I started this piece as a reply to the evolution comment thread under my Live (Top)free or Die article, but decided just to post it as its own article since I haven’t been posting during this election season.
(I’m fine, for those that have written to ask if my absence implied anything bad. While I am very personally busy with some great projects, I am happy and healthy. Thank you for asking. I have been out and about bare-chested and have been working quite hard on some legal conversations in Maryland, Rhode Island and Delaware. I’ve been laying low because I feel like the tone of the national conversation regarding sexual assault right now has created an environment in which it is very difficult to have quiet, meaningful conversations about equality. To those outside the U.S., suffice to say, the collective social anxiety leading up to this election is palpable and wide-spread and as I have repeated throughout my blog, you really can’t make headway with someone who is in mid-brain panic, and right now, the whole country feels like it is in a mid-brain panic, so I’m letting everything settle down until I come back with any regularity. Please be patient. Just a couple weeks to go hopefully.)
Anyway, to the commenters in the thread, thank you all for remaining civil. I take great pride in the tone of the comments section on this blog. We discuss some difficult topics but almost never resort to personal insults and when we do misspeak we apologize, accept apologies and continue with the substance of the conversation. More than anything, I value that.
As far as evolution and breast size goes, as I mentioned in a previous comment, for me to make a meaningful response as to how human breasts have evolved would take a graduate degree or at least, as Alex has said, some avid personal devotion to the topic. I don’t say this to diminish any evolutionary theories forwarded in this thread…but I believe none of the participants in this evolution conversation are from the United States, if I’m correct. I note this simply to preface that here in the United States and no doubt elsewhere, historically, evolutionary arguments have been used to justify inequality regarding race and gender primarily, but also with other things like sexuality, intelligence, ability, athletic ability and so on. As such, it makes me inherently uncomfortable to talk about evolution and equality in the same breath. I’m not saying let’s not have the conversation, but I am saying that it feels raw and vulnerable to speak of the intersection between evolution and equality, because evolution should in no way alter or abridge equality.
Evolution certainly is an interesting intellectual debate, and I’m all for that. But it should be immaterial from an equality standpoint how we arrived where we are as human beings vis-a-vis evolution, creation, socialization etc. Equality is equality and the beauty of the vision (if not the practice) of the United States is that however you got here, whatever biological, divine or social path brought you here, you have an equal place here. This of course is not remotely true in the United States, but as an ideal, as a founding principle, it is beautiful.
I think the rage we see in the United States exists because once a people forward such a lofty ideal, once the expectation of equality and opportunity sits in the hearts and minds of the people, when those people are brought to dream and hope and aspire to happiness and freedom, when that equality and opportunity is denied to some of those people by others of those same people, the distance between the ideal and the reality creates a deep anger and resentment in the oppressed, and a deep fear of power loss in the oppressors. And rightly so.
I suspect that if true equality ever exists in a human society, it will see less rage and violence than we do now. What will there be to rage against?
But as evolution relates in my mind to topfreedom and gender equality, while authentically interesting to speak of the biological history of breast evolution or sexual evolution in general, evolution is no justification for unequal treatment. In the extreme examples, attempts to make a master race are nothing more than attempts to manipulate evolutionary forces to eliminate one type of human and proliferate another. In less genocidal situations, evolutionary arguments can still be and are easily co-opted to justify some differential treatment or other. (I’m not saying anyone in this thread has done this, and thank you for that.)
My assertion is simply that in the United States we have held aloft this ideal of equality that we have yet to realize. Treating all bodies equally is but one part of realizing that ideal. Treating the races and genders equally under the law is going to take generations, because the unequal treatment we have normalized has existed for centuries if not millennia.
Evolution? Creation? It doesn’t matter, because in this country, at its founding, we said it doesn’t matter. However we came to be we came to be equally, and so we remain.
“Equality” of course is a nebulous term. As I use it, I mean equal treatment under the law. Social equality is a much, much more complicated math, but the fact remains that we cannot work on social equality without underlying legal equality. The system must treat us as equals before society will. Legal equality is easily definable. Social equality is almost undefinable.
Last thought, to ease Alex’ concern about the loss of beauty of the female breast, my personal “narrative” of topfreedom has never included the 100% desexualization of the breast or female body. I don’t know of any topfreedom advocate calling for this. If you read back here you will find that since the beginning I have been asking for us to simply examine the obligatory legal sexualization of the female body. Women should be allowed to decide when their bodies are sexual and when they aren’t, legally speaking, meaning an assailant cannot use the fact that breasts have always been seen as sexual to justify an assault, harassment, etc, if a woman chooses to go bare-chested.
The beauty of the breast is as important to women as it is to men, possibly more so. If you read back through my post about the breast cancer march in D.C. this summer, you will read that we heard touching and moving stories of the effect of breast removal to self esteem and sexual confidence, (but also the regaining of that lost confidence as the women grew to re-accept their bodies.) I would venture to say that most women don’t want the attractiveness of the breast to evaporate. I certainly don’t. But hair and lips and calves can be very attractive too. We navigate those all the time.
To nutshell my position on men and breasts, I personally would like to see the whole drooling man-child image evaporate when we define our expectations of male behavior toward women. The vast majority of heterosexual and bisexual men can and do navigate their sexual attraction to women and respect the autonomy of that woman’s body in the sense that they confirm consent before sexual contact. It is a bit harder I think for people (of all genders) to swallow the idea of true gender equality, but I don’t feel that’s always malicious. I think we have grown so accustomed to the roles we have now that changing those roles feels quite disruptive and scary.
But whether it is malicious or not is also immaterial in a way, because the negative effects of inequality are real no matter what their underlying cause.