I asked my daughter about breasts today. Specifically, my breasts. More specifically, my breasts in her birthday photo that we took a few days ago.
Why’d I ask? Because when I shared this sweet little photo of my daughter and me on Facebook, a stranger commented: “Cleavage is no substitute for intelligence.”
The sentiment is searing—it’s nasty and a little creepy. And it’s deeply rooted in a misogynistic worldview that reduces a woman to her body parts: her vagina, her uterus, and her breasts.
The thing is, the person who wrote this is a woman. A woman who has the parts I do. And that makes it no less searing and nasty and yes, misogynistic.
Women can be cruel to one another, and it starts young. And it got me thinking about my daughter—and it got me worried, because she’s 8 now. Eight is little. And 8 is big.
Eight rides a two-wheeler down the road to the park with her friends, but scrapes her knee and comes home crying.
Eight wants to buy Disney Princess stickers… and a tube of cherry lipgloss.
Eight listens to Rihanna, but sleeps curled like a cashew with a stuffed unicorn.
Eight wants to be tucked in at night, but tosses her hair and rolls her eyes and says, “Mama, you don’t UNDERSTAND,” and slams the door.
Eight is that in-between stage—she’s still got chubby knees, but her cheekbones are taking shape. She’s covered in mud and paint and glue and glitter, but she looks shyly in the mirror and arches her back and combs her hair.
And as we careen toward teenage-hood, I think about how my daughter will grow to perceive others, and herself. And I want her to be proud of her body and respect it—and to respect the choices other women make when they dress their bodies.
So, I asked her about my breasts in the photo. “Can you see the tops of them?” I asked.
“A little. Why?”
“Because sometimes people say mean things when a woman dresses like that. What do you think about that?”
“Oof. That is the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard. They’re just breasts. Some are big and some are little. Some are out in the world and some are hidden, but WHO CARES? It’s SKIN! It’s just the body; what’s the big deal?”
I breathed a sigh of relief. My daughter is 8. Eight is little. Eight is big. And she gets it.
And all my anger at the woman who tried to shame me for what I wore in a photo with my daughter disappeared—and I wish on her a kid like mine who can help her see things differently.