Seattle woman who's had a double mastectomy fights for the right to swim bare-chested


30 Responses to “Seattle woman who's had a double mastectomy fights for the right to swim bare-chested”

  1. JohnHinesJr says:

    Why is this even a thing?  Which bit are we supposed to consider naughty?  The breast as a whole?  Just the nipple?  Any skin present between the clavicle and the bottom rib?  I wonder, often, if humans are going to survive another five generations.  

  2. Raggle Fock says:

    I would find it hard to justify this change if was the City of Seattle -letting someone defy social norms just because it’s ‘cumbersome.’ 

    • fuzzyfuzzyfungus says:

      Given the harmlessness of defying this social norm, I find her request sub-optimal for the opposite reason: Why introduce a special rule for a specific medical status(leaving room for further quibbling, what about people who had preemptive masectomies to avoid cancer and are thus not cancer survivors, for instance? Or partial vs. total tissue removal, post masectomy reconstructive surgery or not, etc, etc.) and just go with ‘people who would prefer not to don’t have to’?

    • HarveyBoing says:

      I couldn’t get the video at CBC to load, so I don’t know what their report actually said (other than the text). But the news report shown locally in Seattle said that it was more than just an issue of being “cumbersome”. According to them, the post-surgical pain for her is significant enough that wearing a swim-suit top causes genuine and significant discomfort.

      Not that, IMHO, that part of the question is really all that relevant (see “double-standard”). But if you’re going to get into the social norms vs. personal benefit argument, it’s worth being clear about what the personal benefit really is, so that you can more accurately judge whether it justifies defying social norms.

    • Jesseham says:

       They use the word “cumbersome” here at Boingboing, but what I read in the Seattle Times was the word “painful”

    • donovan acree says:

       Is it a good idea to have laws that restrict the activity of one group of people and not another? Do we need to continue to treat men and women differently under the law? Has equal rights failed us?
      As I see it, a law applies to everyone or it is meaningless and applies to no one. Sex based laws have no place in today’s world.

  3. mattcornell says:

    There should be one rule regardless of gender. If women can’t swim topless, neither should men. Anything else is a sexist double standard that perpetuates the sexualization of female breasts. 

    • Preston Sturges says:

      When a girl of 15 sprouts breasts, it is considered attractive.  On a man of 50, not so much.  Life is unfair. 

      • mattcornell says:

        I generally don’t find 15 year old girl’s breasts attractive. So, that’s not a universal truth. Also, I’ve had breasts for most of my life, and I’m a man. Some women and many men I’ve known have found them attractive, despite cultural stigma against “moobs.”

        Here’s a bit more about my experience with societal doublestandards around breasts.

        • penguinchris says:

          Thanks for that article, very interesting. I am not especially large but have moobs (I think mine are worse than for someone with a larger figure like yours in the photo, to be honest). 

          I hate that they limit what kinds of clothes I can wear (most t-shirts are right out) because I really enjoy clothing. I’m not sure it’s just a matter of cultural acceptance/stigma… it just doesn’t work with the male figure aesthetically. No girl who likes me otherwise has cared, but I like to look good for myself too, not just for others.

          I dread what I’m going to look like when I get older, having seen plenty of old guys with huge tits :)

          To get sort of on topic, I think I would be a lot more comfortable going to the beach or the pool if old-school one-piece swimsuits for men were still culturally acceptable. Just like this woman shouldn’t have to worry about cultural acceptance of going topless (whether she has specific reason to, like she does, or not). Society is dumb.

          • mattcornell says:

            “What works aesthetically” for male and female bodies is dictated by social norms and their accompanying stigmas. You can’t separate the two.

            And we aren’t even discussing the issues around intersex bodies and trans bodies. What if the swimmer in the article were a trans man who had undergone top surgery?

    • HarveyBoing says:

      On the one hand, I agree with the double-standard point. Applying different rules to women and men is sexist and I don’t see a compelling justification, even in the case of covering or not covering breasts.

      On the other hand, I’m trying to figure out what’s wrong with the sexualization of female breasts. It’s not like there aren’t those who sexualize the male breast (though typically for different characteristics), nor does it seem unreasonable to sexualize any part of a human body that a person finds sexually attractive.

      For me, when it comes to sexualization, the real issue is people who can’t apply context and understand the difference between a breast as a practical matter and a breast as a sexual matter. In the right context, breasts are sexual, just as feet, legs, butts, hands, arms, backs, lips, etc. are. But in lots of other contexts, they are just something that’s there, and occasionally used to produce food, in a completely non-sexual way.

      Fact is, there was a time when showing even a little bit of leg was considered sexually provocative. We’d outgrown that social norm, and yet a leg can still be sexual. I guess I’m saying, here’s a case where we can have our cake and eat it too: we can get rid of the double-standard without losing the pleasure of enjoying breasts sexually.

      • mattcornell says:

        I think sexualization of male bodies is increasing in our culture, but there’s really no comparison whatsoever to the way women’s bodies are objectified, policed and regulated. 

        Yes, of course there’s nothing wrong with finding any particular body part sexy. But sexualization as a social and cultural phenomenon is informed by sexist double standards which insist that men do the looking, and women are the objects of that gaze. Laws against female toplessness aren’t simply prudish– they actually promote and reinforce the idea that women’s bodies are sexual and men’s are not.

        • HarveyBoing says:

          I think maybe you’re not seeing what I mean.

          I see a difference between sexism and sexualization. The former is about imbalance of power, the latter about human sexual response (at least, by the definition I’m using for sexualization: nothing more than taking pleasure in something in a sexual way).

          Yes, sexualization applied in a harmful way can be the basis for some types of sexism. But that doesn’t make it bad. It just makes it a tool misused.

          That’s why I disagree that the “sexualization of female breasts” is in and of itself a bad thing as your original post implied. It’s not the sexualization itself that’s bad; it’s the way that sexualization is used to justify sexist laws that’s bad.

    • oasisob1 says:

       I think by putting tops on men to cover their nipples you are sexualizing male breasts. Cool!

  4. Preston Sturges says:

    Surely there are also men that have lost their “junk” because of cancer or accident…….

    • HarveyBoing says:

      Yes, there are. I’m guessing you’re proposing such men should be allowed to swim completely nude?

      Assuming a social prohibition on nudity generally, the loss of genitalia does not necessarily mean a person could go without their bottoms without violating that norm. After all, many people are offended not just by the genitalia, but also by the buttocks and anus.

      It’s also worth pointing out that the more extensive the damage/loss, the more likely that there are serious health issues related to swimming and medical apparatus involved in compensating for the damage/loss. The question may well be moot in that scenario, because the person wouldn’t be safe swimming in a public pool anyway.

  5. HarveyBoing says:

    For what it’s worth, this news story has very little to do with what most people consider a “female breast”. You can do a web search on her name and find photos of her bare-chested; she simply has no breasts at all.

    This is more about arbitrary gender-specific rules that are written in an overly vague way. (Assuming that the rules prohibit topless women specifically at all…some rules simply prohibit the uncovering of certain parts or amounts of a breast, and so wouldn’t apply to a woman without any breasts).

  6. Vinnie Tesla says:

    I posted a short essay inspired by cases like this a while ago.

  7. Daemonworks says:

    It’s technically legal for women to go topless in Canada. Rarely happens, but it was fought for and won some years back on the basis that it’s sexual discrimination.

    • cdh1971 says:

      Same with my city, in Oregon, U.S. It is actually specifically legal women and men to go topless.  

      Despite this, there are only a few women (& way too many men) who do this, and the ones who do don’t merit a 2nd glance unless they’re the sort of person who might get a 2nd glance fully clothed. 

      That’s why it really cracks me up when some town somewhere has a raging controversy in which some group is passionately seeking to legalize going topless, and there’s another group passionately opposing it, claiming it would be the end of civilization and that women will start shaking their breasteses in young boy’s faces. These always seem to be small, conservative towns too. My town is pretty liberal, or fancies itself so, and I have  gone whole summers without seeing carefree, swingin’ boobage (female anyway.)

    • Jerril says:

       I rather thought it was only Ontario, not all of Canada. I know we like to think we’re “all of Canada”, but it’s legal distinctions like this that drag us back down to earth :)

      However, the law is not “legal to go topless period”.  It’s “On public property, when not topless for commercial promotion or exploitation.” On private property, private property holders are still free to impose dress codes of their choice (although possibly not based on gender) and public facilities are still allowed to impose dress codes for hygienic or safety reasons (no chest hair in cafeteria food in municipal buildings, thanks – and yes, women can and do have chest hair).

      So it’s not completely unrestricted… but you barely ever see anyone doing it anyways. You barely ever see men topless either, at least in the city. Outside of pools anyways, and even then there’s a not insignificant number of men swimming in t-shirts or singlets – if you spend 9 months of the year inside or bundled up to your jaw, the sun can be your foe ;)

  8. Hannukah Dreidl says:

    BTW, some men DO wear swimsuits that cover part or all of their chests: triathletes and folks who wear rashguard or UV-protection swim shirts. The rashguards are a real help for transguys who need some cover to feel socially appropriate.
    Several retailers sell exactly the same product for guys with gynecomastia (“moobs”).

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