A comment on Corporette in the past week has lingered in my mind enough for me to want to share it with you. I haven’t been able to locate the actual comment again (did I imagine it? was it moderated out?), but it went something like this:
At a law school reception recently, one of my male classmates told me, “You have beautiful breasts.” I was mortified and told him that I didn’t think his comment was appropriate. He said, “But I thought you were proud of them, the way you’re always showing them off.” I’m so embarrassed. My tee shirts are tight because that’s all I can find to fit. I don’t want the men I work with to be thinking that I’m that kind of girl.
How would you react to a compliment like this? Since writing this blog,Â I’m much less sensitive about my large breasts than I used to be. I’m on a forum where women compliment each others’ boobs all the time. I myself have observed so many breasts since beginning this blog that I have developed a sort of breast aesthetic, and if I know a woman well enough, or if she seems open to the subject, I will give her the exact same compliment as the male classmate.
However, if I had been on the receiving end of the compliment back in law school, I would have been just as mortified (which explains the baggy shirts I always wore).Â I now comprehend how much men appreciate breasts, but even so, I’m not sure how I would respond to such a compliment today. I like to think that I would laugh and say, “Why thank you!”, but it’s just as possible that my face would freeze before I mumbled something unintelligible and walked away.
Who knows this man’s intentions? Perhaps he was engaging in a power play by purposely putting the woman off balance with his compliment. Perhaps he was suggesting something sexual. Or perhaps he simply appreciated her breasts and thought she should know how great he thought they were. Whatever his intentions, she could not control them or his actions. The only thing she–and we–can control is our own attitude towards our breasts and our response to the attention they receive.
As women with large breasts, I believe we face a constant challenge to view our breasts as valuable gifts and to act accordingly. This is more difficult when we feel that an observer has reduced us to sexual objects because of them, but the fact that someone else has this perception does not make it true. It is our own special test to refuse to adopt such a perception or to allow ourselves to be shamed by it.
The commenter, like each of us, has some work ahead of her. I felt that she was allowing herself to be victimized by other peoples’ perception of her large breasts when she wrote that she does not want to be thought of as “that kind of girl.” Big breasts under a tight tee shirt do not mean a woman is easy. Big breasts under a tight tee shirt plus a lot of other social cues may indicate this, but large breasts alone mean nothing. They are simply a physical feature.
Recently, I watched a fascinating martial arts demonstration. In each scenario, the demonstrator walked us through the steps he would take to counter an attacker and bring him under his control. At the very end, he made a surprising claim: “Once you have the power to protect yourself, you don’t need to fight anymore.” I think there’s a corollary for us: once we view our bodies with acceptance, we don’t need to run away in shame or to attack others. We have the power to set boundaries on inappropriate behavior without allowing it to define us.
I honestly don’t know what I would’ve said. At this point in my life depending on who said that it would depend on my response. A male at work? I probably would’ve told him that it was not an appropriate comment and suggest that in the future he compliment a woman’s outfit rather than a specific body part. I might also point out that larger breasts are hard to hide and any women in the correct bra size is going to be “showing off her breasts” in his mind so he should rethink his views.
But back at the time I was a student? I probably would’ve been mortified…
I like what you would have said. When I really think about it, I tend to laugh when I’m embarrassed, so my laughing and saying “Thank you,” could easily be a result of my being flustered–definitely not a position of power. And it would give the impression that I thought it was okay for someone not close to me to talk that way to me.
I get flustered too, it’s gotten better as I’ve aged but sometimes odd remarks just take me off guard.
I’ve been pretty luck in work situations thus far. It helps too that DH works with me so I think that helps to suppress the comments too. However, I really do think it’s important to point out to the guy that it’s inappropriate, especially in a work setting to make such comments. Maybe it’s good to have a clear premade response in your head in case such a situation arises?
Definitely depends on the situation. I agree with June that in a work/professional context it’s totally inappropriate and a response such as June suggests is probably best.
On the other hand in a social context it might very appropriate, my boobs certainly got me some nice attention at the weekend 😉
I agree. In a social context it’s quite different and depending on your relationship with the other person, it might be completely OK. For instance, I see a big difference between someone commenting that Darlene’s breasts look amazing on an outfit on this blog (where she’s clearly put a lot of thought into a specific dress, bra choice etc. and is analyzing the outfit from that perspective). vs on the street or a work environment.
ps until recently I kept my large bust well hidden, it’s been quite fun seeing the reaction to me in more uplifting bras and more revealing clothes
I think that was incredibly inappropriate, whichever way he meant it. Can you imagine the opposite, a woman commenting in such a personal way on a male colleague? I’m very comfortable with my breasts and don’t hide them in anyway, but commenting on a stranger’s physical appearance is completely out of line. I think I would have given him my “over the glasses” teacher stare…
I find it so unfair how a skinny woman with less curves and small breasts can wear tank tops and shorts and it not to look out of the ordinary to others- whilst a curvy woman with shorts that fit her body and a tank top that shows that she has bigger breasts will immediately draw attention. She will be sexualised simply because of the size of her breasts. So many women with big boobs will hide them away for fear of remarks, of the lecherous looks and that look from people that says : You’re trying to draw attention to your big boobs so I’m going to make a comment, you deserve it’. ARRRRGH.
I’ve developed a repertoire of responses such as:
‘Yeah I know they’re big and if you stare long enough, fireworks will start exploding from my nipples.’
‘Thank you, yes I do have large and beautiful breast. Unfortunately from what I can gather, your trousers contain nothing of note.’
Childish? Maybe. Satisfying? Hell yeah!
Don’t let the bastards bring you down ladies. Your breasts are gorgeous so don’t ever hide them 🙂
I’m even more disturbed that after she told him it was inappropriate he tried to defend himself by saying “the way you’re always showing them off.” That’s like telling a rape victim that they asked for it because of the way they’re dressed. I agree with Holly’s sentiments that a less busty girl in the same dress would not be talked to like that but a busty girl is considered to be on display. It’s just a physical attribute. Busty girls deserve to dress nice too. No one looks worse in baggy clothes than a busty girl. It’s very unflattering and it does not hide breasts but instead adds a stomach. It’s never okay to comment on a body part of someone you hardly know. And this guy went to law school? I guess he missed the course on sexual harassment suits.
I was at a bar once, when a guy came over and poked me on the shoulder, and said “Excuse me, I just wanted to tell you, you have the biggest breasts I’ve ever seen.” – he said it very matter of factly, like saying “I am pleased to see you are wearing sensible shoes” or something like that, and then he turned and continued with what ever he was doing. I just sort of laughed and said “Ok”
^Since it was a bar, it was a relaxed setting, and I’ve had rude comments at places like that, so this was just sort of funny. If it was in a professional setting, I would probably have been quite uncomfortable, even though I gladly talk openly about breasts and bras! Very specific compliments can tend to get a bit creepy, even for parts which is not as sexualized as breasts. I would feel pretty awkward if someone at work started to compliment my eyes in detail too.