To introduce my thought on chest-related double standards, I’m going to show an image from the excellent Busty Girl Comics.
This pretty perfectly illustrates what I would like to say here about the double standards that come out based on body type. While I could probably write volumes about the issues faces by people who happen to be fat, right now I would specifically like to talk about breast size.
As someone who has a very large chest, I can say with certainty that we face a unique set of challenges. There are practical matters, like how bras are more expensive. Or how clothing can often fit everywhere else but strain at the chest. Or how we have back pain, difficulty with overhead roller coaster restraints, and awkward placement of over-the-shoulder bag straps.
For the most part, those are all things that are annoying but tolerable. But body-based double standards are another problem altogether. They’re an issue with tangible consequences.
So let’s take a look at the image above. The two women in it are wearing the exact same shirt. A third person tells the larger-chested of the matching women to dress more “appropriately.” This person expects her to dress like the woman she already matches. It seems safe to assume the cartoon is depicting coworkers and a manager. Excessive skin is probably not allowed. And that’s the prerogative of whoever makes the dress code. Neither woman is showing much skin, as the top is relatively modest. The only difference is the size of the one woman’s breasts. The boss admonishes her large chest. This tells her that her body is inappropriate and dirty.
When a thin or flat-chested woman and a fat or large-chested woman wear exactly the same thing, the larger woman is always going to be the first one singled out for being “inappropriate.” Much like how thin women are considered casual and low maintenance while fat women are considered sloppy, chest size introduces a major double standard. This sounds like a petty complaint, but it can have real world consequences.
Think about it. If you are constantly reprimanded for your clothing at work and someone else isn’t, who do you think the company will look to when it’s time to promote someone? If you are a student being told you are violating dress codes, what will happen when you want to take advantage of an opportunity that requires a recommendation or a clean disciplinary record? These are the sorts of seemingly small things that set up larger people for a lifetime of disadvantage in employment and earnings.
Back to the cartoon. A manager is chastising the larger woman for something she cannot control. I know, someone will probably try to point out that she could have a breast reduction, but why should she? She really should not have to go through major surgery like that unless she wants to. Of course everyone’s body experience is different. But I’d have to be in a LOT of pain to go through that.
The message of that response is that women should drastically and dangerously alter themselves to fit into a rigid ideal. That’s ridiculous. A pair of breasts under a shirt are not inherently inappropriate; they are just two mounds of fat and tissue. They develop naturally in case you want to some day use them to feed offspring. Breasts are not inherently sexual. That is a culturally-created meaning. There’s no need to have a separate set of standards.
The size of someone’s chest doesn’t indicate how sexual they are (and of course, sexuality does not indicate how smart or capable someone is), nor does fat indicate health or habit. Bodies are just bodies. We live in them and dress them and care for them the best that we can. What needs to drastically alter is the current paradigm of perception and judgment toward bodies.