Approximately 25 years ago two little bulges of fat started to appear on my previously smooth chest. What began as two painful tender nubs became 2 mounds in what felt like record time. At 12 I was very well endowed, enough to comfortably fill a B cup-on a child’s frame. I remember clearly because M&S were the only high street store selling “teen” bras back then-we hadn’t started seeing black satin pushup bras for the pre-pubescent at that point (that I knew of anyway).
Within a year I was positively rubenesque (not my choice of phrase, that came from a male PE teacher-I had to ask mum what it meant). Along with the physically stressful experience (I found bras deeply uncomfortable and itchy) came the emotional abuse. I was bullied by other girls in my age-group, all on different stages of our developmenal journey. I was leered at, taunted, groped and objectified by the boys in my peergroup and above. I was fair game for the older boys to “ask out”. I was 12. I hated being me through those years, but more than hating me, I hated my breasts.
I hated the attention they garnered and when they just kept growing I developed a disgust for my body. I couldn’t hide them. I tried strapping them down, I wore baggy jumpers. Nothing worked, I still got singled out. They made me appear older than my years and I found myself regularly harassed.
Of course I grew up, we all do, I grew around my breasts but my obsession with reducing my breastsize grew too. I had had too many experiences of receiving abuse like “give us a soapy tit wank”, “get yer tits out”, “get back on page 3 yer slapper”. I saved and saved and at 28 I had enough to pay for a breast reduction operation.
I underwent 4 hours of major surgery having my G cups reduced to B cups. I experienced pain and fear in order to change my body enough to stop how I felt about it and to stop the abusive remarks-abuse levelled simply at how I looked. The responses from men to the existence of my breasts.
I feel a strong belief 10 years on from my reduction surgery that had my breasts not been considered public property the minute they began to appear, had I not felt defined by them and the need for their “perfection” I would not have treated my body in the way I did. Had I not been disturbed and stared at by men who saw breasts on a page every morning with breakfast so found it acceptable to stare at mine, then maybe, just maybe my own opinions may not have been so harsh or critical. There isn’t a smoking gun here of cause and effect but it definitely played its part.
I’ve heard all the arguments for page 3, the empowerment of the models, the celebration of the female form. I don’t feel able to comment on their empowerment any more than they could comment on mine-and what is empowerment anyway, other than a Spicegirls tag line and an excuse to justify anything society wants to OK- “it’s empowering, oh-OK then”. I certainly felt no power when my body was objectified solely for being attached to my breasts. For me, my dislike for page 3, other misogynistic articles in those types of papers and “lads mags” in general is the license it gives to say “this is woman”. “This is the norm”.
It has nothing to do with nudity or prudishness, I find the female form in ALL its varying shapes and sizes to be beautiful-and that’s not a Dove advert cop-out, I genuinely do, I love the bodies of women, but that’s not what I’m confronted with in the publications I’ve mentioned. I’m confronted with a lie, a lie that says women are devoid of body hair, cellulite, scars, fat, lumps, bumps, tiny breasts, pendulous breasts, pimples, birthmarks, freckles or any other thing that differs from the “ideal”. Conversely I don’t buy the “they aren’t real women” argument either, those who appear on page 3 ARE real women, with lives, choices and opinions. The problem I have is that no-one who reads that paper gives a shit about that. It adds to the objectification that happens every day off the page. I know from experience that this is true, the arguments for it and for its place in our society just don’t stack up or convince me otherwise.