Photo credit to @tribedemama and @jakobland. See full Instagram post here.
I feel apprehensive about liking this pic. Not at first. Initially, I think it’s a woman; she is lounging back in the picture, long lean arms stretching out reveal tufts of hair in her armpits, like delicate air plants peeking down. She has a full mouth and eyes that are focused straight at the lens, daring me to glance down at the exposed nipples protruding from her tank top all askew. I look, but no boobs. Just little round flesh beads on a flat chest.
I am confused that my immediate reaction is envious. Then, like a shield, defensive. She is not a woman. She is a man feeling like a woman.
I try to retrace my steps like I have misplaced what’s important. Let me go back to solve this mystery of envy. Not having boobs? Is that it? Or, being able to carelessly free those little flesh nubbs for the world to see? Is it because nipples on a set of pecs don’t have to engage with gravity, be pulled on by the mouths of four babes and stretched to extremities upon birth as the deluge of milk fills them? To not have breasts means freedom from the hopeless struggle to maintain what my victoria's secret bra only knows; my boobs aren’t shaped like this once I’m naked, and free from the restrictions I allow to rule me, my woman body: full high breasts; being beautiful and confident as I march around the world as an ideal, and then reaching behind me as I walk through my bedroom door to unhook the restraints there, lashed around me in the form of lace, confining my bosom to not be what it is. I pull the black bra expertly out through my shirt sleeve and fling it away from me across the bed. My mammory sexobjects relax back against my rib cage. Deflated of all they were moments ago.
Envious? Yes. Fuck yeah. If I wasn’t expected to have a rack, I could have hated myself less, could have spent the valuable time wasted on obsessing over my boobs in comparison to perfect boobs, and instead thought about what field of science I would like to someday major in. Without tits.
I could sit here shirtless in my front yard, feel the warmth on my bare skin without any of the shame or judgment or rule breaking.
Okay. So the defensive feeling is protecting me from these thoughts. This human born a boy will never know the displeasure that the expectation of breasts are. He can enjoy all the feminine posture in this picture, and not have stars hiding his societal-owned nipples on Instagram. Can I move on from this thought? Can I allow that he has struggled in ways that I cannot fathom, to experience being a woman?
How much is a man able to try on being a woman, like a silky blouse caressing softly against his skin, one that he can take off when it confines his movement? Does he know the struggle that each girl endures to fill the form that is expected of her? Not just my body, my mind, my dreams, the pure rapturous expectations of my own that were stolen from me as I grew and admitted silently that I could never fulfill, never come to fruition, this wholeness of human form. Unattainable for me. Make it less. Hide it away. Shave it off. Conceal it. Pipe down. Stand up straight and quiet and submissive.
And the impression I make?... with my hairy legs, and my overgrown mess of armpit hair, my opinionated thoughts manifesting into words, my careless adoption for fashion and makeup? “Who does she think she is? A man?”
Can I be a woman, please? Can I be this woman? Without a campaign or a soapbox, can I just exist as a complete entity without disgusting those around me?
And now I might be starting to get it. She has asked himself this same thing. She hasn’t walked in my bare woman feet. She doesn’t know MY struggle. But she knows hers: and it is every bit as arduous and even more condemned; to be born to rule the world, to make a mythical ‘help-meet’ from the sinew of your very own rib, and still to choose to follow what is written on your heart; beating there beneath the prairie of your flat landscaped chest.
I must admit that you have something I want, person that I only know through one Instagram picture. Maybe this surprises you, or perhaps you have come across many white privileged woman complaints. But you have also helped me to understand that we both want some of the same things. And it isn’t just looking like a goddess owning the room; it’s respect: an acknowledgment, that choosing to be something other than what the world expects of you is complete bad-assery, unabashedly brave, and deserves focus by a larger majority unwilling to consider that. Maybe we are in this together, because I feel stronger knowing that others are boldly facing obstacles about their identity, and rewriting what a human can be. So, I guess what I really feel is gratitude. Thank you for helping me get there.