I saw the car fast approaching as I looked back through the rear window. A car—an indistinct one—backed into my car. The young woman driving the car was just as shocked as I was. She came out of the car, and did say that she hadn’t seen me. She apologized over and over and then begged me to not call the police. She was wearing super high heels that prevented her from walking comfortably and an outfit showing more than half of her large, shapely breasts out.
This all happened in a shopping area. And you should have seen the men who came out of the woodworks to help her out. One guy gave her the idea that I might be the one that had backed into HER car, and that he would vouch for that. The police came, and she thrust her chest towards him, on the verge of crying and stuff. Now this all happened on a day I wasn’t even wearing a padded bra and was wearing a V-neck cotton shirt. There are days that you would want to look at me longer but clearly this wasn’t one of those. And my initial knee-jerk reaction to her showing off her boobs to manipulate men and get them to help her—against me—was to say to myself “Come on! I have shoes that cost me more than they cost you to get those boobs”. I thought at the time that I meant it in the sense that if I wanted to have big boobs like hers I would have. Yes, this chest is my choice. But I felt guilty immediately afterwards because it surely did sound elitist, or rather classist.
After the whole debacle with the police officer and so-called witnesses ended, while returning home I remembered a song by Amy Winehouse, called F me Pumps about these girls who “all look the same” wearing "F me Pumps", the tightest jeans that prevent them from sitting right, and eyeing other young women as competitors and consoling themselves saying “At least your breasts cost more than hers”.
So I got to thinking what it is about breasts once more. And breast size. And the obsession with them. Apart from their function in breastfeeding, how, and why do they have an aesthetic and sexual appeal as well. (And while we are at it, why do men have breasts?) More importantly the case of the breast size is curious. All female mammals, except for humans, have flat chests and their breasts swell with milk only after they give birth. Female humans however all have different breast sizes and their sizes say nothing in terms of their reproductive ability or parenting in any way shape or form.
While the reason why natural breast size varies is not yet known, the mechanism is, and it is quite interesting. Turns out, and this is an extremely simplified explanation, estrogen is released in early adolescence so that your breasts start to get bigger but then the level of androgens start rising too, which actually stop further growth of breasts. So in effect how soon after the surge of estrogen androgens too are released, determines breast size. If it is immediately after, small breasts. If a while later, I don’t really know how much time, then the breasts continue to grow, hence large breasts.
I found out about breasts and so much more, years ago when I was 30, reading a book by Natalie Angier called Woman: An Intimate Geography. I'd bought it in Barcelona because the book cover had Gloria Steinem quoted saying, “Anyone living in or near a female body should read this book”. I completely agree. I searched for this book from years ago just recently to check on the section about breasts and ended up reading the whole book—again—in one day! I’m telling you, you will love this book. It is very easy to read, and you will love to learn so much about the female anatomy and women in general. And you will feel good having read a fantastic book with so much information.
In the book Angier says that in the “primal primate brain, the world is gynocentric”, and that “female primates are used to being surrounded by females, then, and they count on females to keep their world familiar and bearable”. Quoting the primatologist Barbara Smuts, Angier writes that faced with male aggression “females often form coalitions with females whom they are not closely related”. She continues saying that “females gang up on males when they attack, herd, or frighten females. Females turn on a male who solicits sex from an obviously unwilling female”. And by the way, the Bonobo-chimpanzees are our ancestors from more than six millions years ago.
And of course this calling, this instinct for sisterhood among all women is getting stronger and stronger especially now that more attacks to women occur. We see and witness an increase in attempts to control women’s bodies and their social status to say the least. And because this urge for unity is all ingrained in us we also realize how the patriarchy influenced our thought systems as we take note of our initial reactions. Amy Winehouse‘s video of the song F Me Pumps shows two women arguing and at times even fighting, but then in the end one holds the other’s hair as she throws up. I initially classify a young woman for showing off her large breasts and wearing F me pumps, and judge her—not because of her looks because I have so many close friends who look and dress like her—but because I place her in another class. Upon realizing this I immediately am torn to pieces for having thought this way. The young woman who hit my car had to show off her breasts and lie to the police because she didn’t want to be found at fault and pay for all the damage and increased insurance premiums. Yet it was also quite visible to me how terrible and guilty she felt.
What I do know for sure is this: That in one moment in time this young woman and my paths crossed in this way. And that in another time if I were to be criticized for my age, for my thoughts and my choices and put in shackles, she would back ME up instead of kicking me in the head. And that I will absolutely stand for her right to wear whatever she wants, show off whatever she wants to and if she were to be harassed by men, and women, for doing so I will defend her, always.
We feel guilty because the system makes us question our choices all the time. We have been conditioned to classify and separate when we should have united, but are now slowly becoming aware and changing.