What do you mean, do I have a relationship with my breasts?
At a recent presentation for the launch of the Foundational Breast Care website the question was asked, “How is your relationship with your breasts”? For most (including me) that might seem a ridiculous question, but on further reflection after exploring what the presenter meant, I can see the question definitely has merit!
I know I can have a relationship with my partner, or with my Mum, but what on earth would it mean to have a relationship with my breasts, and also why would I want one?
Foundational Breast Care is a website with a difference. It is asking women to consider “breast care”, and see their breasts as more than body parts used for feeding, sex, or as a place of illness. It challenges the premise that a woman’s breasts are about function and instead proposes that first and most importantly a woman’s breasts belong to her, and indeed they are an essential part of knowing who you are as a woman, and claiming the innate nurturing and beauty within.
1. The statistics, and issues related to breast cancer:
Scouring the Internet you will find that almost everything you see about breasts falls into one of 3 categories:
Rightly so the issue of breast cancer needs shouting from the rooftops. It is the leading cancer killer of women, and despite improved mortality rates, the incidence of breast cancer continues to rise with 1 in 8 women now contracting the illness at some point in their life . The challenge we have that is most of what you can read on the Internet focusses on a) how to detect breast cancer early, and b) how to recover. As important as these factors are, they leave out prevention, and this is where breast care comes to the fore. Studies now tell us that between 27-38% of breast cancer cases are preventable through lifestyle factors. So isn’t it time we think about breast care, what that means, and how we can all participate every day in our own breast wellbeing?
2. The sexualisation of breasts:
Breasts for sex is everywhere. Every man’s magazine you look at seems to have breasts protruding unavoidably. Every women’s magazine does too! The sexualisation of breasts has gone so far that for many there is no other reason for breasts. Breasts cannot be spoken about without a titillating laugh; many women can’t even call their breasts ‘breasts’, referring to what is essentially a part of the body that in truth represents tenderness and nurturing as ‘boobies’, ‘jugs’, or perhaps ‘the girls’. How demeaning is it really that this part of a woman’s body that is a place representing the powerful tenderness she is, is treated like a cheap hooker throughout society.
3. The feeding of our children:
Breast feeding is unquestionably an important function of a woman’s body, both for herself and her child. Questioning however whether breast-feeding is right for every woman is akin to the harakiri of the Japanese samurai. Should a woman dare to say “breast feeding didn’t work for me”, whether that be because of physical challenges, or because she needs to be away from her child to work, or simply because she finds it uncomfortable, the onslaught of “you are not worthy as a woman” is intense and in no way represents the truth that is a woman’s breasts belong to her, not her child, not her husband, and not every man she sees walking down the street. When a woman knows her breasts are her own, and the wonder of who she is, and then chooses to breast feed, the milk that is fed to her child is truly nurturing.
So coming back to the initial question of “do I have a relationship with my breasts?” the answer for most might be around those three items – I breast feed, they are sexual, or I have had or am concerned about cancer.
In pondering this question of a relationship with my breasts, it occurred to me that I do actually have a relationship with other parts of my body. I have a relationship with my hair for example. I take care of it, I make sure it is healthy, I make sure I love how it looks and it represents who I feel myself to be. Never a day goes by without attending to my hair. The same goes for my nails, I file them, trim them and paint them. If I have white flecks appearing in them I look into what this means about my overall health. I know that both my nails and hair are an indicator of my overall health, and if either one is shoddy, I know for a fact there is a bigger problem at play in my body.
So there you have it; I have what is an intimate relationship with some parts of my body, but do I have a relationship with my breasts? I do now!
Once you realise your breasts are not just appendages sitting there waiting to be engaged by a man, a baby or an illness, there is on offer an exquisite relationship between you and your breasts to be developed. From here a blossoming of care develops in a way that is unique to each woman. For me I feel the temperature of my breasts each morning and evening, and if there is a coolness anywhere, I know I have not been nurturing myself fully. My breasts are part of my whole body, and the inter-relationship of them with the all speaks to a holistic pattern of self-care.
Other steps in my relationship include that I might take a few moments to apply cream after a shower each morning, or find that the type of bra I want to wear has changed to ones that are not only attractive, but also supportive and exquisitely comfortable. These tiny steps are all part of a bigger relationship where I know my breasts are my own, and that breast care is an imperative part of my overall self-care.
The time has come for the view of breasts in society to change so women know the importance of a caring relationship with their breasts, and that through this relationship a doorway to previously unknown true nurturing is opened. It’s time to rewrite the history of our breasts.