Yo, Mama—These Jugs Make Milk!

By Elizabeth Hall Magill @ Yo, Mama

Breasts are fun. They’re so fun that we’ve named them funbags, squeezeboxes, jugs, hooters, racks, boobs, and tits. They’re fun to look at, fun to touch and squeeze. They bounce. Men like them, and that is a good thing.

Breasts can be fun to own. They give a woman pleasure, and that is a good thing. They are an important part of a woman’s body—emblematic of her femininity, her sexuality. When a girl begins to develop breasts, it is her body’s way of saying she will one day be a woman, and a girl listens to that. She listens as the growing pains shoot through her chest, she listens as her mother and grandmother talk about finding a bra. Breasts are such an important part of the transition from girlhood to womanhood that we sometimes call them girls.

Breasts can be a total drag to own. You have to figure out what to do with them—hike ‘em up, pump ‘em up, flatten ‘em out, air ‘em out, cover ‘em up. They’re sensitive, and if one of them gets kicked or pinched or squashed it hurts like hell. Growing them hurts too. Sometimes they grow too fast, and a girl hates being teased for it. Sometimes they grow too slow, and a girl wonders when she will look like other girls. Breasts always grow just right, but girls don’t always know that. It’s confusing to grow breasts.

It’s confusing to own breasts, because breasts are great at selling things. They are FABULOUS at selling beer… a cheeseburger, a car, some soda, a TV show, a video game, or most anything a man could want. Oh, yes, and bras. Breasts are good at selling bras.

It’s confusing to own breasts, because on a deeply subconscious level (or maybe not so subconscious) a woman has to wonder—if breasts are so great at selling things, does that mean the ones on her body would be? What if the ones on her body are smaller than most of the ones that sell stuff—or bigger? What if they bounce less, or more? What if they’re not simultaneously perky and exceedingly large—is that natural, and sexy? Yes, the cultural interest in breasts can be confusing to a woman.

Of all these breasts we see, very few are ever doing what they were made to do: feed children.

There are periodic outcries against women who breastfeed in public. Sometimes women are made to feel ashamed—asked to cover up, as if they were doing something indecent. Facebook has removed pictures of breastfeeding women, labeling them obscene. Breastfeeding has been, in a variety of contexts and for many years, seen as obscene. However, using breasts to sell beer or cheeseburgers does not violate any societal code of conduct. Breasts are for fun, silly. Not for food.

Why, in the name of all that is pleasurable and seductive, do we freak out when a woman wants to feed her child in public, but we don’t freak out when she wants to use her breasts to sell something?

Moving along, then—the breast can be pleasurable for a woman (and for a man), and the breast can feed a baby. If exhausted, overwhelmed, sometimes shamed nursing mothers can figure this out, I think it’s about time we asked the question:

How, in the name of all that is vulnerable and resilient, can we continue to pretend that the breast is anything other than what it is—a beautiful part of a woman’s body that can and sometimes does help another human being to survive, and even to thrive?

A longer version of this piece was originally posted on Yo, Mama

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About BroadBlogs

I have a Ph.D. from UCLA in sociology (emphasis: gender, social psych, women's psych). I currently teach sociology and women's studies at Foothill College in Los Altos Hills, CA. I have also lectured at San Jose State University. And I have blogged for Ms. Magazine, The Good Men Project and Daily Kos.

Posted on November 23, 2011, in body image, women and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 13 Comments.

  1. I completely agree with this blog. Breasts do bring out the feminism in women and it defines them. It disgusts me that a lot of men judge a woman by her breasts, and the average man loves big breasts. However, that stereotype of men loving big breasts hurts the women who don’t have big breasts and it makes them think that they are not good enough. There’s no way that women can naturally make their breasts bigger, only by getting a breast implant. Women would cause themselves pain to be more desirable. I also agree that people need to appreciate breasts for what they are really made for: breastfeeding. I find a ridiculous when someone is grossed out by breastfeeding. It’s a natural and good thing for women to do and they shouldn’t be insulted for it. I’ve heard of a lot of women who don’t want to breastfeed their babies because they don’t want their breasts to get ugly. I’d say to them, who cares what people think. Breastfeeding is the best thing that you can do for your baby. People need to appreciate the ability to breastfeed.

  2. Our modern culture is all about women being pretty and seductive, which includes using women’s breasts as images which portray this attractiveness and seduction. Everywhere we look, we see pictures of women and their breasts used to sell everything as Georgia mentions, from bras, to beer and food, as women with small breasts pay visits to a plastic surgeon for a ‘boob job.’ This entire process has made the average woman feel inferior if her breasts are anything but huge. It is a real shame, too, that our culture is teaching women that we are not pretty unless we have big ‘boobs.’ And giving our breasts nicknames only promotes this in our society.
    In order to change the current trend, as women we must refuse to be a part of the process. This means that we do not allow ourselves to be photographed for sexual purposes alone, especially photos which are aimed at selling our breasts above all else. We must not give in to any surgical procedure which ‘enhances’ what was given us, especially those of the breast implant. When we dress, we should avoid clothing which is extremely low-cut, and which ‘pushes up’ our breasts, as this gives the impression that we are all about ‘boobs.’
    Until we choose to make a difference and until we refuse to go along with all of the hype, nothing will change and we will only be seen for our physical appearance and sexual attractiveness, and for our ‘boobs.’ We must ask ourselves if we are part of the solution, or the problem.

    Elaine Balliet.

  3. This blog reminds me of a time when my cousin was breast-feeding her child in public. It was in a place where there was an area with chairs to just lounge and wait in. It wasn’t as if her breasts were fully exposed. Of course she used a cover. But as people passed by, I noticed that they were looking at her in a rude way. One lady even came up to us and told my cousin to do her business in a more appropriate area, like the bathroom. I don’t understand why it’s such a big deal for people to make comments about women who breast-feed their children. Why don’t they degrade those who flaunt their breasts to sell items that have nothing to do with the body? Using breasts in a cheeseburger ad? Seriously? It’s dumb. But I guess, “sex sells”.

  4. I am proud owner of a C cup when it comes to my breasts, and although I feel as if they look fine and are proportionate to my body, I have always longed to grow bigger ones. I would never have surgery done, but I am now realizing after having read this article that the reason for why I may be feeling like I want bigger breasts is because that is what I know men want. In addition, women with huge breasts are also the norm for what is seen on television. On another note, although I am not a mother and have not yet breast fed, I do know of mothers who have had babies, and their boobs grow, yet they do not want to breast feed because they feel it will mess up their “new” boob image. I disagree with that, because boobs are meant for feeding a baby, and it was the woman’s having a baby that caused for her boobs to grow in the first place.

  5. I totally agree with the comments above. Breasts are important part of the women’s body and it’s a natural gift so why do we give so much important to the size and concerned what others think. I’m not sure why some women choose to do plastic surgery to just look right and sell their body. I like how Elaine made a point about how to dress up ourselves and avoid low cut clothing so we are not advertising our boobs. We all women need to appreciate what we have and protect it from the evil eyes who consider women’s breasts as the items which can sell in the market for free.
    Breastfeeding: It’s sad that women who are mothers and don’t consider to breastfeed their children. Brest feeding is the healthy and the best way to give all the nutrition which the new babies needed for the first years of their life. I would strongly urge all the mom that breast feed your children because you will have close bonding with your them and important thing is that breast milk is free and no extra cost.

  6. Thabie Shabalala

    Yo, Mama-These Jugs Make Milk
    I thought this article was hilarious until I read about facebook removing pictures of breastfeeding women. I mean if breasts are so pleasant to look at, then why is it a problem for women to breastfeed in public? because some women already have their breasts in your face with their mountainous cleavages. Honestly I really do not understand how society works. Then again I think different societies and culture do things different, because in my culture it’s perfectly okay for a woman to breastfeed her baby in public with out any coverage. And then cleavages one the other hand, are unheard of, in fact sometimes people are called out as inappropriate for their cleavage. This is a very interesting article indeed because I had never thought about this contradiction before.

  7. I agree with every aspect of this blog. The development of breasts can be a joyful and painful experience. I remember feeling like I was finally becoming a real woman when I hit puberty and began to develop. In jr high and high school, I was embarrassed of them because they were larger than the other girls. In college, I now appreciate them in all their glory, They help define who I am, they are part of me. I also agree because they are also seen as sexual they have been used for advertisement. I hate seeing commercials that emphasize on women in that matter or watching a boxing match where a woman wearing next to nothing struts around on stage holding a sign. Women in general have been strongly sexualized in the media. As far as their intended use for feeding infants it is outrageous how some people feel about it. I understand that many women cannot provide enough milk to support a child and must refer to formulas to provide the rest but if one is able she should absolutely breastfeed. It is healthiest for the baby. I was once with a friend who was nursing her child in a starbucks and an employee came over to “inform” us that her breastfeeding was making other customers uncomfortable and we were asked to leave. My friend was outraged and yelled in the store about how it was natural and if anyone had a problem with her support her child’s wel-lbeing they could leave. I do not see how it is inappropriate to do what is biologically correct.

  8. Michelle Brumley

    Women’s breast are a constant discussion among men. Men seem to love women with big breast. It seems sometimes the bigger the better, and women see these as an object to attracting men. They go to the extremes of getting surgery to increase the size of their breasts. They get breast implants which can cause them pain and discomfort. Their bodies must adjust to this new size and foreign material. This is dangerous and can hinder what they were really meant to do.
    Women and men have breasts, but women’s breast are a part of their reproductive cycle. They appear when she starts menstruating. They are meant for feeding their children, through breastfeeding. Women feed their children when they carry them, and their bodies are made to continue after childbirth. So I believe that breasts can be beautiful and used for what they were intended, breastfeeding.

  9. I find it quite irrational how facebook removed pictures of women breastfeeding yet commercials and advertisements are allowed to use half naked women to sell their products. People in society have been made to think that women with large full sized breasts are considered very attractive and sexy. Living in a patriarchal society, women are made to believe that having these features (big breasts, a curvy body, and round/juicy looking butt) will attract men where ever they go. Even the magazine advertisements are photo-shopping their women to have larger and firmer looking breasts when really, not all women grow up to have these perfect looking shaped breasts. It is very common that women grow up having small and uneven sized breasts. Our bodies are constantly seen as an “instigator of male desire” and nothing more (WRWC 94). Since the value of women have been based on cultural constructs and false assumptions, many of us face the consequences of trying to live up to these certain expectations whether it be having the obsession of going to the gym, starving ourselves and even having dangerous cosmetic surgeries performed on our bodies. Women need to realize that we do not have to live up to the expectations of what our society and men consider what’s “beautiful” and “attractive”. Men also need to realize that women are not subordinate objects that can be molded and shaped into what ever they want us to be.

  10. Great article and very well-spoken. If there is something that men and women can agree to looking at on other women, it would be their breasts. It is pleasing to know that women enjoy having breasts as much as a man would enjoy looking at breasts. Thats why when women get implants and other surgeries, it is no longer very attractive if it’s not proportional to the woman’s size.

    Commenting on Michelle’s post, guys dont always want the biggest set of racks; they would rather have a woman who is more proportionally balanced. Example a more petite woman would look fine with a smaller set of racks because with big boobs she wouldn’t even have a chest and it would look weird. The bigger the girl then the bigger her racks would have to be to compensate, generally speaking.

    To the issue on breastfeeding in public, i have no problem with it being banned or censored off in public. Don’t get me wrong, I am pro infant health and nurturing habits but how are those that are watching going to react. If a little boy or girl is at the store and sees a grown woman whip out her breast, nipple and all and breastfeed her kid, you dont know how they are going to take it. In a worst case scenario, instead of a little girl or boy, it was a sex offender that saw this, he might find it erotic and start another terror rampage.

    This is different than females wearing low cut shirts and using that for sales purposes, because there was no exposure even tho it was targeted for sexual desire. Like Nina and Elaine commented, women can support the stop to this kind of thing by not wearing such low cut clothing, giving peeping tom’s a free show. Instead women should wear clothes they feel comfortable in, I mean why shouldn’t they? Men do it.

  11. I got attracted to this posting because I came from a culture where it is okay for a nursing woman to breastfeed her baby in public. I never really realized until I read this article that we seem to promote the use of breast for the wrong reasons, how sad! I don’t see anything bad in breastfeeding ,and just like the author said, it helps in survival. I am surprised that face book would label pictures with breastfeeding moms as obscene or indecent, for they have more obscene pictures of people half naked with their tummies, part of their buttocks, and even boobs exposed. I think it’s time for our society to face reality and promote the things that are good and healthy for us. Healthy babies , mean a healthy society.

  12. Melissa Aboytes

    When I read this article I literally turned on the tv, flipped through channels and voila in a few short minutes I see a Victoria’s Secret commercial. Of course the women are only wearing beautiful bras and it wasn’t hard to notice that the girls had big boobs. When I was growing up and adjusting to my breasts, it was exciting to go try on bras and whatnot, but that burning question of “are they gonna be big?” always popped in my head. Its a question a lot of girls ask, but i think its time to tell those girls to stop objectifying themselves and learn to love their breasts no matter how big or small they are.
    When a girl becomes a woman and they have children they have the wonderful opportunity to build a connection with their child by breastfeeding. Breastfeeding is not only natural but it is an important part of a child’s growth and development. So why is that people get outraged when a woman is feeding her baby? That woman is only doing what comes naturally and for people to discourage that and encourage the sole fact that her boobs should be big and used for other reasons is just unbelievable.

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