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Column: Breasts are really not a big deal

Women are allowed to be topless in B.C. - as they should be
Breasts come in all different shapes, sizes and genders. Photo MCG

Women’s breasts are not a big deal.

But is everyone paying attention now?

Recently, the Edmonton Journal published a story reporting how the city’s recreational website states: “All patrons are permitted to go topless in city-operated pools if they so wish.”

Full disclosure, that’s been on the website since last June, but apparently no one was looking.

City staff explained the policy extends only to city pools and not its other recreational facilities – so no bare mammaries at the museum apparently – and was instituted to better reflect the province’s human rights code.

It also only applies to females 18 years and older, while it remains okay for little Tom, Dick and Harry to swim topless.

(A pause, for the insertion of an etymology moment. It almost seems as if the term ‘mama’ should originate with the word mammary. While mammary means ‘pertaining to the breast,’ it is felt that ‘mama’ is basic baby babble or possible repeated as it mimics the sounds of suckling.)

We’ve wandered from the points.

It is not illegal in British Columbia for a woman to expose her breasts.

It hasn’t been since the B.C. Supreme Court ruled women could be topless, as there was no evidence supporting (regrettable pun) that doing so would create disorder in a public park.

Gwen Jacobs, of Ontario, was the first Canadian woman to make this case and it started more than 30 years when she was arrested in the city of Guelph for committing an indecent act by walking topless on a hot day.

She was escorted to a local police detachment, while she pointed out several men in the area not wearing shirts, and it took five years of legal wrangling before her conviction was overturned by the provincial court of appeal.

So, while women in various places have been granted the human right of not having to cover their breasts in public, it’s interesting to note that most of them do anyways, almost always.

And that’s because the challenges to antiquated and misogynistic laws were never about flaunting bare boobs.

They were legitimate stands by women who were tired of their bodies being sexualized or shamed. They were frustrated by a double standard that allowed men to be topless in many circumstances, and it was important for them to know their bodies belonged to them alone, under the law; theirs to care for and control.

The judge who originally sentenced Jacobs and fined her $75 said breasts were “part of the female body that is sexually stimulating to men both by sight and touch,” as if their purpose was decorative and it’s okay for men to lack control and responsibility for their own thoughts and actions.

Somehow, in all this misguided thinking, a woman’s breasts have come to misrepresent femininity and that creates worlds of pain. Women are judged in various ways on their breasts – size, shape, firmness – like they were something found in the produce aisle. And so they judge themselves to the point that, worldwide, breast augmentation is the most common of all plastic surgeries.

Think about damaged body image. Think about the pain that forces women to seek breast reductions. Think about mastectomies.

Also, speaking as a woman who breastfed for seven years (not all in a row) it’s my opinion the female breast, while it may be functional, is about as sexy as a day-old sock.

March 8 is International Women’s Day.

Maybe we should all band together and, I don’t know, sign a petition or something.

Do you have something to add to this story, or something else we should report on?

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Andrea DeMeer

About the Author: Andrea DeMeer

Andrea is the publisher of the Similkameen Spotlight.
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