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My Breasts...

... are flat. They barely fill the bikinis I like to wear. And if you came to this post hoping to find something titillating, you are about to be disappointed further. Another fact about me and my breasts is that I try, as much as possible, to keep them free from bra-bondage. Given that there's nothing much there needing support, I don't really see the point.

I wonder about our skewed notions of immodesty. Is going au naturel beneath the shirt and not wearing a bra more immodest than faking larger breast size and forcing the cleavage issue with underwiring and padded bras? (Unfortunately, the only kind of bra you can find in this country that doesn't have painful underwiring or extra padding is the trainer or the sports bra. What does that tell you?) This question of im/modesty reminds me of the legendary Laurie Anderson's Smoke Rings, in which she asks, Que es mas macho? Pineapple o knife?... Que es mas macho? Lightbulb o schoolbus?... Que es mas macho? Iceberg or volcano? Anyway, you catch my drift.

I grew up in a home where tales of bra-burning were told around the dinner table. As a toddler I played at the feet of fierce women, imbibing the lessons they had learned about enjoying womanly freedom. Even though I could not yet fully understand their meaning, I could tell how important a story was by the way my mother's eyes shone, or the way my titas' sentences were punctuated with wild laughter

My great grandmother was a Filipina suffragist. I believe that to a certain extent the liberties I enjoy today are thanks to her. No matter that the kind of feminism she advocated stemmed directly from a Western conception of women's equality, I am proud of how she blazed a trail for Filipina women in more ways than just the campaign, and how she lived her life as a mother and a widow after World War II. The home of my childhood was built by her in 1963.

However, I never was and never will be comfortable in a terno and butterfly sleeves, so I'm not sure that my lola-sa-tuhod would approve of my rejection of the bra and many of the feminine conventions of her time. So I look, too, for audacious grandmothers and aunties, amongst the women of the Cordilleras who bared their breasts in protest against the military development complex. I had heard their stories before and I am eternally grateful to Melisa Casumbal-Salazar for bringing these stories back into my life through her ongoing research on corporeal protest, gender, the body, and concepts of the political in the Cordillera.

Theirs are stories of human barricades with mothers and grandmothers at the front line, baring their breasts and removing their tapis to protect their homeland, taunting engineers and militiamen representing mining companies and dams, saying, "Before you mine, mine me." Or, "See where you came from." This act is a shaming and a curse on the men for it brings ill consequences to the gazer. It is taboo for a man to gaze at a woman of his mother's age. Melisa met and interviewed these women and they repeatedly told her that "women can use their mouths as spears," and that all they could fight with was their bodies.

They said: "We are life. We give life."

To me, this too is the most important thing about my breasts -- not their size, nor what containers I choose to keep them in. I am proud that with them I have breastfed a wondergirl who is now fast becoming her own wonderwoman -- and what a beautiful person she is!

For the most part however, I don't give a boob about cup-size.


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