This post is part of a blog series on personal perspective of modesty regarding breasts, bras, and body image. Check back for cross-links of the other blog posts as they're posted!
All of my life, I've had larger breasts. I was somewhat of an early bloomer, and I was the classic case of the little girl unknowingly walking around with a woman's body while wearing little girl clothes dancing to Britney Spears in my backyard. I have pretty clear memories of my classmates teasing me for having "D" breasts in the seventh grade, and I remember the crude comments I had to deal with in high school when my clothing unintentionally hinted at hips or breasts. Despite being a socially awkward, shy, bookish youth, I received unsolicited attention from men and catty remarks from women of all ages. In my naivety, I often made the mistake of wearing a tank tops or V-neck tops, completely oblivious or struggling to understand. Other girls my age and even older were wearing tank tops and shorts in the heat of the summer, but if I wore anything like that, I was called a slew of negative comments ranging from slut, whore, immoral, to fat. It left me feeling confused and ashamed of my body.
As I grew older, I grew more comfortable in my individuality and my body. With my weight loss progress pictures going viral, I grew especially comfortable with people seeing my body. In my eyes, I didn't see myself sexually; it was just a body, after all. I was more comfortable in my skin and I was proud of my fitness and weight loss progress, and I figured people who saw my pictures would be inspired by the fact that I had succeeded at reaching my goals. Again, in my naivety, I had assumed people would see my body as I did: merely a body.
As more and more websites started linking my pictures, I was seeing more and more comments attacking me for being an attention-seeking whore of a female or men making terribly inappropriate sexual suggestions. When I did Star in a Bra last year, despite attempting to solicit votes from a primarily female audience and making my platform focused on a healthier body image, I was once again met with negativity and assumptions that I was showing my body off for male validation. Just like when I was a teenager, it left me feeling somehow confused and ashamed again.
Those experiences awoke a rage deep within me, and gave birth to the educated feminist I've become today. People made me feel ashamed for my body; something natural, and something I can't help. Because our society has over-sexualized women's breasts, I am being penalized and objectified. Because our society still holds onto archaic, patriarchal ideals, women are somehow still expected to be chaste, pure, and modest. When women are sexually harassed, society blames them for not covering up their bodies and provoking them. Choosing to cover yourself is one thing (and there's nothing wrong with it!), but the concept that a woman's self-worth is based on how pure, modest, and appealing she is to men is absurd. You are not your body. Your body does not represent your self-worth.
I should not have to cover up my body because what I do with it offends your delicate, narrow-minded existence. It's just not your body to make that choice. Bodies aren't not inherently sexual, and neither are breasts. I live with this body everyday: I see it undressed in the mirror, have to find clothes that somehow fit my waist and my bust, and have to order online just to find bras that fit me. It is just a body. It's natural. I could walk around naked and it still would not be sexual unless I wanted it to be. My body belongs to me; not to you, not to society, not to men, not to my family. It is mine and mine alone to decide when I want it to be sexual. Even if I wanted to be sexy, my body still is not yours, I am not a sexual object, and my sexuality is none of your concern. Maybe I want to cover up my body, and maybe I don't, but covering up should be my choice and not yours.
I'm happy with my body now, and I'm happy with the way I dress. I no longer have to waste time making sure my outfits aren't too sexy, show too much cleavage, or show too much leg, just in case my body unintentionally offends someone. Sometimes I cover up, and sometimes I don't. I'm not ashamed of my body anymore. Don't like it? Good. The more confident women out there who aren't afraid or ashamed of their bodies because of societal expectations, the bigger splash we can make. And maybe one day, we can live in a world where a woman can breastfeed in public or go bare-chested like men at beaches without being judged.