A while ago, I read an article about the evolution of breasts. I’m not terribly interested in breasts, but the article nicely confirmed my suspicion that evolutionary psychology has very little do do with evolution or science in general and everything with the worldview of the researchers. Apparently, for decades, research in this area consisted of male subjects rating pictures of naked women because obviously breasts must have evolved to please men. Only after twenty years of picture rating, in the late 80s, did it first occur to someone that women might have breasts because, you know, they might benefit the woman in some way. It’s funny and a bit sad at the same time and it’s yet another example of the privileged (I realise this word might be kind of… itchy to some people, but it’s so incredibly useful) naturally assuming that Everything Is About Them.
The huge purity/modesty debate that’s going on in the (post-)evangelical blogosphere at the moment (Preston Yancey has an overview) made me think about this again. ‘Modesty’ and ‘purity’ have never been as huge an issue for me as it apparently was for many of the contributors; I never went to a school that measured the length of skirts and I never went to a church or youth group that made me sign a virginity pledge. But they were issues nonetheless. I remember how some fellow students – male and female – argued for separate Bible study groups, so the guys wouldn’t be distracted from the Word of God by the cleavages of their sisters in Christ. I remember us – male and female – judging every expression of female sexuality as evidence of a ‘lack of self-respect’. I remember a Facebook friend, who, not that long ago, wrote a status update telling girls they would never be treated like princesses if they behaved like whores.
In all these cases, the underlying assumption is that it is All About The Men. How a girl looks, how she behaves, what she wears, the fact that she exists in the first place – it’s all about men, about pleasing men, tempting men, distracting men. Whenever we talk about a girl as pure, or modest, or ‘girlfriend material’, or as a prude or a slut or a whore, we’re denying her an existence independent from male experience. We’re denying her her own motives, her own individuality, her own story.
All of this is a lie. Dear men: women do not exist for your benefit. I do not exist for your benefit. I do not wear whatever I choose to wear to tempt (or avoid tempting) men. I wear it because I feel good wearing it. If you look at me and see a sexual being, that’s not because I want to send you a message, it’s because I am a sexual being. If it looks like I’m showing off my body, it’s not because I am insecure or lack self-respect – on the contrary, I’m probably enjoying one of these rare days where I am not insecure about my looks and just feel happy being me. If I appear in public makeup-less and with unshaven armpits I’m not doing it to deliberately repulse you, I probably just forgot or didn’t care to shave. If I don’t smile at you or flirt with you I’m not insulting you, I just have other things on my mind.
And my breasts are probably just a fat storage.