Curvy Conversations

Body Policing The Twins

January 11 2013 | CeCe Olisa

This post was inspired by the online debates I’ve seen about Beyonce showing her body, particularly the bottom of her breasts on the cover of GQ this month. I guess Body Policing can happen even if you have a perfect body!

When I was 13 my best friend Jennifer and I got matching pink/purple spaghetti strapped tank tops (this was right before she “stole my boyfriend” and I had to go all 90210 on her, but I digress). Matching outfits with my best friend was a huge deal for me because she was 5’1 and skinny and I was a 5’10 Plus Size Princess in puberty who already had D cup breasts. As you can imagine, finding a cute top that fit both of us was a pretty daunting task.

One day, we decided that we would wear our cute little tanks to dance class at our performing arts school. Intermediate Jazz was business as usual, a warm up… across the floor exercises and then choreography to our favorite songs. If you know anything about a good workout/dance class, the high you feel is amazing… by the end of class we were a bundle of happy energy and endorphins. Going to the School of the Arts meant that I was able to get that feeling in school twice a week with all my friends. This was heaven to me so, when my dance teacher asked to speak to me after class I bounced over to her almost giddily.

“Yes, Ms. V?” I said, pulling my duffel bag onto my shoulder.

“CeCe, I don’t want you wearing that tank top in my class anymore. You need to bring tops that cover your breasts.” Ms. V said, curtly.

Her comments brought my emotions down from a dancers high at a rate so fast it stung. I was mortified. I blinked, quickly… taking in not only what she said, but the way she said it. Ms. V had never been mean to me, but today her voice had a slight edge to it. Her request wasn’t terrible but it was almost like I had offended her.

All the girls wore tank tops to dance class, but according to Ms. V, I could not. Being a teenage PSP, I often felt boxed out of trends that my peers were rocking because they just didn’t make those things in my size. So that pink/purple tank top meant a lot to me. Now, I was feeling boxed out again… My skinny bff, was by no means flat chested but she wasn’t asked to cover her breasts. The tank was okay on her, but not on me. She was okay seeing the moderate size breasts in tank tops, but my full breasts were too much.

We’re okay if Beyonce shows traditional “top of breast” cleavage, but seeing the bottom of her breasts is over the line– how do we decide these things?

Looking back, could I have worn something less revealing to dance class? Sure! Was her request outrageous? Not really. It was a good teaching moment, because at that age I was still learning my body and what was appropriate (my Mom probably would have told me to pack a different top for dance class, had she seen what I had planned to wear).

I think the hardest part about that moment for me is that I felt judged.

When you have large breasts on a plus size body it’s almost as if your breasts become a punch line. An extension of a body that already takes up “too much space”. Suddenly, your body becomes public domain and everyone had an opinion on how your body is represented.

Body Policing comes in many different forms “you’re too big wear that”, “that’s not age-appropriate”, “you’re a mom now”… how often to we hear (or say) things like that? I know I do. But I’m starting to wonder if that’s a form of body policing… what do you think?

Should we judge how much skin people (of all sizes) show?

 

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14 responses on “Body Policing The Twins

  1. Sophie Russell

    Funny, I was actually thinking about this today after I read these words on Rachel Herrick’s blog post about muumuus, “English
    missionaries to the Hawaiian Islands in the 1820s were appalled to
    discover that the natives were naked except for loin cloths and designed
    the muumuu to cover them up. In short, they taught the islanders to be conscious (ashamed) of their bodies and about the Christian virtue of modesty.” In our culture, we are made to feel ashamed of our bodies in their natural state, and the female body, rather than being seen as “a body” – is sexualised. When we see a man’s nipples, no one freaks out. But if we see a woman’s? But really, what is the difference? Just some thoughts.

  2. sophruss@gmail.com

    Funny, I was actually thinking about this today after I read these words on Rachel Herrick’s blog post about muumuus, “Englishmissionaries to the Hawaiian Islands in the 1820s were appalled to
    discover that the natives were naked except for loin cloths and designed
    the muumuu to cover them up. In short, they taught the islanders to be conscious (ashamed) of their bodies and about the Christian virtue of modesty.” In our culture, we are made to feel ashamed of our bodies in their natural state, and the female body, rather than being seen as “a body” – is sexualised. When we see a man’s nipples, no one freaks out. But if we see a woman’s? But really, what is the difference? Just some thoughts.

  3. LC

    I think it all has to do with your setting and what you think you can pull off. Obviously one needs to be able to draw the line between club apparel and church apparel. Beyonce can pull off that magazine cover… and I know I can’t! But what pisses me off is one person telling another that they shouldn’t or can’t wear something because of their age, size, shape, WHATEVER.

  4. lchinkson@gmail.com

    I think it all has to do with your setting and what you think you can pull off. Obviously one needs to be able to draw the line between club apparel and church apparel. Beyonce can pull off that magazine cover… and I know I can’t! But what pisses me off is one person telling another that they shouldn’t or can’t wear something because of their age, size, shape, WHATEVER.

  5. juliette

    This post really made me think and I realize that I police my own body though not necessarily for the reasons described in this post.. As an African American woman, I think alot about what i wear in professional settings because I know that people often expect me to look a certain way. Add my size and natural hair to the mix and it makes me tend towards more formal work wear – suits, blazers with separates and ‘dressier” jeans on Fridays or nonmeeting days. A recent change of my office location (long story) really pointed this up to me because the way I dress now that I’m not seen by the executive management staff on a daily basis is more “me” – I’ll still do a dress but I wear it with my over the knee boots and cardigan instead of a blazer. It’s wear the baggage we carry, isn’t it? And so often self-imposed! I’m gonna keep working on this! Thanks, as always, for the thought provoking topics…

  6. yaqueen14@ymail.com

    This post really made me think and I realize that I police my own body though not necessarily for the reasons described in this post.. As an African American woman, I think alot about what i wear in professional settings because I know that people often expect me to look a certain way. Add my size and natural hair to the mix and it makes me tend towards more formal work wear – suits, blazers with separates and ‘dressier” jeans on Fridays or nonmeeting days. A recent change of my office location (long story) really pointed this up to me because the way I dress now that I’m not seen by the executive management staff on a daily basis is more “me” – I’ll still do a dress but I wear it with my over the knee boots and cardigan instead of a blazer. It’s wear the baggage we carry, isn’t it? And so often self-imposed! I’m gonna keep working on this! Thanks, as always, for the thought provoking topics…

  7. Crystal

    I think that a person whether fat, thin, tall, short, queer or straight, should be able to wear whatever they please. As a human being, in the “free world” my body belongs to me and to no one else. Being a PSP whether I choose to wear a leather halter top or not should me my concern and no one else’s.

  8. angelfaceisloved@hotmail.com

    I think that a person whether fat, thin, tall, short, queer or straight, should be able to wear whatever they please. As a human being, in the “free world” my body belongs to me and to no one else. Being a PSP whether I choose to wear a leather halter top or not should me my concern and no one else’s.

  9. Guest

    Funny how these memories stick with us. I was in fifth grade, wearing a uniform for the school cheer squad. Halfway through the day my teacher told me to follow her outside and once outside she revealed her bra strap and told me I needed to get a bra. In my fifth grader eyes, I was mortified. I didn’t understand why and felt singled out because I was the only girl developing (I knew this) but it wasn’t a cool thing if you were the only one.

    Eh, now it’s a blessing! Haha. Sorry about your experience Cece.

  10. anonymized-766165699@disqus.com

    Funny how these memories stick with us. I was in fifth grade, wearing a uniform for the school cheer squad. Halfway through the day my teacher told me to follow her outside and once outside she revealed her bra strap and told me I needed to get a bra. In my fifth grader eyes, I was mortified. I didn’t understand why and felt singled out because I was the only girl developing (I knew this) but it wasn’t a cool thing if you were the only one.
    Eh, now it’s a blessing! Haha. Sorry about your experience Cece.

  11. happinessisme

    I’m trying to figure this out for myself too. lately, I’ve been wanting to dress more revealing-I like the sexy look. So I have this American Apparel bodysuit that is sheer in the middle. Kind of like, your breasts are out and stuff. I bought it over the summer and was hyped but then I wore it and was super duper self conscious. Like, for the most part people left me alone(this is NYC) but of course I got looks from some guys. Since I’m plus size and have 38 DD i dunno, like should I be wearing this? Is it appropriate? Who knows…

  12. nieshasdavis@gmail.com

    I’m trying to figure this out for myself too. lately, I’ve been wanting to dress more revealing-I like the sexy look. So I have this American Apparel bodysuit that is sheer in the middle. Kind of like, your breasts are out and stuff. I bought it over the summer and was hyped but then I wore it and was super duper self conscious. Like, for the most part people left me alone(this is NYC) but of course I got looks from some guys. Since I’m plus size and have 38 DD i dunno, like should I be wearing this? Is it appropriate? Who knows…

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