Tale as old as time. Drink as old as wine. (That's not a saying, but... it is now -- cut to Jason Sudeikis grin.) A woman reveals her "bumps" on national television, ("bumps" which are manufactured with the package and are not sold separately,) and folks from the dying franchise that is the "He-Man Womun Haters Club" come to the surface voicing their frustration.
It is an outrage, really.
A great life-hack I once learned was to 1) acknowledge someone's fit (be it an outrage or other intense reaction) and 2) eliminate myself, or the target of the reaction, from the equation. If you are verbally expressing your disapproval or anger toward an issue, chances are it is because that issue struck a chord in you. And that chord lives cozily in the same residence as your fears, vulnerabilities, and so on. All an outburst really is is a free ticket into the mind, should it house ones insecurities or, in the same measure, ones passions.
So in reading the Twitter commentary on Ciara's performance during the 2016 College Football Championship Game, I tried to eliminate Ciara from the discussions. These people (important: both men and women) have a problem with Ciara's breasts. They have a problem with breasts. And let's face it, if it were Katy Perry's or Adele's breasts, the comments would have been just the same. These people have a problem with the female body, some more so with its exposure and accessibility to both children and adults alike. (Because, remember, the female body is for adults only.)
This public disapproval isn't unique to this controversy alone. Last month, a story broke of New Hampshire State Representative Josh Moore, who took to Facebook to air his staggering wisdom and personal agenda: to push for legislation that would prohibit women from showing their nipples in public. Because nipples are wrong, and should be banished, and have no place in our society. Moore actually went on to say that if a woman has the right to show her nips, he has an equal right to stare at them and grab ‘em. But I won’t go into detail about that portion of his rant, because I don’t like writing about garbage. (Should you choose to, you can read more about that here.)
This issue is but a branch stretching out its arms from the tree that is gender inequality. It's a very basic p → q, or if-then approach: If you believe that the female form exists to serve and to please you, you will be personally offended when said female form is not presented to your taste or liking. In other words, you are a sexist asshole.
Women’s bodies were not designed for men. I repeat: women’s bodies were not designed for men. They do not exist for your viewing pleasure. They do not exist to act as storage units for your sperm or heir. They do not exist to be male’s inferior counterpart – that statement in itself is both lopsided and nonsensical, much like the belief it encapsulates.
So why am I writing this? As I mentioned at the beginning: this is not a new or foreign issue. And I am not the first, nor the last, who will publish an opinion piece about it. And boy, are there many!
But I have found that people, all with the best intentions, will voice and vent their frustrations about gender inequality and unfairness, and stop it there. Then people will counter with their empathy and nods and retweets, sprinkled with their own altruistic sentiments, and stop it there. At the end of the day, nothing comes of it – these pieces and frustrations simply exist on the internet.
In late 2014, I attempted to take a proactive approach and published a piece about gender inequality on "hockey twitter" – and what we can do about it. And my stand on the matter was really just this: that we need to stop isolating gender groups in our narratives. That, if you want the focus to be directed to a specific malpractice or indecency, then remove “male” and/or “female” from your headlines. Because isolating genders would automatically either 1) exclude one group from the dialogue or 2) favor one group over the other. And the focus is then consequently relegated to an issue separate from the principal offense.
I still firmly stand my ground on this idea, and have since channeled that belief into initiatives that will soon live on a bigger platform than a singular blog post. But in my research and expanding knowledge of the issue, I’ve come across an interesting barrier:
If we’re going to unify gender groups in our narrative, and treat everybody alike, how can we do that while still celebrating the basic, inherent differences we possess? If my mind is acclimated to regard humans as humans – stripping them of all disparities – am I not doing those disparities a great disservice?
Women have breasts – we established that. And shouldn’t they be appreciated? Even though their sole existence demands an exclusivity to women? Shouldn’t they be celebrated?
And here’s my take on how we can navigate the labyrinth of perception, in which both judgement and appreciation own an equal share of real estate: think of, acknowledge and accept a human as a human. Not man. Not woman. Some humans have breasts. Some humans do not. I have breasts. I have best friends who have breasts. I have best friends who don't. They’re all different bodies. They're all different breasts.
When I first introduced this piece, I gave you three separate visuals: Ciara’s breasts, Katy Perry’s breasts and Adele’s breasts. That’s three different pairs of boobs, and your mind navigated through three different routes to arrive at three different destinations. From there, you formed your opinions: be it discomfort or disgust, appreciation or attraction. In any case, humans are born with differences, both physical and nonphysical.
The differences you choose to be offended by, or have a strong opinion on, are differences you choose to not accept as differences. To the sexist Twitter commentators: you made a conscious decision to voice your disapproval of one woman’s body, because that body is not like yours and you are offended by that. To the sexist fathers concerned with their daughters being exposed to an adult human form: you are training your child to fear her own body, and to be close-minded to the beautiful differences that exist in all the shapes of all the people in the world. And to the grown adults who spoke out with concern about children they do not have: stop being trolls.
To conclude: Differences, no matter how obvious or minute, are beautiful. No two women are the same. No two men are the same. Some have breasts. Some have testicles. That is what we are, that is what we have. Stop fearing the human body. Stop teaching your children to fear the human body. And celebrate our differences without hoarding preconceived notions about what those differences represent.