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.