Female Breasts By Raman Bains
Essay Preview: Female Breasts By Raman Bains
Report this essay
Female Breasts by Raman Bains In many works of art throughout history, female breasts have been featured prominently and in the nude. The symbolic meaning credited to the breast was usually associated with fertility and nourishment, both spiritual and physical, and in the wider sense, with life. Eroticism, nourishment, abundance, expression, feminine power, as well as feminine subservience, are different contradicting themes of the breast played out in time. Different reiterating views of its importance and the way it should be displayed are used to reflect upon the views of women of the time and life in society in general. At times, it is near-worshipped as a sign of sexuality, or as a sign of nourishment. Other times it is restricted down, sometimes a sign of the inferiority of women or, on the contrary, as a sign of womens independence and their equality to men. Whether it is intentional or unintentional, how the breast is perceived throughout history is a direct reflection of the views of the time.
Legends about the breast have appeared in a variety of cultures, from Greek, Indian, to Native American myths, they all contain stories that involve biting a breast. For example, as an infant, Hercules was said to have gotten his extra-human strength from biting the breast of Hera. Other stories such as this can be seen as symbolic of an attack on Mother Nature or the earth goddess, and of mans ability to overcome her (Latteier, 1998, p. 146). Women with multiple sets of breasts are reoccurring themes in Western society, symbolizing fruitfulness. Artenis, the Greek goddess of Ephesus, is said to have had nearly twenty breasts on her chest. She symbolized the female nourishing power and fertility. The Minoan society on the island of Crete welcomed the breast openly. Womens clothing was designed to let the breasts show through and were placed in high social positions of power. Their breasts stood for material wealth, political power, and purity. The Minoans are given credit as the first people to use a corset. They wore bodices that laced below the bust, bracing and exposing the breasts (Winston, Website). Priestesses known as snake goddesses, were notorious for large breasts and snakes that coiled around their arm, would symbolize their power (Yalom, 1997, p. 15). Classic Greek society repressed femininity and acclaimed masculinity. Women were encouraged to stay at home and were given only few rights. Only a special upper class of women known as the Hetaerae, were able to participate in social activities of men. The apodemos, a linen article worn by the Hetaerae, was considered to be the first brassiere (Silverman, Website). It, however, usually compressed the breasts instead of accentuating them, reflecting the anti-feminine views of the time.
With the rise of Christianity, the breasts and the flesh in general were discouraged from being exposed. With rounded bellies gaining popularity, the stomach was considered to be more of an important center of female sexuality (Broby-Johansen, 1968, p. 131). This was modeled after the Virgin Mary whose round belly contained the savior (Yalom, 1997, p. 40). It wasnt until the fourteenth century and the Renaissance that this began to change. Explosive creativity and art occurred despite great famine and disease. As people became more frolicsome, clothing became more revealing. Such clothing including lowering the neckline to show cleavage (Latteire, 1998, p. 31). In the seventeenth century, the breasts once again became the center of female attractiveness over the belly. The breast stood as a symbol of power and wealth at a time when mercantilism was on the rise in Europe (Latteire, 1998, p. 32). The corset, which was previously used to flatten the breasts, was used to push in the stomach and push up the breasts (Winston, Website). Louis XIV of Frances personal taste was a factor in this, as he demanded lower necklines for all the court women. He considered it a sign of respect to him and to the Deity to wear the corset (Latteire, 1998, p. 33). After the French Revolution, there was about a decade of naturalism. Romanticism rejected fashions and norms of the former aristocracy, such as the use of the powdered wig, which was banned. Independence and freedom of expression were key and an outpour of emotional awakening occurred. The breasts were popular as symbols of emotion and naturalism. Breast-feeding regained such popularity, that the French government demanded that women who wanted government support must nurse their babies (Yalom, 1997, p. 113). It was regarded as a civic duty that supported the new government and rejected the old regime. In some cases, womens clothing was nearly transparent with the breasts showing through. Many women stopped wearing the corset and chose to have a more natural look (Broby-Johansen, 1968, p. 142). In time, this Romanticism calmed down, and so did clothing and the corset returned to the scene. In 1839, Jean Wearly patented a machine for making corsets and set up a factory in France (Winston, Website). Until this time, corsets were a luxury for the upper classes, now they were readily produced for a reasonable price that could be afforded by most. The proper display of the breasts and waist through corsets became an important part of fashion society. They came in a variety of shapes and sizes, such as sleeping corsets, bathing corsets, leisure corsets, nursing corsets, pregnancy corsets, horseback riding corsets, and etc. (Yalom, 1997, p. 168). The English preferred long corsets that extended over the hips while the French preferred shorter ones (Broby-Johansen, 1968, p. 183). At the turn of the century, there was growing resistance to the corset. Doctors blamed the corset for constricting the ribs and compressing the organs of women. Economist Thorstien Veblen blamed the corset for the womens dependence on their husbands, saying that it weakened them so much that they were unfit to work (Yalom, 1997, p. 171). In 1893, Marie Tucek patented the first modern brassiere. It was similar to the brassiere used today in that it had separate cups for each breast, shoulder straps and a hook in the back. It wasnt until the 1920s that the brassiere replaced the corset as the garment of choice (Silverman, Website). During World War I, French women began to favor the more flat-chested look that would later become popular after the war. The Germans, enemies of the French in the war, responded by promoting a bustier, fuller look. German bra makers advertised that the French brassieres were unpatriotic and encouraged people to buy the German brassier that maximized the breasts (Broby-Johansen, 1968, p. 197). Womens roles in the work force increased over the course of the war. They won the right to vote in 1919 in America and there was a growing belief that women were able to do almost anything a man can do. The French “flat”