Anger is fear.
People who show anger toward my bare breasts are really showing fear. Seeing a bare-chested woman, especially unexpectedly, is new and disturbing to many Americans.
Female bare-chestedness should never be scary, in my opinion. Instilling fear is a very useful tool when trying to sway politicians. Shouting protesters can and do change political will. But intimidation is counterproductive when trying to change public sentiment. Reacting to angry (fearful) people by shouting at them only makes them more afraid, which pushes us farther from our goal of acceptance and normalization.
To reduce the fear reaction, I have pondered what makes certain types of people afraid of bare female breasts.
Again, the vast majority of my interactions and reactions are either positive or neutral.
Not surprisingly, I sometimes see negative responses from mothers and fathers who have their children with them at the time they encounter me. Let me add immediately though that most mothers and fathers have handled it beautifully, without strong reactions. Often in Ocean City, Maryland, families will clearly see me and still set their blankets near me. This always makes my heart happy.
Children themselves almost never notice my attire until they reach the age of about 11 or 12, and even then they will proceed unaffected with whatever they were doing.
Parents, by my interpretation (and experience raising our own child), experience a complicated cascade of emotions when they see anything that will require a conversation with their children that makes the parents themselves feel conflicted and uncomfortable. (Sex, drugs, bullying, religion, etc.) Kids look at me and sort of universally shrug, like huh, she’s not wearing a shirt. That’s new. But at that age, kids experience new things every day, so it’s not especially jarring.
To many adults, however, parents or not, new things automatically represent potential danger. Parenting is difficult and scary work. We have to protect our children from so many things, and we get so exhausted, that it becomes easier sometimes to build a wall of normality around them. My personal opinion is that this wall is as much to reduce anxiety in the parents as it is to protect the children, and that it can actually endanger children and society by limiting the amount of discovery they experience. It raises adults who are afraid of each other without knowing why.
At the same time, we can’t let our children discover that traffic is dangerous by getting hit by a car. So to honor that reality, I present myself as sexually neutral as possible. Sexual predation is terrifying. So when I appear bare-chested, I just appear bare-chested. No high-heels, no photo-shoots, no shouting, no attention-grabs.
I understand completely the premise behind slut-walks and anti-shaming campaigns. I support their message whole-heartedly. But my blog is about normalizing bare female breasts, which will only happen when people are no longer afraid of them.
Walking bare-chested in the United States is a disruptive, jarring act. Breasts are sexual commodities in the United States. Freely displaying them for no commercial gain is confusing and new, and thus, by definition, scary.
The only experience many people have with bare breasts is sexual, or commercially sexual. and they don’t understand why I am being sexual in front of their children. This triggers their protective parent reflex. Fair enough. The best way to counteract this response is through careful, repetitive non-sexual breast exposure that desensitizes the American eye to the sight of breasts.
After that, we can begin talking about the beautiful subtleties of sexuality.