Clearly, I am the breast police. Breastfeeding. Breast screening. Breasts in general. Bras. Yep, I write (a lot) about breasts. I don't know what it is, but for some reason, our cultural messaging about breasts sucks. And I for one, am so tired of it.
In this installment of "Logan on Breasts," I shall tackle my guilty pleasure, reality television: specifically, The Real Housewives of New Jersey.
Now I know what you're saying, or at least thinking:
Logan, don't watch reality television if it angers you.
You are part of the problem because you're a viewer.
What do you expect? Crazy parenting makes for good television.
Yes, I know all of those things. But I can't help it. I'm a voyeur, and it gives me great material to work with.
On the last episode of The Real Housewives of New Jersey (5/20/12), 10-year-old Gia Giudice tells her mother, Teresa, that she thinks it is time to get a bra. (Okay, in a different kind of family, this is when a mother turns to the camera crew and says: Please turn off the cameras now. We need to have a private conversation.) But no, what does Teresa do? She makes fun of Gia, discloses Gia's request to her publicly misogynistic and homophobic husband (who also makes fun of his daughter), and then, because it couldn't possibly get any worse, Teresa Giudice takes her 10-year-old daughter bra shopping...on camera. And yes, Teresa continues to make fun of her daughter's breasts. Even the salesperson (who starts off warm and thoughtful) makes fun of the girl by pulling out an enormous bra that could, quite literally, fit over Gia's entire head.
I am compelled to write about this, because I spend each and every day getting children and teens to feel good about and empowered by their bodies. I teach them that puberty isn't a curse, but an amazing experience. And I encourage them to talk to their parents about relationships, development, sex and all other deeply personal subjects -- but in private, not for a television audience.
You may think that I'm overreacting. Fine, but consider this: Bra shopping is an intimate experience. It is one that is highly emotional for parent and child because it is one of the first physical signs that your child is changing. She is not just a little girl. Moreover, the experience is bittersweet because it forces all of us (as parents or caregivers) to consider our own mortality; as our children grow up, we get older, too.
Teresa made fun of her daughter's body. She turned an intimate event into a public one, and she brought an entire television audience's attention to her daughter's breasts and burgeoning sexuality.
But Gia winds up proving my point. In the dressing room (which cameras, of course, are in), Teresa tries to engage in a meaningful dialogue about puberty with Gia: "If you have any questions..." Gia interrupts, "I'll ask the teacher."
Well, if that's not telling, I don't know what is.