Hello nerdlings! I am so sorry that this took forever to write. This month has been really intense. Lately, I have had so many articles about breasts showing up in my newsfeeds that it almost feels like the summer of the Superbowl Nip Slip again. Once again, it all boils down to the idea that women’s bodies are not their own. They belong to the public, to be consumed as society sees fit.
If any of you are friends with young mothers, you probably see a lot of articles about breast-feeding. For it, against it, for it in public, against it in public, etc. For whatever reasons, people have a lot to say about how women feed their babies and everyone seems to have an opinion on it. Formula feed? You’re lazy and your baby is going to die without your immunities! Breast feed? Better not do that in public, it’s pornographic! Feed your baby well into toddlerhood? You’re going to raise a pervert! There’s really no way for a woman to win, but at least these arguments stay somewhat around the topic of what breasts are actually for. Breasts exist to supply nutrition. We are one of the only mammalian species to have “swollen” breasts when not pregnant or nursing (some scientists think it’s to encourage reproduction by basically making a butt on our chests!) but the point is, breasts are primarily for food. Their function for pleasure is secondary.
This is why I don’t get the whole “breast-feeding in public is eeeevil!” deal. A woman feeding her child has nothing to do with indecent exposure and perversion. However, the way that our society reacts to public breasts has led Playmate Shanna Moakler, a woman made famous by her breasts, to speak out against breast-feeding in general. “I think it’s like, incestual. It’s gross. I don’t like it. Sorry.” Ms. Moakler’s opinion comes from a culture that celebrates contradicting biology. Because we generally see breasts in the media in a sexually consumable manner, their natural function is now seen as perverse. Basically, a woman’s breasts belong to the men (and woman) who enjoy looking at them, not to the woman using them to feed her baby.
Speaking of a woman with breasts that people like looking at, Angelia Jolie recently took her body into her own hands for the sake of her health. Like Christina Applegate did in 2008, she had a double mastectomy after discovering that her odds of contracting a fatal cancer were very high. Having witnessed her mother’s death from ovarian cancer, it’s perfectly logical that she would take any steps possible to extend her own time with her children. Perhaps because her fame as a sex symbol ended after “Married With Children,” the public’s attention to Christina Applegate’s double mastectomy was mostly favorable (or it could be because she actually had cancer in one of them.) Angelina, on the other hand, has not been so lucky. Within hours of the news breaking, twitter was ablaze with “#RIPAngelina’s Breasts” and statements like “I don’t want her to get cancer, but I wish she’d still kept them.” Guess what? She doesn’t care what you think. Her family doesn’t care what you think. They’re thrilled that she’s going to stay alive.
Next on Angie’s list is apparently a hysterectomy and you know what? Good for her. If her risk is high and she is comfortable facing that kind of invasive surgery and can afford to pay for it, all power to her. (This could start a debate on affordable healthcare for women, but let’s put a pin in that for today. We may revist later.) Of course, now we have doctors going public warning women not to get mastectomies and hysterectomies just to be like Ms. Jolie. Seriously, doc? Because we don’t have enough breast-related issues as it is. Is that really necessary? Now, I have no problems with any woman having her breasts removed for any reason. What concerns me is that this doctor could possibly be preventing women from getting surgeries that they actually needed.
Up next in breastacular news, we have a school in Cincinnati where three young women were turned away from prom because their breasts were too large. The school dress code states that “inappropriate dresses that are too short in length or reveal excess cleavage will not be permitted.” Moving on from the fact that these guidelines are extremely vague and subject to whim, the principal went on to state that what the rules mean, is that no “curvature of the breast” should be showing. Perhaps I just don’t understand this, being a woman of chest myself, but what exactly does that mean? How can you wear anything and not have a “curvature of the breast” showing? I had some curvature showing in the baggy choir robe I wore this week! These young women were banned from prom in essence because their school told them that their breasts were too large. BustygirlComics would have a field day with that.
More body-shaming fun in Midwestern schools comes from White Cloud, Michigan, where a school has banned pregnant students from appearing in the yearbook. The superintendent has stated that the appearance of pregnant bellies in the yearbook would be contradictory to the abstinence-only education program promoted by the school, and could even been seen as encouraging teen pregnancy. I have problems with this on so many levels, starting with the fact that abstinence-only education clearly does not work. To use White Cloud as an obvious example, if it were effective, maybe there would be fewer pregnant teens to ban from said yearbook? Also, it’s not like these girls are “cool kids” wearing Abercrombie or anything. (Don’t even get me started on that particular asshole). Who’s to say that it matters if they’re role models or not? I’m guessing that if they’re pregnant in high school and not appearing on MTV, their year has undoubtedly been rough enough. Don’t make them suffer because your sham of a sex-education program is so ineffective.
Speaking of sham sex-ed programs, let’s talk about the trauma that Elizabeth Smart went through! Speaking recently about kidnapping victims, she said she could understand why someone would be too scared to try and run away. Having been taught the “chewed piece of gum” analogy to sexual intercourse, she thought that as a result of her rape, she no longer had any value as a human being. For those of you who don’t know, in many abstinence-only classes, a woman who has had sex is compared to a pre-chewed piece of gum. No one wants gum that’s been chewed or candy that’s been licked, so no one will want a woman who has had sex, either. Without her virginity, Elizabeth Smart saw herself as worthless. When a woman’s intrinsic worth is completely tied to her supposed purity for a potential mate, it becomes very easy for her to see her life as lacking in value. The real danger comes from when the men in her life view her the same way.
How could men come to dehumanize women in a cruel and dangerous way? Well, the videogame industry is certainly helping in all the wrong ways. (Caveat: This is not against videogames in general. There are several female-positive games out there. They are few and far between, but they do exist, and I’ve played some of them.) Making the rounds a few months ago was a Dead Island promotional figurine of a bikini-clad dismembered female torso. In the wake of a public outcry, the torso was pulled…and then eventually rereleased due to popular demand. More troubling to me is the banned ad for Juiced, in which two men customizing their game cars get the magical power to customize the outfit of a random woman on the street. Eventually, although she is looking around for help and obviously unhappy about her situation, she is stripped nude and branded with the Juiced logo on her buttocks. Sadly, the comments on the video range from “hot tits, nice jiggle” to “great body, crappy game.” At least on youtube, it was pulled for being offensive after a huge viewer outcry.
A new game in the stripping females venue is Scarlet Blade, where basically the gimmick is that all of the characters are female, and they wear next to nothing. What strikes me about Scarlet Blade is not that it’s a pornographic game, because obviously those have existed for decades. Scarlet Blade is unique in that unlike previous games where the main character is a stand-in for the player (WoW, Skyrim, Metroid, Portal), the heroines of Scarlet Blade are all automatons of a sort who do the bidding of the player. It’s a game entirely based on controlling attractive women without the emasculating effect of actually “being” a female character. The player gets to retain his male status while forcing not-quite human females to strip, fight to the death, or whatever else he wishes.
So we have a game being sold by portraying sexual abuse via magic, another game where you control nearly-nude women to kill, and a third being packaged with a “sexy” dismembered torso. What’s the next step? Well, there’s Girls Gone Wild founder Joe Francis who made a fortune on sexual abuse and a hazy notion of consent. (Note: If a person is intoxicated, they cannot give consent. Even if you pay them with your crappy hats). No stranger to perpetrating sexual abuse and assault himself, at least he’s getting what has been coming his way for ages. What else do I have for you? How about a female-shaped shooting target called The Ex that bleeds fake blood? Now called the Alexa to help in part with bad publicity, the message is still the same. Shoot this woman in the tits, because she’s not a real human, anyway (Like the Dead Island torso, the Alexa is a zombie).
To briefly sum up, we have women being told that their value lies entirely in their sexuality but not to engage in said sexuality or they will become worthless. In addition, we have men being trained to find sexual assault hilarious and abuse as part of a game. On top of that, we live in a country that until very recently treated assault on women as a private or family matter. In Maryland, it’s still legally impossible for a man to rape his wife unless they have been living separately for at least three months. In Pennsylvania, we have a sex worker who was raped at gunpoint have her case be dismissed as mere “theft of services.” Because when you consent to have sex with one person, obviously that means you have consent to have sex with all of his friends whom you weren’t even expecting to be there. At gunpoint, let us not forget.
Given all of this, why are we so surprised when something like the Cleveland kidnapping occurs? We should be surprised because it’s horrible and no one should have to go through what those women did under any circumstances, but this is what rape culture trains us to do. The police had been called repeatedly about suspected abuse taking place within that house, but it was never investigated. Domestic abuse is too often seen as a private issue. In this case, the survivors were known to the assailants. As far as we can tell right now, it looks like part of the motivation for the attacks on the three women was revenge against the wife and daughter of one of the perpetrators for leaving him. Considering something similar happened to a family friend, I may have grown up overly sensitive to but rarely surprised by rape, kidnapping, and violence. What’s most depressing to me, however, is that the internet seems more interested in turning Charles Ramsay into an internet meme than in preventing this kind of incident from occurring again. Three women were brutally tormented over a long period of time, and all the internet wants to do is laugh at the man who saved them.