Knockers: the ethics of cleavage

By Ann Ivins

If you’re a woman in a Western or Westernized culture in the twenty-first century, chances are good that you have, do or will own, wear, struggle to get into and on occasion hasten to get out of a garment called a brassiere. A bra. A couple of  fabric cups and some elastic which contain, shape and redistribute the weight of two masses of mammary tissue… while also bearing the burden of more than a hundred years of cultural, medical and political debate and opinion. Just off the top of my head here, a bra:

  • is an essential device to support, train and protect fragile breast tissue while slowing or preventing their eventual droop earthward;
  • is a cancer-causing, lymph-node-squishing, shoulder-aching contraption which has no effect on the actual shape or condition of the breast;
  • is a garment which frees women to become more active because it controls and supports those wildly-swinging protuberances on her chest;
  • is a garment which has been used to once again brainwash women into believing their own bodies are unattractive, dysfunctional and in need of artificial support;
  • is an important and exciting first step into womanhood for young girls;
  • is an important and soul-destroying first step into the colonization of female sexuality for young girls;
  • is a comfortable, convenient way to shape a part of a woman’s anatomy in whichever way she chooses;
  • is yet another ill-fitting, randomly-sized torture device to ensure female conformity to social norms set by the patriarchy;
  • is a fun add-on to the game console;
  • is a device sure to cause heartache, mental agony and the eventual crash of the entire delicate body image operating system.

That’s a hell of a load for one little (or not so) piece of lingerie to bear.

Now imagine for a moment that you are a young woman with shaky but persistent personal ethical concerns, smack in the middle of your pheromone-spewing sexual prime, the possessor of a nice set of tatas and an instruction manual for their honorable and self-respecting use that reads like… like… THAT LIST.  Go ahead. Imagine. Wait, don’t bother, I’ll show you.

Le Soir de la Brassiére: an Interior Monologue

6:15 pm (biting the tags off the latest bra, purchased earlier that day) This is great! It’s black, it’s push-up, it fit perfectly in the dressing room… let’s see… (flurry of hooks and straps, first look in home mirror) SWEET MOTHER OF CLEAVAGE! HELLOOOOOOO, GIRLS!  Wait – is it too much? The neck on this shirt is pretty low… am I sending the wrong message? What wrong message?  Do I look like a hooker? How dare anyone assume anything about me based on what I choose to wear? But the reality of the world… but the principle of the thing… (another look in mirror) DAMN! LET’S GO, LADIES!

8:30 pm (two drinks and some very bad hot wings later) What? A drink? From who? (bartender points) Oh, that guy? The one who’s been burning laser eyeball holes in my shirt for the last two hours? I bet he doesn’t even know what color my hair is. Hell, no. Screw him. (remembers current negative bank balance) Great, now you’re going to pimp out the girls for a four-dollar cocktail? On the other hand, you put them on display, didn’t you? What exactly were you going for? (shakes faltering conscience by the collar) Buy your own damn drink, woman! Control your destiny! Own your sexuality! AnthonySangerFriedan! AnthonySangerFriedan! Germaine! Germaine!

8:55 pm (one more Cosmo down) What? Again? (bartender murmurs) I’m sure he is. Really? You went to college with him? (stares at empty glass) I guess it’s only natural. It’s not like I didn’t mean to deploy them; maybe I just looked up at the wrong times… NO! Male gaze! Male gaze – wait, is that only in the movies? Think think think… Okay, objectification! Colonization! (surreptitious glance) He is kind of cute… if I own these, don’t I get to decide when to sell ’em? Is my brainwashing so deep I can’t even see through it?? Is it just the vodka??? Oh look – he’s smiling; that’s eye contact, right? Acknowledging my personhood, right? He is really, really cute – damn, he scoped the girls again – NO! No more! FUCK YOU NAOMI WOLF!

9:00 pm Thanks! (smile, forward lean, eyelash batting)

And so it goes.

No wonder it’s so easy to sell women on the idea of breast support. If men had to carry around that much baggage with their testicles, there’d be velvet-lined Vuitton ball attachés with convenient roller wheels.

Next and finally: practical magic with mams

5 replies »

  1. Been there. Done that. Once again, you have woven pure gold! Thanks, Rumpelstiltskin…I mean, Ann!

  2. I’m not sure there aren’t velvet-lined Vuitton ball attaches with onvenient roller wheels. Comes with a seat warmer if you shell out for the Luxury Class Edition.

    I expected this to be more jiggly, but it’s all about thinking and stuff. The ethics of cleavage is: more cleavage, please.

  3. Ahh, better living through modern engineering!

    At least the metal detectors at the airport seem to have been re-calibrated to rule out underwires. There’s nothing like a detector wand waving in twin circles in front of you in a crowded security area, “Beeeeeeep. Beeeeeeeeeeep.” I wanted Victoria Secret to make a nice non-metallic underwire with TSA in mind.

  4. All I can say is, thank god I’m male, with the male brain to match. With us, the mating game just goes pretty much like this: Enter room, evaluate hotness level and boob size of every woman in sight. Target first choice. Hit on. Shot down. Have drink, re-target. Alert! Wants to be my buddy. Make excuse, leave. Have drink. Re-target. Beer goggles at 30%. Shot down, but with less ridicule. Have drink. Re-target. Continue as long as necessary. WARNING! Do not exceed beer goggle level of 50%. Any higher risks badger-ugly. Also, to avoid unnecessary ego deflation, assume all shoot-downs were lesbians.
    Much simpler.