Perfectly Natural

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Growing up, it was more acceptable to be a murderer than to be fat. Many murderers were media darlings, but no overweight people were cool. Fat, body hair, and breasts are perfectly natural things to have, yet somehow it is wrong to have them. We are told to remove, hide, or modify. Having body hair anyplace other than on your head is as bad as having nipples. It just isn’t done in polite society.  

Recently, there was a topless protest at the small college where I work, in reaction to a student sunbathing sans shirt. The student, who identifies as nongendered,  was approached by a public safety officer and asked “are you a boy or a girl?”. This is an inappropriate question to ask a person who is part of the transgendered community. It is an inappropriate question to ask anyone. To me, the real question is, why does it matter if it is a “boy” or a “girl”? If you are in the middle of a city, regardless of gender, is it okay to be half undressed? Why is it okay for men to be partially naked and not women? I may not feel drawn to being topless in the city, but if I did, why is it illegal for me, but not my husband?

I am amazed that we still have to protest things like this. For a brief period in modern history, we had a lot more freedom in what we did and wore. Bra-wearing was a choice, not a mandate. You could burn it, or wear it. You could have big breasts or small ones, or be flat chested (does that even exist any more?). Breast augmentation was initially for women who needed to be rebuilt after tragedy. It was not an elective procedure or a fashion mandate. Now, bralessness is indecency. For those of us who are less endowed, a bra is just a formality. Still, I’ve been chastised at two different jobs for not wearing one, even though I was adequately covered by more than one layer of fabric. Breasts are not allowed to move, or have nipples, but they are supposed to be large. Augmented breasts look frightened to me. They stick out, rather than relaxing in a comfortable position. The nipples appear to be in jeopardy, like they’re facing a firing squad. And we all know about the struggles of breast-feeding moms. For some reason it is indecent to quietly feed a baby in public, but perfectly fine to stuff your fake breasts into a push-up bra and shove them into everyone’s face.

Meanwhile, back at the protest, there were young men and women playing frisbee with no shirts on. It was cold out, and there were lots of skeevy old men and TV cameras. The breasts and the frisbees didn’t bother me, but the rest made me feel protective of my students. The deans were there in their suits and high heels, mostly with eyes averted. It was a strange position to be in, feeling the need to bear witness, yet not feeling comfortable actually looking at them.

As for body hair, like breasts, back in the sixties and seventies and even the eighties, there was a lot more choice. You could shave or not shave. I’m not sure waxing even existed then.  I loved seeing my hairy calves jutting out of my hiking boots. It felt strong. Not everyone enjoyed seeing hairy legs and armpits, but most folks didn’t feel that they had the right to comment about your personal business. It was the same with religion, a private matter. As for pubic hair, that was also private and not open to public debate, which is much a more civilized approach, in my book. Choice is the key. You should remove or not remove your hair when and as you choose.

Thankfully there seems to be a decline in fat shaming, thanks to the efforts of some brave and beautiful comediennes and underwear models. This reprieve also may relate to the fact that there are fewer people feeling entitled to judge others about their muffin top, now that we have high fructose corn syrup.

Healthy weight is a good thing. How you feel is everything. Hair or lack thereof should be a choice, and you should have any configuration of breasts that makes you happy, bra or no bra. These rights should extend equally to both men and women. I still can’t quite figure out why my boobs and pubes are anyone else’s business. In my happy fantasy world kindness and compassion are the important things, not other people’s privates.