour in that few people find it acceptable.

But maybe that's about to change.

ETA: In hindsight, I wish I had walked topless in that march. I lost my breasts to cancer the following year. 

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