Breasts, Body Shaming, Bullying, and Body Image- Part One

It took me a good long while to decide that I was going to write this post.  I’ll just say upfront that it was difficult.  Why?  Because it’s a very personal topic.  I wasn’t sure what exactly to title this post and in all honesty, I wasn’t sure I would ever push the publish button on it.

I was talking to a female friend the other day and somehow our conversation turned to adolescence, puberty, breast development, and body image.  My friend, who is a little younger than I am, told me she had always been flat chested (until a recent perimenopausal weight gain).  She  mentioned how in junior high, she endured much taunting because in her words, she was “flat as a pancake.”  She told me about the endless teasing, how the boys constantly pointed to her chest and made fun of her.  The boys were always telling her she was a member of the “itty bitty titty committee”  and they constantly asked her how her “mosquito bites” were doing.  She hated that time in her life.

I literally cringed when she described to me how she was harassed and tormented.  I understood completely.  Because you see, I was also teased and made fun of but for the opposite reason.  I was one of the early bloomers and breast development for me seemed to happen overnight.  I developed before most of the other girls did, and to say that I was full-bosomed was an understatement.  I left elementary school and the sixth grade wearing a B cup bra.  Summer came and with the beginning of that summer came my first period at age 11.  I seemed to blossom overnight.  In 1971 I entered the first day of 7th grade (junior high back then) wearing a D cup bra.  By the time the 8th grade rolled around, I was a DD cup.  I was not overweight in the least.  I was petite and only about 5 ft. tall with a small waist which accentuated my large breasts even more.  Big breasts run in my family (on both sides) and my mother often referred to it as our family curse.  One of my older sisters had to have a breast reduction at the age of 16.  My mother was no longer able to purchase bras for her in the store.  She was told by the bra-fitting lady at Castner Knotts that she would need to start having my sister’s bras custom made.  Having to get custom made bras is not only very inconvenient but also very expensive (ask me how I know this).  Physically, my sister was miserable.  She could barely support the weight of her heavy and dense breasts and she walked stooped over due to their weight.  Her bra straps were digging raw furrows into the tops of her shoulders and she had backaches.  The cosmetic surgeon who did her reduction told my parents she was the youngest patient of his to undergo a breast reduction, that he usually didn’t like to do reductions on 16 year old girls who were still developing, but in her case he saw it for what it was – a medical necessity.   She came out of surgery a C cup and still to this day, she will tell you boldly that her decision to have a breast reduction was one of the best decisions she ever made in her life. I would also later undergo a breast reduction.

I’ve always had a poor body image and I think it all started back in the 7th grade from being self conscious of my breast size.  It was a different time in the early 70s than it is now.  Of course there was no social media, no cell phones, no texting, etc.  But believe me, bullying and body shaming were alive and well in the 1970s.  I still vividly remember the teasing I endured that year when I was 12.  I remember the pointing, the laughing, the staring, the lewd comments, and the Dolly Parton jokes, not only from my acquaintances, but from complete strangers.   I honestly think irreparable damage was done to my self esteem and it contributed to a lifelong poor self body image.  I quickly tired of hearing  the other girls say to me, “It must be nice!”  While the boys were teasing me, the girls were expressing their envy and jealousy and telling me they would do anything to have big breasts like I did.  I grew irritated every time they would tell me how “lucky” I was.  They just didn’t get it.  My reply was always, “NO BELIEVE ME, YOU DON’T WANT THEM!”  There was nothing nice about being teased and taunted constantly.

The teasing became relentless and was non-stop.  Hardly a day went by that I didn’t hear lewd comments or wasn’t made fun of.  It hurt and left deep scars.  I was reminded just how hurtful it was not long ago after finding my old 7th grade diary and reading the comments penned by my 12 year old hand.  Being known as “that girl with the big boobs” is hurtful to a 12 year old.  I always felt that people only knew me for the size of my breasts and always focused on that one physical aspect, never on my personality or who I was inside.  I longed for boys to look me in the face instead of always staring at my chest.  I never once dressed provocatively or wore any low cut shirts.  I tried my hardest to dress in a way that wouldn’t draw attention to my breasts.

One day, I got grabbed by a 7th grade male student and pushed into the boy’s bathroom where some vulgar comments were made pertaining to my breasts.  I came shooting out of there like a rocket to the laughter of all his friends and my classmates.  This bathroom incident was a game changer for me.  This particular boy who did this to me was someone who had constantly been taunting me.  I was five feet tall.  He was probably six feet tall.  Physically, I was no match for him.  But what really got to me was that a teacher witnessed this whole ordeal and did nothing.  That teacher had the attitude that boys will be boys.  I remember going home and crying that day and even my 12 year old brain knew that this attitude was wrong.  So wrong.  Some part of me always felt that the teacher/or teachers were perhaps a little afraid of this student.

And that’s when I broke down and told my mother what had been going on.  I told her everything…. about the pointing and the teasing, the lewd gestures, and the jokes.  I told her about being grabbed like a rag doll and tossed into the boy’s restroom.  I remember the anger in my voice when I told her.  I remember yelling and crying and telling her that I was just so sick of it, that I didn’t want to go to school anymore. I angrily told her in between sobs that the next time any boy pointed to my chest and made fun of my breast size, that I was just going to point to his crotch and tell him he had a big penis!  My mother gasped, her eyes grew wide, and she took me by the shoulders and said, “NO GAIL! YOU DON’T WANT TO SAY THAT!”  I laugh at that now and she did too, later, when she explained to me why that was not the wisest thing to say.  Oh how naive I was.  But one thing I knew for sure…. I hated my budding femininity.

So… what did my mother do at hearing about her youngest daughter’s taunting?  She sprung right into action and called my male band teacher.  He was a giant of a man well over 6 ft. tall with a slim build.  He was a nice man and a calm, no-nonsense type who demanded discipline from his students.  I often wondered why she chose to call him (of all the teachers she could have called).  Probably because she knew he would do something.  She had talked to him on several occasions just prior to this all happening because she was in the process of buying me a new trumpet and wanted his advice.  She had gotten to know him a little bit and she liked him.  Also, several of the boys doing the incessant taunting were acquaintances of mine in the band.  After she called the band director, she then called the principal of the school (who was also male).  But she didn’t tell me about either of those phone calls.  I found out the next day when that band director and that assistant principal came and got me out of my English class.  I had no idea what was going on and thought I was in trouble for some reason.  I stood out in the hall facing both of them and endured being asked some very embarrassing questions (for a 12 year old).  At the top of their questions was if any of the boys had ever touched “my bosom.”  I wanted to die.  You have to understand I was an extremely shy kid.  And I was 12.  They told me that this was going to stop and that I was to come to them if it ever happened again.  I could tell they were taking this matter very seriously.  And then, they had me nonchalantly walk by various classrooms with them until I had pointed out every single boy who had been involved with the taunting.  I had to give names.  And then every single one of those boys were called out of class and taken to the office.  I don’t exactly remember what their punishment was other than they were given a good talking to.  They might have also received in-school suspension but I really don’t remember.  I do remember they were very angry with me.

They were angry and unhappy that I had “told” on them.  Suddenly, this was all my fault and they put the blame on me, told me they couldn’t believe I had given up their names and told on them (or that I had told my mother who told on them).  They also tried to throw out the “boys will be boys” excuse and tried making me believe it was all in good fun, that this was all a “normal” way for boys to behave, and they meant nothing by it.  For a short time, I did feel bad and ashamed and I somehow felt I was to blame, that I had overreacted.  That is until my mother got ahold of me and straightened my thinking out on that.  Looking back, I don’t remember an apology by any of them.

I was asked once if I had ever been bullied in school.  I hesitated before I answered.  I was tempted to say no because I had always falsely looked at bullying as a physical act.  I had to think long and hard at whether what I had endured was body shaming (a term that always makes me squirm  a little for some reason) or bullying.  I came to the conclusion that it was both.  Body shaming is the action or practice of humiliating someone by making mocking or critical comments about their body shape or size.  So yes, I was definitely body shamed for my large breasts just as my friend mentioned above was body shamed for her small breasts.  According to the American Psychological Association, bullying is a form of aggressive behavior in which someone intentionally and repeatedly causes another person injury or discomfort. Bullying can take the form of physical contact, words or more subtle actions.  So bullying can be physical or emotional.  I was bullied.

I won’t say the teasing/taunting stopped entirely but it sure got a lot better.  And that band director?  He watched out for me until he got a new position and resigned the following year.

To be continued…..

Gail

About Gail

I am a wife, mother, sister, aunt, friend, veterinarian, and wanna be writer. I love nature and animals of all kinds, music, cooking, and spending time with my family.
This entry was posted in Childhood memories, Life, School and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

14 Responses to Breasts, Body Shaming, Bullying, and Body Image- Part One

  1. gypsumoon says:

    Beautifully written. Can’t wait for Part 2!

  2. I can totally relate to how difficult this was for you to write. It’s a very personal and sensitive subject. I’ve been through the same thing by being flat-chested. If you can believe it, even in adulthood there have been hurtful comments. Thankfully I was old enough to handle it better than when I was in school. Although, when my m.i.l. said I wouldn’t be able to make enough milk to breast-feed my baby it was like I’d been knifed. I’ve always felt bad for women with ample chests because I knew they were targets as well. Seems like anything extraordinary is targeted. I admire your strength and bravery for writing about this Gail. Realizing a positive self image is a difficult hill to climb but it’s much,much harder when people are throwing rocks at you while you do it. Virtual (((hugs))) to you!

    • Gail says:

      Thank you so much. I’m sorry you also had to endure this. My teasing went on into adulthood too and was ultimately what made me decide to go ahead and get a reduction. People can be so insensitive sometimes, huh? I can understand why the comment from your mother-in-law was hurtful. When I breastfed, I was often told to watch out or I might smother the baby (or drown him)! Thank you for reading and for your kind comments.

      • Holy cow! That’s awful! What gets me, is how can a woman say something like that to another woman? It’s the worst. But, we’ve survived and that’s what counts!

      • Gail says:

        Yes! And when will people learn that the size of your breasts have nothing to do with the ability to produce breast milk or the amount of milk produced!!!

  3. Pingback: Breasts, Body Shaming, Bullying, and Body Image- Part Two | Moonlight Reflections

  4. heatherjo86 says:

    I can relate to this. I was on the smaller spectrum and was made fun of by boys and girls for my under development. I felt lesser than from 5th grade until 10th grade. The funny thing is my boobs never got that much bigger. I was a full B cup when I graduated high school but my attitude changed as I got older. I started to notice many women (actresses, models, singers) that I thought were beautiful and they had small breasts. I realized that breasts whether big or small don’t make you beautiful. Your personality, the way you carry yourself and your values do. Once I understood that, I shifted my focus to one of self care and self-love and never looked back. I’m glad you were able to endure and overcome those traumatic events. Some scars never leave us, but you found the strength to move forward. I’m so glad Jehovah God promises to never allow our trials to tempt us beyond our limits but he makes a way for us to endure (1 Corinthians 10:13). Thank you for sharing your story and I look forward to part 2.

    • Gail says:

      Thank you for your lovely comment. I’m still working on the self care and self love and I know I have a long way to go. I’m glad you never looked back…. people can be so cruel sometimes.

      Thanks for visiting the blog.

  5. cheriewhite says:

    My heart breaks for you, Gail. Writing about something as intimate as this shows great courage and strength and I admire you for it.

    As a survivor of bullying myself and although I wasn’t bullied over my breasts, I can understand the embarrassment and humiliation you felt because this takes me back to the eighth grade when I suddenly felt cramps and went to the school secretary to spend a quarter on a sanitary napkin.

    When the secretary, an adult, asked the stupid question and very loudly, if I’d started menstruation, I just wanted to run out of there but only whispered, “not yet but I’m about to.” Worse even, she then grew impatient with me and shouted, “Well why don’t you bend over and look between your legs and see for sure!”

    Completely mortified, I just put my hand up in her face and shouted “Nope!” and walked out of the office.

    This happened thirty-four years ago and was something I never forgot. The bullying I suffered back then took years to heal from. But do you ever completely heal?

    Thank you for having the strength to share this!

    • Gail says:

      Thanks for your comments Cherie. I can’t believe the school secretary could be so insensitive!

      I really don’t believe one heals completely after bullying, that it has lifetime repercussions.

      I need to finish this series. I’ve written part two but am having trouble writing anymore about this. I thought about just deleting the entire thing because writing about it has been very difficult and bringing back very unpleasant feelings. Thanks for visiting and for your comments.

  6. Pingback: Breasts, Body Shaming, Bullying, and Body Image- Part Three | Moonlight Reflections

  7. Pingback: Breasts, Body Shaming, Bullying, and Body Image- Part Four | Moonlight Reflections

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