July 15th, 2010

The Power of Breasts


Is it right or wrong for women to use their sexuality or feminine qualities to get what they want? Do breasts empower or hinder women? Are they a feminist power or a feminist killer? NHU PHAM describes her journey from trying to hide her femininity to being proud of it.

Puberty started off with me being embarrassed of my ever-growing chest developments and a case of very bad acne. Bad posture, baggy clothes and a lot of makeup did little to masquerade and hide what was inevitable. I was becoming a woman, at least physically.

It was not until years later that I discovered the true power of breasts. I could garner attention and get things I wanted by the simple fact that I had them. At the same time, I could garner unwanted attention and find myself in a pickle of a situation.

Knowing that I had this power did little for me as I never wanted to be labeled as one of those girls who used their sexuality to get what they wanted. I wanted to be known for my intellect, humour, wit and other ‘inner’ qualities.

From centuries of old, women have been using their sexuality to get what they want. It could be as simple as avoiding a speeding ticket, getting free drinks at a bar, an extension on a work deadline or a promotion. Many of these women would claim they are empowered through harnessing their sexuality and feminine wiles.

But is it right, moral, justifiable? Is it a feminist power or a feminist killer?

In my 20s, I was very conscious of my body and would wear only slacks and button up shirts to work. I was shy to use anything remotely sexual to get what I wanted in life. I was tough on outside to hide any insecurities that I had on the inside. I wanted to be taken seriously, and looking back, I was. Anything a man could do, I could do and I was out to prove it.

In my 30s, I slowly discovered what I like to call my feminine charm and subsequently softened my apparel. Unlike using one’s sexuality, one’s feminine charm encompassed intellect, humour, wit and many of my inner qualities. It’s a way for me to show the softer side of myself without having to compromise.

Not too long ago, I was in a lunch queue with a co-worker and I had forgotten to put some mustard on my plate. I asked him for some mustard and held out my plate thinking that he would pick up the spoon and drop some mustard on my plate. Instead he grabbed the very large bowl with one hand and offered it my way.

I had a look of amazement on my face as I exclaimed, “Rene, you are so strong. You picked up that big bowl with one hand.” As soon as I said this, he blushed slightly, his shoulders squared and he grew taller. We both started laughing.

I had no ulterior motive when I gave him this compliment but I know it flattered him even it was slightly humorous. People who are flattered often are more willing to give in and I could save my points to be redeemed later.

I use my feminine charm on both men and women of all ages and feel at ease that I am not discriminating. Age and experience have softened my exterior as there is less insecurity to disguise. I do dress more feminine now and am much more comfortable in my own skin.

I am sure that my breasts are being noticed, however they serve more as a backdrop. As for using my sexuality, I retain the use of that for nothing other than getting sex.

So what is feminism about, really?

How do you feel about your breasts? Do they empower you or limit you? Is it okay for women to use their sexuality or femininity in certain situations and not in others? Come to our Gender Matters workshops and learn how fairy tales may have contributed to your sense of self.

The Princess Ideology:
Deconstructing the Fairy Tales

By Professor Sankaran Chitra from NUS

5 August (Thurs), 7pm – 9pm
AWARE Centre
Member: $9 a person, $15 for a pair
Non-member: $15 a person, $25 for a pair
Click here for more details.

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