There is something in particular that bothers me about people who insult or shame women (usually, mercifully(?), behind their backs) about shirts that show cleavage. It’s been something I’ve seen a lot more of since I started working retail – I’m working with a lot of generally perfectly lovely, but not exactly social justice-oriented, people. And it’s Toronto summer, so our customers aren’t always wearing whole lot of clothes. And sometimes slut-shaming happens.
And I mean, for starters, I’m bothered by the fact that I am apparently expected to be complicit in my coworkers’ “complaints”. Because, you know, it’s not like *I* dress that way, clearly. Most of the time at work, I’m wearing men’s jeans and loose t-shirts. But there’s another thing that really, really bothers me.
Without fail, if I look at the woman who’s being shamed about her cleavage, I know for a fact that if I wore the exact same shirt as her, I would not be met with the same judgement. I simply don’t have much of a chest; I’m quite possibly incapable of showing an inappropriate amount of cleavage. Which is another way of saying that I don’t *have* an inappropriate amount of cleavage, while some women just plain do. In some cases, it won’t even matter what they wear; women with large breasts who dare to be seen in public are almost by definition sexually inappropriate in our society.
“Oh, but what about just having some decency and enough self-respect to cover yourself up?” you might say. As I just finished explaining, it’s not about coverage. If it was about coverage, the same shirt would be considered inappropriate on me, and it’s not. It’s about women’s bodies. And no, I don’t think it’s ok to insist that women who have done nothing more than have large breasts should be held to some higher standard of “modesty” than everyone else on the planet. This isn’t a case of some natural challenge caused by genetics. Women with large breasts shouldn’t have to suffer more in hot weather simply because awful people insist on sexualizing their bodies. That’s not the women’s problem. It’s a problem with every person who is incapable of looking at a woman without evaluating her as a sexual object.
Seriously, though, when people shame women about their cleavage, it’s really, really not the shirt that they have a problem with. It’s the presence of large breasts that they just can’t handle. And nothing about that is ok.