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?