Remember the first time you really thought about your breasts? Remember your emotions?
According to filmmaker Meagan Murphy, the majority of women aren’t happy with their breasts. Her documentary film, The Breast Archives, honestly and openly explores this topic–women’s complex relationships with their breasts.
In this interview Meagan offered me some background insights into the film.
Dr. Mache Seibel: How did you get started on a project called the Breast Archives?
Meagan Murphy: I’ve always had a rather complicated relationship with my own breasts. I was in the fifth grade and my breasts were larger than my classmates’, than my sisters’ and my mother’s, etc. So, I had this early experience feeling a sense of “I don’t want this kind of feeling.” That’s the foundation I was coming from; even though I broke through these feelings, through the course of my life I was interested in other women’s breast stories.
MS: Most women perceive their breasts to be either too large or too small, which at times, has nothing to do with the actual size of their breasts. Is it all in their perception of what “normal” breasts should look like?
MM: It’s a huge scale problem for women that we just don’t talk about. . A study from UCLA, The Barbie Mystique: Satisfaction with Breast Size, showed that 70% of study participants were dissatisfied or ambivalent about their breasts. I started to wonder about what this relationship was with women and their breasts and its importance.
MS: Did you find women who thought their breasts were perfect and exactly right? If there are there 30% of women who are very happy and satisfied, was there anything uniquely characteristic about those women versus the 70% majority?
MM: Yes, there are several women who were happy with their breasts and what they share in common is a paradigm with how they were introduced to breasts. Which, in a way, is how we’re introduced to our bodies, how we experienced that particular time in our life, when we’re 11 or 12. The paradigm (for women who do not like their breasts) basically arrests a woman’s relationship with her body as one that’s something to celebrate, something to honor, instead telling her to be ashamed of her growth.
MS: And when those things happen you say, “What in the world is happening with me?” You have to cover your breasts, need a training bra or regular bra and you’re saying this brings a certain shame instead of pride?
MM: It’s a profound turning point for girls, but society doesn’t acknowledge it as such. Then there are attachments. Labels are assigned that are reinforced by the culture that comes with this stage. The significance is that the breasts come in first and so that sense of self and sense of being alerts you that you’re becoming a woman–not so much the sense of womanhood. It’s saying, “I’m changing. There’s a thing to me.” It’s a sense of self that shifts. It’s a very fragile moment in time and it’s actually the sensual being that’s emerging.
You start making choices that are more about your relationship with brands and corporations than you’re own claiming of this new terrain…
MS: So, you’re labeling your breasts your identity if you will, with this very personal, private, natural evolving change, and society is taking over the experience instead of celebrating it.
MM: Because girls love and need attention, there’s a certain attention that girls don’t get at that time, so there’s craving for the attention that’s available. So, there starts to become a juggernaut of, “This is the way you’re getting attention but this is not the attention you want.” What the UCLA study found was that so many women felt ambivalent about their breasts and they felt that this ambivalence was linked to the presence of a rage linked to this chronic objectification.
MS: Can you speak a little bit to the perception of the aging woman with breast changes that have an impact on how she feels about herself, where she is and her relationship to the world?
MM: The breasts are relevant to a woman in every stage of her life. Of course, there’s the sexual self that’s emerging. The breasts are very much part of how we see ourselves. They are our womanhood-It’s part of our identity, and I think the phase of the heart, and so there’s a connection to the heart. I think that’s one of the reasons why women who are diagnosed with breast cancer struggle with such a deep-seated fear around that proximity.
MS: How do you mean that?
MM: Well, I mean, a lot of women who have a family history of breast cancer or themselves have had a history, it’s daunting to check for lumps. Why the fear of knowing? Why is that? There’s something so really precious in it. This is our heart and this is the ground zero for women.
MS: So, you feel that women because they tend to be more heart centered and because of the geography and the relationship of the heart and the breasts that those two have an interactivity of heart centeredness, breasts and self that are connected?
MM: That’s what my research is showing. When you deliberately care for the breasts and you start to turn away from the mirror and you track that landscape and feel into it and just be with the changes monthly, your heart is there, there’s something that opens. It’s almost a self-love that’s activated.
There’s a relationship with one’s body that begins with the relationship with the breasts, something about a positive relationship with the breasts and the blunt sense of self.
MS: Could you offer women some suggestions on how they can begin to improve their relationship with their breasts?
MM: The Breast Archives is a film that’s coming out where you can see topless, dignified, intelligent women who talk candidly about their life experiences -the lens of the breasts. It’s hilarious, it’s warming, and it’s just a wonderful experience. Excerpts from the film and the movie trailer can be found at www.thebreastarchives.com.
The world that we live in as women is a world that comes from the psyche of the mind, the driving, goal-driven world that we live in. And women have had to adapt to that. But women’s true experience is really body based. We’re swishy, we’re flowing, we give birth, and we’re milking. It’s a very physical body-based experience for us and it’s a very emotion-based, fun-based experience. I think the paradigm has been something that we’ve had to squeeze ourselves into another paradigm.
MS: You believe there is a changing paradigm towards more comfort exposing one’s feelings about their relationship, awareness and comfort with something that’s been evolving since puberty and will stay in an evolutionary state for the rest of one’s life.
For more information, visit www.thebreastarchives.com.
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