From our discussions in class and my own experiences, it seems that most of us would deny any sort of Cartesian mind/body split – we experience the world around us and understand ourselves, if not entirely then at least to some extent, through our bodies. For women, I would suggest this necessarily includes our breasts. The articles that we read about breast cancer would seem to follow this track – women who lose their breasts through mastectomy often end up feeling an acute sense of loss for a part of their bodies that they may not have realized before helped to shape how they see themselves. When I read Amy DePaul’s article, I was angered by the suggestions that a woman going through breast cancer treatments would of course want to go up in size when she had her breasts reconstructed, but I also wondered how I would respond if I were to face this situation someday. How would I feel about myself if my breast felt different, moved different, looked different? They are a feature of my body that I have often taken for granted, but I’m sure my relation to my body would be fundamentally changed if I suddenly had to lose them.
With this intensely personal breasted experience (because of course my experience of my own breasts must be different than any other woman’s, because of not only physical differences but also our different histories in growing, changing, and living with breasts), I was baffled by some of the things discussed in Iris Marion Young’s article On Breasted Experience. On page 80, Young talks about the cultural concept that a woman’s breasts don’t really belong to her, stating “It’s hard to imagine a women’s breasts as her own, from her own point of view, to imagine their value apart from measurement and exchange.” The only point of view from which this makes sense to me is a male view, for really, if we’re thinking from a woman’s point of view, how can we image a woman’s breasts as anything but entirely her own? She may share them with others (lovers, babies), but in reality they are always inevitably part of her. I can choose to expose my breasts to my lover or keep them to myself. I can breastfeed or rely on formula. I not only experience my breasts as uniquely mine, but I appreciate them in a way that is completely apart from a phallocentric, objectifying sexuality. I don’t always see my breasts, but I can feel them move with me, sense the smallest shifts in size and shape that wouldn’t be noticeable to anyone else.
Understanding my own breasted experience as personal and unique, I also wonder at Young’s discussion of breasts within the context of motherhood. She suggests that we embrace an erotic understanding of motherhood in order to reunite motherhood with sexuality, but I wonder why this particular approach is necessary. If we allow women’s individual experiences of their bodies to be acceptable, why can’t a woman enjoy her embodied experience of motherhood and her existence as a sexual being without combining the two? In the end, I think I just have problems with any expression of what my embodied experience should or should not be. Why can’t my own unique experience be honored and accepted as just what it is – unique?