I have a reputation for writing about my breasts a lot. It's true, to a point. If you broke down my xoJane articles into a pie chart of topics, you'd probably find that my boobs earn a not-insignificant slice; a smaller slice than music, probably; maybe a little bigger than dogs. Ultimately, the biggest percentage of the chart would be a blob of "other"—articles about one-off topics that have nothing to do with my boobs and, somehow, don't even mention them.
Although most people seem unbothered by the fact that I have publicly discussed my boobs (and boobs in general) multiple times, some folks—mostly the ones who leave hyperbolic and inaccurate comments along the lines of "all you ever write about are your boobs"—are annoyed by what they perceive as an excessive focus on them or humble-bragging. I don't particularly care.
Ultimately, I can write about my breasts as much as I want because they're mine.
As you probably assumed, my boobs continue to exist when I am not writing about them. They follow me to work (well, they lead the way, really), snuggle up against me in bed at night, and make shopping for clothing more aggravating than a toddler having a tantrum in the next dressing room.
They appear in every photo of me that isn't of just my face and shoulders. They feature prominently in selfies I take of t-shirts I'm excited to have found while vintage shopping. If I were to snap a picture on my MacBooks's Photo Booth app right now, it would capture me from my chest to almost the top of my head because of the height of my desk.
Unlike some of the articles I've written, none of these photos are about my breasts, any more than they are about my neck or arms, any more than another person's very similarly framed photos aren't about that person's breasts.
But you would never know that by the comments I receive on Facebook.
I got Botox for the first time at a beauty industry event a couple weeks ago, and once I could sense the effects had fully and ridiculously kicked in—I really don't like the outcome, which I describe as a "villainous" look—I decided to post the following photo to Instagram and share it on Facebook as well. (Not that it matters, but it was taken on my MacBook, which was sitting right in front of me on my desk, and other than flipping it so it wasn't backwards and letting Instagram crop off the sides so it was a square, I didn't try to frame it in any way.)
Although most of the comments were about the Botox I mentioned in the caption, one guy commented, in all caps, "THERE THEY ARE!" I knew he wasn't referring to my glasses because this is one of several Facebook friends who, if even a fraction of my breasts are visible, says something about them.
This is nothing new for me. People I have met, hung out with and often otherwise find likable have been uninvitedly commenting on my boobs on Facebook for years.
The following are a just few examples of actual, unedited comments left by my Facebook friends on photos of me in which my breasts (clothed, sometimes with cleavage) are visible:
- Yeah.. But dem curves…
- Boat engine noise
- Holy boobies!
- Are you in Cleavland?
- put. them. away.
- Nice Cans toots!
You can't make this shit up.
Earlier this year, one guy from my hometown took it a step further when he randomly posted a picture of the two of us from a 1995 school trip with the following caption: "So loved that.... shirt.... [smile emoticon]." It was apparent to me and everyone else that he was referring to my 16-year-old, tank-top-covered breasts.
I have ignored virtually every comment over the years, even when my disgust was painfully visceral. But for some reason, something about "THERE THEY ARE!" set me off. It was the last straw. And on Wednesday, I posted this on Facebook:
Hi, guys. I have boobs. Pretty big ones.
Sometimes I’ll post a picture of myself in which it is apparent that I am, in fact, in possession of breasts. This is probably something your female friends with smaller breasts do, too; after all, breasts sit not all that far below the face, and if a photo is full-length or waist-up or simply taken from a higher angle, they will inevitably be there.
And yet, even though I post the same kinds of photos as women of all breast sizes, the fact that mine are large seems to be interpreted by some as a legitimate reason to comment on them here on Facebook (where my family, boyfriend, boyfriend’s father, and, most importantly, I can see it.)
Why? Why do you make these comments?
I’ve wondered this “out loud” before in an article I wrote last year about someone who yelled “Nice chest!” at me as I crossed the street. Here’s what I said: “My visibility doesn't justify making a comment. ‘If You See Something, Say Something’ doesn't apply to my breasts. There isn't some automatic brain function that forces a person to blurt out words upon seeing a body. There's no excuse for it and no comfort in genteelisms.”
This quote doesn’t apply only to strangers on the street who comment on my body. It’s true on Facebook, too, and if we’re acquainted.
Listen, I love my boobs. I wouldn’t even mind if they were bigger. But unless I bring them up in the caption of the photo I post, they’re not what the photo is about, and you are not welcome to comment on them, whether you think you're complimenting me or telling me to "put them away"; they’re simply in it, like my shoulders or ribs or other body parts that are probably in the photo if my boobs are.
If I write an article about them (which I have done and will do in the future), clearly there’s grounds for making a comment when I post that article; even then, though, it should be done in such a way that you don’t seem like a fucking creep (even if you are one).
Are there exceptions? Very few. You’re probably not one of them. (Look in the mirror. Are you another large-breasted woman asking where I found a shirt that doesn’t gape at the placket? Are you one of my close female friends or my sister? No? Then you’re not an exception. And on the rare occasion that those who are exceptions do comment on them, it's never the cartoon-eye-bulging-wolf-in-a-suit equivalent of a comment, nor is it shaming me for having the audacity to not somehow hide them.)
Sometimes, it really is just a picture of a great vintage t-shirt I found at the thrift store, and I shouldn’t have to take a picture of it on a hanger to avoid breast comments. Hell, sometimes it’s just a picture of me, and I shouldn’t have to not have big boobs to avoid comments about them. If your smaller-breasted or male friends can post the same picture without comments about their breasts, I should be able to, too.
Seriously, don’t be that creep.
I didn't know what to expect. Would I see the same accusations of humble-bragging as some xoJane commenters have flung? Would it be met with eye rolls? Or more unwanted objectification?
Instead, it's gotten more than 200 likes from friends and friends-of-friends, and the comments have been an amazing show of support and solidarity.
"Cosigned," a close friend from college wrote.
"Aside from being creepy, it's also really infantile to constantly point out someone's anatomy. 'Look! He's got a butt! You have boobs!" You're an adult, control your damn self," Trista posted.
"First of all I love your pics, and as a fellow DD++++ (I don't want to share the real letter)...and a girl who actually HATES her boobs....you sometimes post pics that remind me that I'm normal and can be proud of myself. Regardless of that solidarity thing, the very reason I am HORRIFIED at my boobs is because no matter how you dress or take a pic, if you aren't a B cup you are going to get a GD comment containing the words "holy...." "cleavage".... or "sexy" and it makes me want to mastectomy myself and run away (because at that point I could feasibly run...). Thank you for posting this, because it is ABOUT DAMN TIME. I don't have big boobs for anyone. I have them because a. genetics and b. kid. SCREW OFF IF YOU CAN'T HANDLE MY V-NECK. Ok I feel better thank you," Laura, the sister of one of my best friends, fulminated.
I ended up receiving dozens of empathizing comments from women of various breast sizes, several of whom said they could relate because people make unwanted comments about their thinness or height simply because those traits are visible.
Only one person—a guy I met at a Sweet 16 party in 1994—seemed to not get it:
I unfriended him.
Perhaps the most unexpected response to my rant was the apologies. First, I started getting messages from people who hadn't even made objectifying remarks; both men and women who were sincerely sorry if they'd ever crossed the line. I assured them they hadn't and thanked them for being compassionate.
Then, I received apologies from a few—though not most—of the more frequent offenders, which I really didn't expect or even want. They were self-aware enough to realize they were one of the people to which I was referring, and in their apologies, they've given me the impression that they will be more aware of how inappropriate those kinds of comments are moving forward.
Like I said in my Facebook post, I will surely write about my boobs again in the future, quite possibly in a humorous or voluntarily objectifying way. I wouldn't expect radio silence in the comments when I'm the one that's unmistakably opening the door to boob talk.
However, when it comes to pictures of me that happen to include my torso, I think I might have finally made it clear to some previously injudicious Facebook friends that the mere visibility and prominence of my breasts do not equal the solicitation of comments about them.
Instagram followers are another story.