Cameroon: My Small Breasts My Beauty: It Doesn’t Matter What You Think

Clodine Mbuli Shei
Posted January 24, 2017 from Cameroon

In a Society where women are seen as sex objects and are judged by their appearances, where impossible standards and physical beauty are the norms, being a woman means having an ‘attractive’ physical feature, protruded breasts, ‘hips that don’t lie’, an eight (8) shaped body with a thin skin ‘Maniken’. Falling short of these standards is being less a woman, never to be a model or Miss Cameroon. Many women have lost their womanhood, pride, dignity, integrity and Self Worth to these misconceptions. I refuse to be one. Breasts or no breasts, I am a woman, no less than others. But how would I stand the test of time?

As a child, I fitted societal norms of a girl child. I was bulky with long dark hair plaited from time to time. I was loved by neighbours and family members who always took me for outings. Then puberty came, unlike my mates, my breast refused to grow. My nipples grow bigger but no tissues surrounding them leaving me at the mercies of sympathizers. Those with bigger breasts had a solution, their parents ‘ironed’ them so they don’t grow fast and attract men. But my case had no known solution. What was the way forward?

Frustration set in, eyebrows were raised, and unanswered questions floated my world. Was it a curse? Was my mother guilty of infidelity? Was it inherited? Was I a boy or Girl? I was baptized with nicknames like ‘flat chest’, ‘boy-girl’, ‘manpikin,’ etc. I cried about this and wished I was born in a Europe where my breasts could be enlarged through plastic surgery. I lamented why God created me in this forsaken nation with limited resources and expertise to make me a ‘woman’. I cursed my family where poverty had deprived me of the opportunity of a breast surgery. I watched Models on television with protruded breast and I knew I was never going to be one, never going to be a Miss or star on TV. I was limited in my thinking, little did I know my little breasts could disqualify me for marriage.

My parents made things worse for me by sending me to a boarding school, to live in a hostel with ‘real women’ with pointed breasts on every chest of different shapes and sizes. There I was, with nipples on my chest. The reality of my ‘flat chest’ and it consequence dawned on me.

My mates told me when God created me, the angels in charge of breastdistribution forgot to plant my breast, no man will ever admire me, I will never marry, I will never satisfy a man in bed and that my dresses will never fit. I started wearing ‘push up’ bras and would isolate myself each time I wanted to dress. But how long will I be a prisoner without a crime? While others laughed at me, I had some sympathizers who advised me and others like me. They told us to look for men and give them our breasts to suck and massage so they grow. I was so naïve not to accept that but others did, and they lost their virginity, contracted STDs, some committed crude abortion and I wonder if they ever had children of their own, others became pregnant and finally dropped out of school.

I remember my classmate in secondary school who listened to this advice and became pregnant then committed a crude abortion. When she returned to school she discharged continuously with a pungent smell and this stained her uniform. Everyone deserted her, even her accomplices. Regardless of her poor mother’s plea, the school authorities sanctioned her. Nobody heard anything about her again. Her chances to survive were very limited. It was too late for any solution, her story ended prematurely. It could be me, I thought.

I was helpless but something kept me, it was an unconscious fight within me, a fight against stereotypes that put my sisters in bondage. They fell in ignorance and regretted, they wished they loved their small breasts. I was a heroine, with my small breasts but still uncertain about the future, I still wished they were bigger.

Things got better when I enrolled in the University and rented my room. No more critics I thought. Unfortunately for me, new sympathizers came my way. Worse still, male admirers and suitors came to me. I was frustrated. They didn’t know what was beneath the bra they saw. They didn’t know appearance was not reality. The struggle continued!

There was light at the end of the tunnel. I studied Women and Gender Studies and obtained a Master’s Degree. Before I graduated I was empowered and emancipated from all stereotypes. I regretted why I imprisoned myself and blurred chances of excelling in the public sphere. I regained my pride and self-worth. ‘I am no less a woman and no one can make me less a woman, no matter what’. My small breasts are my beauty, my pride, my joy. I’m unique!

Later I got married. Behold, another battle. My husband wished my breasts were bigger. He loved ladies with big breast. It didn’t matter anymore what he thought, I was an ex-convict never to imprison myself again. Then I had a child and breastfed her for 6 months exclusively, and 15 months mixed feeding. I had no challenges. Smallbreastsare as functional as big breasts and they are portable and easy to manage. I lamented my mates who were misled and victimized because they wanted bigger breasts.

To my sisters out there, who are held captive by stereotypes and demeaning norms regarding their appearances. Don’t be deceived, you are beautiful; no less a woman. In an ideal society, we would be judged only on our personality and not our appearance. My small breasts aremy beauty, I don’t care what people say.

Body Beautiful
This story was submitted in response to Body Beautiful.

Comments 13

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Jill Langhus
Jan 25, 2017
Jan 25, 2017

Hi Clodine. Thanks for your honest account of the pitfalls of being small breasted in your community. I thought it was bad growing up in a midwest town in the U.S. with small breasts and being ribbed by peers and siblings, but I did always wonder if the girls with bigger breasts had a worse fate since they got unwanted attention. So, if you had bigger breasts, would you have gotten the education that you did? Either way, it's ridiculous when you think about it.  I wish all women could embrace their bodies, their uniqueness... perhaps one day... soon:)

Clodine Mbuli Shei
Jan 26, 2017
Jan 26, 2017

Hi jlanghus.

Thank you for your comment. Indeed we must keep working and hoping for a day when the way our bodies are won't be a limiting factor. 

Jill Langhus
Jan 27, 2017
Jan 27, 2017

You're welcome:)

Anjana Vaidya
Jan 25, 2017
Jan 25, 2017

Dear Clodine,

Thank you for sharing your story. You truely said that we would be judged only on our personality and not our appearance. So happy that you don't care what people think and paying attention to their non senses... keep flying and shining  dear.

Best,

anjana

Clodine Mbuli Shei
Jan 26, 2017
Jan 26, 2017

Dear Anjana,

Thank you for your comment. Indeed all our sisters must rise above certain trivialities like being small breasted. I'm happy I was able to overcome this earlier in life. So, it's now my duty to educate all the other sisters who are still caught up in feeling defeated by the size of their breasts. 

Natasha L
Jan 25, 2017
Jan 25, 2017

Dear Chlodine -

Your story is full of passion and heartfelt sharing. Your writing is descriptive, articulate, and brimming with hope.  Thank you for bringing your story alive for us by telling us about your life and what it means to have made peace with the beauty of your small breasts and freed yourself from society's damaging stereotypes about women and their bodies.

I look forward to reading more from you.  Write on!

Natasha

Clodine Mbuli Shei
Jan 26, 2017
Jan 26, 2017

Hi Natasha,

Thanks for your words of encouragent. I'm a bracing up for more writeups. The more I write, the more I want to write especially writing for the purpose of educating our sisters and breaking stereotypes. 

Nicole Joseph-Chin
Jan 31, 2017
Jan 31, 2017

Clodine,

My work is in breast-health and this is something that we work in promoting awareness around and we do this almost daily in our organization www.msbrafit.com  So many women and girls are forced to think that their bodies are imperfect due to society, pop culture, television and fashion norms. Our work in our Social Enterprise started in 2002 for this very reason. So many times, society is insensitive to the social impact of body shaming and perception of what "should be" and many , women whose lives we touch, are able to change this narrative once we begin to show them how they can be empowered by self-love. Thank you for sharing. Please let me know if there are opportunities for collaboration in your area so we can amplify the voices and create a new global narrative.

Clodine Mbuli Shei
Feb 20, 2017
Feb 20, 2017

Dear Nicole, I apologise for taking this long to reply. Due to the current crises in Cameroon, we were cut off from Internet connections. This retards work so much. I am very willing and available to work with you. We have much work to do .Working as the gender officer for the Socio Economic Empowerment of Persons with Disabilities, there is much efforts needed for our women with disabilities to shame body shamers. Please dont hesitate to suggest possibilities of working together and please dont get discouraged if i delay in replying. When internet is restored i will not delay in replying your mails.My email address is mbuliclodine@yahoo.com

iyamail
Feb 18, 2017
Feb 18, 2017

my Cameroonian sister. Much ❤ to you. I love the fight that bubbles up in your words. I am a fan. Keep writing. We must gain ground in our causes and not be pushed to a corner!

Clodine Mbuli Shei
Feb 20, 2017
Feb 20, 2017

Dear Sister, No body pushes me to the corner. Even if they do, i brighten every corner. Thank you for the encouragement. We must stand firm

Sally maforchi Mboumien
Feb 28, 2017
Feb 28, 2017

Clodine dear I love this!!!! Our society really puts a lot of pressures on women following the laid down standard of physical beauty. We must be who we are not what they want us to be. Thank God i have learned to accept my big tummy and feel good about myself.

Clodine Mbuli Shei
Mar 09, 2017
Mar 09, 2017

Dear Masalien, sorry it took me this long to reply. We have no access to internet for close to two months. Am delighted you too are an overcomer. We all are overcomers and we need many more. lets keep the fire burning