A friend who teaches high school in Vermont told me that he has a problem with students who wear low-cut blouses. It's not that he isn't capable of looking a buxom student in the eye without casting his glance downward. No, his big worry is that a certain young woman's chest is a distraction to her classmates.
As somebody "well-endowed" to the point of anomaly (44DD), I'm concerned about the message my friend wants to send his "problem" student. Didn't the fashion world tell her that this year (or was it last year?) "breasts are in"? Don't ads and entertainment vehicles remind her incessantly that big breasts win extra points in the self-promotion sweeps? Haven't feminists, psychologists and beauty magazine editors by the truckload urged her to be proud of her body as well as her brains? Does my friend now want tell his student to cover up that which society values so highly because decolletage encourages trouble? Flesh and blood pride in oneself doesn't seem to be the real message here, does it?
You've got me wrong, says my New England friend; I've got nothing against this woman flaunting her, um, magnificence. At a party. A bar. The issue is appropriateness. In a classroom, I want my male students to be able to concentrate on the lesson.
How can something that sounds so sensible be so dangerous? Here's how: In the strange cosmology my friend has embraced, heaven forbids us to ask the male of the species to exhibit or take responsibility for any self-control. Please note that this help-my-men-quell-their-turmoil syndrome is not an equal opportunity mind-set. Nobody is asking boys to wear bags over their heads and barrels around their hips so that others won't get distracted by how cute they are. No, we're talking about a mission which, should you choose to accept it, will soon have all women, regardless of cup size, shrouded in black, veiled and undistracting, stumbling down some stony, rutted lane of Feminine Responsibility in the direction of the Taliban.
Or, okay, even taking his statements at their most benign, my friend is saying that teen-aged guys can only accept women as colleagues if allowed to forget that we're women. And I say: Phooey. If your cleavage distracts them that much, Girlfriend? Well, flunk 'em!
(2) Dressing for success the ethos of "appropriateness" corporate style
(3) Muslim dress code a long passage on the infallibility of the Quran,
followed by dress codes for women
(4) Here's another essay on a similar subject (should bras be mandatory?) from a similar point of view.
Jana Sicilianois hard at work on a documentary about the history of the Equal Rights Amendment.
THE BREAST JOB
Women's breasts in real life have a special kind of charm. More than any other body part they get measured against an ideal that they almost never meet, lending them a tender pathos and defiant individuality all their own. Because we meet the female breast so early in life before we have concepts, before we can speak our feelings for it are deep, strong and particularly resistant to logic. At some profound level, breasts are permanently vague in our minds, a blur between passion, sensation, an aesthetic and a thought.
But on the Internet, as in the rest of our society, breasts are continually forced to work, to zero in on a topic and perform little propaganda jobs for a variety of causes and organizations. The U.N. puts them to work for good nutrition. In cyber games they market adventure, equal opportunity and violence. They give medicine occasion to showcase an impersonal tone, establishing medical"objectivity". If you search far enough, you'll find breasts standing up for the specialness and separateness of women's medical needs, commercial implant companies' dubious motives, the implanted public's irrational passion for litigation, and, finally, in a kind of cyclical political fashion, mothers' rights.
Being a breast on the Web is a tough job, but some organ had to do it, and the breast was first on the scene with the goods.
(3) On April 27, 1999
BREAST CANCER DOES THE DAMNEDEST THINGS
Thanks to the Web, if you've been newly diagnosed with breast cancer, you can not only locate top quality research material on your disease, but you can read it and weep in the privacy of your own home. To assuage your anxiety about all those curious side effects your doctor neglected to mention (are your fingernails turning blue while you're on Tamoxifen? How long can you live with a metastatic disease?) you can ask the extraordinary women who contribute to one of the longest-running To participate, send an email message with "info BREAST CANCER" as text to: listserves for cancer. When I went through the breast cancer gauntlet several years ago, I found that the firsthand reports of other women were the most valuable and comforting source of information about every aspect of the ordeal. No question was too intimate, trivial or distressing. They all got answered.
To find your nearest grassroots community cancer group, try the list compiled by the Women's Community Cancer Project in Cambridge, Massachusetts. The groups on this list follow no party line. For breast cancer politics from environmental causes to mammography funding visit the Breast Cancer Action
The best-organized site for the social and statistical lowdown on breast cancer and its changing taste in victims is run by the National Cancer Institute. They also have the latest scientific gritty on every form of the disease (breast cancer is not a single disease but an assortment of them). It's the best place to read about the effectiveness of therapies that have been recommended to you. Finally, it offers comprehensive details of all ongoing clinical trials. It is extremely user-friendly and invites you to inspect material aimed at physicians and patients alike. A visit to this site from the comforts of home will certainly boost the newly diagnosed woman's ability to soldier through an inescapably terrifying experience blue nails and all.
The National Cancer Institute
WHO IS: Jana Siciliano is hard at work on a documentary about the history of the Equal Rights Amendment.
WHO IS: Lynn Phillips is the Editor in Chief of VAGUEpolitix
WHO IS: Ellen Leopold, member of the Women's Community Cancer Project in Cambridge, MA, and writing a book on the social and cultural history of breast cancer
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