Sameer and I went to the Field Museum – a natural history museum in Chicago – yesterday. The exhibits were fantastic. After oggling Sue the T-Rex for a bit, we went off and looked at the Ancient Americas exhibit. While in the Ancient Americas exhibit, I noted the pictures and models of women from ancient times, walking around and going about their work totally topless and I thought “Hmmm, seen that before.” As you know, in many African tribes, women still go topless.
Later on, we went to look at a photo exhibition of women’s rituals from around the world. While there, we came across a series of pictures of Swazi women at the annual Reed Dance, again topless. And here, one of the signs accompanying the pictures states that “In Swazi culture, breasts are associated with food, not sex.” and I though “A-ha! That makes perfect sense!”
We have some many people telling us that women who go around showing skin are asking for harassment but in certain cultures and certain times, women showed much more skin and went about their daily work without fear or reprisal or abuse.
So I ask, when did breasts become co-opted as exclusive symbols of sex and sexuality? I find it so strange that in some countries – the US in particular – people are so abhorrent of women who breastfeed their babies in public but they are quite happy to see breasts flashed around on billboards, in movies, or in porn. It’s a double standard that insinuates that breasts are for men’s pleasure and not for women’s purposes.