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what’s the big deal about breasts?

Christina Hendricks shut down an interview with Sun-Herald journalist Kate Waterhouse after being asked, twice, about her ‘full figure’. Specifically how her body has inspired other women.

The Emmy-nominated actress uncomfortably laughed off the question at first, attempted to answer before shaking her head and saying, ‘I don’t know. I’m sorry.’ Waterhouse tried to broach the topic again and this time a visibly annoyed Hendricks cut the interview short, reportedly saying, off camera: ‘I think calling me “full-figured” is just rude.’

Hendricks was on her first trip to Australia to promote an eyewear line. While it’s typical, and expected that the journalist would deviate to cover other bodies of work, the interviewee’s body was an easy choice. Despite the fact that she’s been nominated three times for her role as Joan Holloway on Mad Men, search Christina Hendricks on Google and some of the first things that come up are ‘weight’ and ‘cup size’.

The reaction to Hendricks’ reaction has been interesting, mostly because I feel it comes from men and women who hold her up as the antithesis to the Hollywood ideal. Numerous publications have talked about her body (her chest in particular), to her face or otherwise. She has answered questions when asked – which has been a lot.

It’s time to move on.

Someone’s physique shouldn’t be a go-to line of questioning, unless he or she is an athlete, fitness guru, or contortionist. At some point the questions must be boring to hear – and boring to read. I can see how it would get annoying in Hendricks’ case as, even in her fictional life as Joan, her body is objectified, ogled and used to the point of driving her character’s story arc.

But this case speaks to a much broader issue than Hendricks, particularly when it comes to breasts.

The way Western culture views and talks about breasts is so contradictory, it is no wonder people have viewed Hendricks’ frustration as confusing, dramatic, and oversensitive.

Breasts are shameful and must remain covered, or holstered. While it’s perfectly acceptable for a man, in some situations, to be topless in public, a woman who does the same would be arrested, and a mother breastfeeding in public is being inappropriate because…

Breasts are sexual: I can’t say much about this as a hetero woman whose interest in breasts extends only to my own and whether or not I’m wearing the right sized bra. But considering how often cleavage, side boob, (female) nipples, bras, and even breastfeeding are used as fodder for titillation, I’m clearly missing something. Not to say that breasts can’t factor into sexual attraction or sexual intercourse. The same thing could be said for butts, arms, and thighs. But the pearl clutching and hysteria over ‘nip-slips’ seems unique, and no matter the context, the speed at which breasts go from banal to sexually suggestive is nearly instantaneous.

Breasts are fair game: ‘If Christina Hendricks doesn’t want to talk about her boobs, maybe she shouldn’t put them out there so much. Did you see her Emmy dress?’

The defensive tone of this question boils down to: ‘I can see them, so I can comment on them, and she should expect it.’

The nonsense of this is that being able to see a woman’s breasts isn’t an invitation to talk to her about them. Are large breasted women expected to strap them down to a more inconspicuous size to make everyone more comfortable, or so that people can pay attention to what they’re saying?

Cleavage shouldn’t make someone a target of sexual harassment, yet women who aren’t covered to acceptable standards are blamed when they protest unwanted attention.

Breasts are political: Of course, it matters whose breasts we’re talking about. When a photographer snapped the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge sunbathing in France and sold the photos to a French magazine, the palace threatened to sue…and rightly so. It was a breach of privacy on the paparazzo’s part, despite ridiculous arguments that Kate Middleton should’ve known better than to sunbathe on a private residence in plain view of a lurking photographer’s long lens, miles away.

While on their Southeast Asian jubilee tour, however, there was little outrage or shock at photos of local women’s breasts and no concern for their privacy. While I understand that attitudes surrounding nudity vary across cultures and countries, the unquestioned publishing of topless women in third world nations, in any context, speaks to a double standard of modesty. We make available the bodies of women around the world for viewing while demanding respect and tastefulness in respect to women in our own countries. ‘Nat geo’ is not in Urban Dictionary for nothing.

I’m of the belief that bodies and body parts (anyone’s at anytime) should not be points of conversation unless initiated by their owners.

Proportions over which you have no control are not an invitation to discuss.

Lipsters, what do you think? Leave your comments below!

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One thought on “what’s the big deal about breasts?

  1. I feel the same way about my junk.. Women at work can see it even when I wear baggy jeans, and they always have to comment on it.

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