Fighting with the Sky

Posts Tagged ‘aging

Sarah Haskins on turning 30.


There has been some great writing going on this week! Here are some of my favorites. Don’t forget to leave your links (that you’ve been writing and reading) in the comments!

Thin Privilege 101 [Dolly Speaks]
Labyrinth as Feminist Myth [Hoyden About Town]
Twitter and Gendered Language [The F Bomb]
On the abortion ban in Nicaragua [Appetite for Equal Rights]
The Feminist Lens: Catcher in the Rye and Feminism and Relationships [Small Strokes]
Can we achieve a real “common ground” on abortion? [Feministing]
Shocker! Tiller’s Murderer Going to Trial [Feministe]
Oppression, Masculine Power, Duality, and Kant [Gender Across Borders]
HBO Working on Another Feminist Show? [Women & Hollywood]
Julia Child: Feminist Icon? [Jezebel]
“More to Love”: That Means FAT GIRLS too! [Womanist Musings]
Breasts: Ready to Go Public? and No Hang Ups on “Hung” [The Undomestic Goddess]
SETH ROGEN IS OUTRAGED, some more [Tiger Beatdown]
“Body Lexicon” for Aging Female Bodies [Sociological Images]
From ax-wielding psychos to she-devils [Salon: Broadsheet]

This part of our zine focused on societal views in the United States concerning breasts. Because this was created in zine form, this section is informational and focuses on the development of breasts through stages in life and our relationship with our breasts and the breasts of others. The stages that are highlighted are adolescence, womanhood, motherhood, and aging. I’m going to try to organize this the best that I can for a post because the layout for the zine is so great but different from the layout of blog posts.


Several breast growth patterns can be troubling to the adolescent and her family. Among these are [1]:

  • Unusually early breast development
  • Unusually delayed breast development
  • Unusually large breasts
  • Unusually small breasts

But, is anything “normal” in breast development? Our society makes it seem so, but in reality, breasts grow at very different rates and develop to have very different shapes and sizes.

Breast development normally begins about one year before the menstrual period begins. The development takes several years [2].

  • In the first stage (during childhood) the breasts are flat.
  • Next is the breast bud stage. In it, the nipple and breast are slightly raised as milk ducts and the fat tissue begin to form. Also, the areola begins to enlarge.
  • Then the breast starts to get bigger. Often this happens initially in a conical shape, and later on in a rounder shape. The areola begins to darken.

Statistics show that by age 13, 53% of adolescent girls have self-image issues about their breasts, and by age 17, 78% of girls are considered unsatisfied with their bodies [3].

The following are questions about breast development from teenage girls [4]:

  • “Puberty seems like it is working except it is skipping the breast stage! Will my breasts get bigger and how much longer do I have until they stop growing?”
  • “Hi. I am 15 years old. My breasts have started grwoing but not like my other friends. Can you please give me a solution to make them bigger.”
  • “I am 16 years old and one of my breasts is larger than the other one. Is this normal?”
  • “I’m 13 and in my school girls have big breasts and it seems that I’m the only one flat-chested.”

As you can see, teen girls have self-image issues related to their breasts. The media doesn’t really help this by showing girls and women who have so-called “perfect” breasts. But everyone’s development process is different and there is no “normal” breast development.


All of the names for breasts [5]: apples, balloons, bazongas, bazooms, bean bags, blouse bunnies, boobies, boobs, bumpers, butterbags, gazongas, globes, grapefruits, handful, honkers, hooters, jaboos, jugs, jumbos, kazongas, knockers, lactoids, love bubbles, mangoes, melons, milk cans, mounds, niblets, nippers, nubbies, orbs, peepers, pillows, sandbags, snuggle pups, sweater meat, tits, torpedoes, upper deck, yabbos, zeppelins.

Types of breast aesthetic surgeries [6]:

  • breast augmentation
  • silicone breast implants
  • breast lift
  • breast reduction
  • breast reconstruction

The average age in America for female breast implantation is 26 [7].

Statistics from the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery release in March 2009 [8]:

  • 2004: 264,041 breast augmentations
  • 2005: 291,350 breast augmentations
  • 2006: 315, 616 breast augmentations
  • 2007: 332,880 breast augmentations
  • 2008: 355,671 breast augmentations

Women obviously don’t have a healthy relationship with the breasts if so many women are opting to have breast augmentation surgery.

“Scienctists now believe that the primary biological function of breasts is to make men stupid.” – Dave Barry, comedian [9]

A 2004 study of Google searches showed that the Janet Jackson Super Bowl nipple incident received 25 times more searches than the Mars Rover, and 4 times more searches than the 2000 election [10]. Way to go, Janet! Americans agree that your breasts are better to look at than Al Gore’s!


See a map showing current public breastfeeding laws in the U.S. here.

In our world, “the sexual aspects of women and the maternal aspects of women are expected to be independent of each other…breasts are a scandal because they shatter the border between motherhood and sexuality.” – Cindy A. Stearns, author of “Breastfeeding and the Good Maternal Body” [11]

Does level of education affect whether or not a woman breastfeeds? Studies show that “over 70% of college graduates breastfeed, less than 15% of women with no high school breastfeed.” – Stearns [12]

Good news for all you mothers out there! Nursing mothers are exempt from jury duty in more than 10 states and the number keeps on rising [13].


The breasts lose support. Aging breasts commonly flatten and sag, and the nipple may invert slightly. The areola (the area surrounding the nipple) becomes smaller and may nearly disappear. Loss of hair around the nipple is common [14].

There are some interviews from aging women about their relationship with their breasts. They were interviewed in Breasts [15]:

  • “Everything for young people today is different. We were taught not to touch or expose ourselves…so I think there is a big different in how one feels about her boob.” – Lucille, age 76
  • “This is the way it is and I have to cope with each age as it comes along. I wouldn’t want to change my breasts or my age back.” – Evelyn, age 75

Breast Self-Exams are extremely important and should be performed at least once a month in order to detect any changes or irregulaities [16]. Here are some simple steps for a breast self-exam:

  1. Begin by looking at your breasts in a mirror with your hands on your hips. Look for any bulging, redness, or general changes.
  2. Then, raise your arms and look for the same changes.
  3. Feel your breasts while you are standing up, using a circular motion with your finger pads – make sure to cover the whole breast – feeling each breast one at a time.
  4. Next, feel your breasts while lying down, covering the entirety of both breasts – begin at the nipple and move outward in larger and larger circles 0 from the armpit and in to the cleavage. Feel for lumps and irregularities.

We felt that being informed about breast development and breast health is one of the steps in a health relationship with your breasts and the breasts of others. In the zine, we did not discuss how society and the media can affect one’s relationship with their breasts and the breasts of others, but we did talk about this in the presentation. Society and the media can great affect the self-esteem of women, as has been discussed for a long time, and that does not exclude affecting women’s relationship with their breasts. Society and the media give women unrealistic expectation that there is a “normal” breast development, size, shape, etc.

Much of this section of the zine focused on pictures, maps, and charts. I tried to include some of them, but I could not find all of them. I was not the person in the group that created these pages so I was not sure where all of the pictures, maps, and charts came from.

Works Cited
[1] Disease Health Information:
[3] Brumberg, Joan Jacobs. The Body Project: An Intimate History of American Girls. New York: Random House Publishers, 1997.
[4] Brown, Mary D. “Breasts and Self-Image: Adolescence.”
[5] Breast Names:
[8] American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery:
[10] Google search study, 2004.
[11] Stearns, Cindy A. “Breastfeeding and the Good Maternal Body.” Gender and Society, Vol. 13, No. 3, (June 1999).
[12] See #11
[15] Spandola, Meema. Breasts. Berkeley: Wildcat Canyon Press, 1998.

Many times when I have gone to see a movie over PG lately, I have been subjected to this promo for the new fall ABC show, Cougar Town, starting Courtney Cox (of Friends fame):

So, Cougar Town…a show about a 40-year-old divorcee who decides that getting back into the dating world means dating younger men. So many things wrong with this promo/show, where to begin…

How about at the beginning? The promo opens with Courtney Cox scrutinizing every fault of her body. First of all, I don’t think that is actually Courtney Cox’s body. Other promos have her in underwear and she does not have any “flab.” Second of all, the body that is shown (whether it is Cox’s or not) is an amazing body. Scrutinizing a body like that not only shows the fear of aging (prevalent throughout the show/promo) but also the impossible body standards that women have to live up to.

The show is all about the fear of aging. Women are going to “shrivel up and die.” Throughout society, everyone fears getting older, but I feel like there is a stronger fear among women. A fear that men will no longer be attracted to them when they get older. Because age does not equal beauty. Age equals wrinkles and flab and death.

How does divorce equal “shrivel up and die”? There is nothing wrong with being an independent woman and living the life you want to live. While I think that is the message the show is trying is doing what she thinks is expected of her. I may be wrong, I mean it is only a 30 second promo. But the show does seem to say that a woman is incomplete without a man, even if that man is just a young “boy toy.”

And why is that older women who date younger men are called “cougars” but older men who date younger women is a bachelor or a playboy? Cougars are predatory animals, so this implies that women are preying on and attacking young men where as men are congratulated for dating younger women.

Courtney Cox was so great on Friends, so why does she have to go and make a show like this (but Jennifer Aniston is really the only one of the cast that has had any major success after Friends)? Maybe the show is supposed to be some sort of commentary about the fear of aging in society. But if the promo starts out like this with scrutinizing every little imaginary fault on a body, I think it is just reinforcing the fear of aging.

Have you ever noticed how male actors, especially comedians, don’t have to conform to societal beauty standards? But female actors are usually shunned if they don’t conform to these standards and as they get older.

I was watching an interview with Jonah Hill for the movie Funny People (Judd Apatow’s latest creation) and they showed a clip starring Hill and Seth Rogen. Neither of these men are “attractive” according to cultural standards, yet they are both popular actors. In the clip that they showed, Seth Rogen was discussing his looks (he has recently lost a good amount of weight for a different role) and how he isn’t good looking but isn’t bad looking either. Jonah Hill goes on to reprimand him for losing weight because there’s “nothing funny about a physically fit man!” This line really struck me because, at least to me, it shed light on the double standard that funny and talented men don’t have to be physically fit where as women do.

Men can be physically “unattractive” and make up for it with their personality/humor. But women, on the other hand, have a hard time making it big if they are not culturally attractive. Of course there are some exceptions such as Dame Judy Dench and Queen Latifah. But both of these women are beautiful, they just don’t conform to societal standards of beauty; Dench because of age and Latifah because of weight. In comedies, women have to be both attractive and funny where as men just have to be funny.

This is oh-so evident in Judd Apatow movies. The women that “star” in these movies are much more attractive than the men that play opposite then. Not to say that a relationship where the woman is more attractive than the man could never happen, but it is definitely not the norm in movies. For example, in Knocked Up, Katherine Heigl stays with her unattractive, slacker boyfriend, Seth Rogen. I could understand that if Rogen was actually a good boyfriend, but he wasn’t. Just one example of how women in comedies have to be attractive in order to play a prominent role.

And even as attractive, funny women age, they are shunned from the mainstream. They are offered roles to play the mothers of people they are only 10 years older than and to play the old hag next door. Feministing posted a video with Amy Pohler, Sarah Silverman, Christina Applegate, Jane Krakowski, Mary Louise Parker, and Julia Louis-Dreyfus discussing what it means to be getting older in show business. They talk about the roles they are offered and the ones they are turned down for, about not getting magazine covers because they are over 35, etc. While all these women are amazing actors and very attractive, this video speaks to the value of youth (including society standards of beauty) in show business and society.

There are of course exceptions to this “rule.” But they are few and far between. Men have the pleasure of relying on their talent and humor instead of their looks whereas women generally have to rely on their looks in order to get roles…at least at first.

Further Reading:
Judd Apatow Talks About Sexism, Seth Rogen [Jezebel]