As many of the pieces we have read over the quarter have done, these essays made me analyze things differently, in this case breasts. I can remember when in elementary school my friends and I had started to develop and it had created a certain divide between the girls. Like Young talks about breasts are not often objectified when in the presence of other women, which was true among my friends. The real divide came due to the new gaze that had been put upon us by the boys in our class. Trying not to draw attention to our awkwardly developing breasts, became of main concern.
Breasts, like menstruation, has just been something as a woman I have deal with without much thought. They can cause shame or empowerment, depending on simple factors like the shirt I decide to wear. I found Young’s discussion about nipples very interesting. As a young girl I had always wondered why I could not walk around with no shirt on, but as Young says, “Nipples are no-nos, for they show the breasts to be active and independent zones of sensitivity and eroticism.” I thought this distinction of showing breast and showing nipple was proving another way that expectations of female bodies and sexuality are often contradicting and restricting. The nipples are signifiers of an autonomous sexuality for women.
The Ehrenreich piece was extremely insightful in explaining the experience of having breast cancer. She points out the gender distinctions that are associated with different cancers. She writes, “Or it may be that, in some versions of the prevailing gender ideology, femininity is by its nature incompatible with full adulthood—a state of arrested development. Certainly men diagnosed with prostate cancer do not receive gifts of Matchbox cars.” I found this very compelling, in addition to all the material items she had listed used to promote breast cancer awareness that revealed a child-like state.
The Depaul and Ehrenreich pieces, for me, showed the complex nature of breast cancer. As Young points out, breasts can often become objects that are treated as such. I cannot imagine when something that is viewed as almost outside of yourself, becomes the source of illness to your body. This experience would be extremely difficult in a culture that fetishizes the feminine and the breasts as Young discusses.