Shame! Shame! You Don’t Know My Name!

This photo was taken four years ago today. I was recovering from a double mastectomy without breast reconstruction. My incision was still healing. When I looked in the mirror I was a flatter, messier version of my former self.

When I was diagnosed , I quickly came to the decision that I would not reconstruct my breasts, because of the risks of infection, the need for more surgeries, the long list of possible complications, and the stress and drama of it all.

What it basically boiled down to was-, if I had cancer in a chunk of fatty tissue anywhere else on my body I’d simply have it cut out and sewn up and never worry about it again. So why not my breasts?

There are so many reasons why not, so much personal and societal pressure to reconstruct. Not least of all the fact that most doctors don’t even discuss flat closure as an option. They automatically assume and recommend reconstruction.

I understand and respect that everyone has to come to their own decisions and do what feels best for them. But, if society didn’t sexualize breast tissue from the moment our pre-pubescent nipples begin to bud the decision would be so much easier.

From a very young age we are taught to be differently aware of our breasts than any other part of our body. As soon as they begin to grow we are instructed to cover them up. Moms tug shirts up and tuck training bra straps in. Aging aunties comment on the newest developments every time they see us. When did that happen? …Look at that figure… She’s a woman now… The boys will all come sniffing around soon. <<What the hell kind of scary thing is that to say to a ten year old child?

From a very young age, school dress code policies police our skin at every turn. Because of the male gaze, because of someone else’s objectification, we have to cover our cleavage, our shoulders, our thighs. We can’t wear spaghetti strap shirts, but we can’t find any thick strapped tank tops in any ‘girls’ clothing departments.

Just this week, in Florida, a yearbook editor photoshopped the graduation photos of 80 girls because they were deemed inappropriate. The girls were all wearing dress code approved clothing, but even the mere suggestion of cleavage was covered up. And some of the photoshopping was horrendous. MEANWHILE, the boys on the swim team are all pictured in Speedos. Speedos for god’s sake! You can’t get any skimpier than that! How is this allowed to continue?

That’s a rhetorical question. I know how it’s allowed to continue. The patriarchy, that’s how.

When I posted this photo after my surgery, I heard some second hand comments through friends. Some folks asked why I would post a shirtless photo. Wasn’t I embarrassed? Had I no shame? Unbelievably, they were STILL shaming and sexualizing my breasts even after they were gone!

And no, I have no shame. None at all. I’m done with that.

I was shamed enough when I was young. Poked fun at by other kids. Grabbed and groped on the playground. Gawked at and talked about, by adult men and women. I was subconsciously embarrassed enough by my own natural shape to be round shouldered, to avoid hugs, and to never ever wear anything that in any way might accentuate my fullness.

The power of society’s gaze was so ingrained in me that even as a liberated educated adult, I struggled to keep my internalized shame from spilling out all over my children as they matured. There are still moments where I catch myself policing their fashion choices, and I realize it’s my own historical shame, and my own misplaced concern for society’s gaze.

The shaming of bodies has to stop. We must take notice when we do it to others, and think about the ingrained systemic reasons why we do it. We must take notice especially of when we do it to our own selves. The shaming of our beautiful, faithful, ever changing, life sustaining bodies has to stop.

We will NEVER be able to control someone else’s gaze, or stop someone else’s objectification. No matter what we choose to wear, to hide, to reveal, to minimize, or accentuate. Never. But it is not our job to do so. We are meant to move through this world comfortably in our own skin.

With our own curves, or lack thereof.


  1. May you have Ease on your healing journeys. May your words travel into hearts and consciences everywhere

    Minneapolis enacted a law to allow women to be topless in city parks since men can. We hope this helps reduce sexualizing women.

    Everything you say about society’s shaming and sexualizing of women’s bodies resonates as true from our perspective, too.

    We have often admired your bravery and respected your values: these considerations are only strengthened by your post. Your words today meet our need for purpose and hope. We respect you and feel love for how articulate and supportive and brace you can be ❤️💕

    • The thing that gives me bravery is the thought that my words might speak directly to someone else’s heart. So I thank you for your kind words. They mean a lot to me. ❤️

  2. Can you support us? If it’s too personal or triggering, we understand. Spouse’s mammogram found something. The ultrasound confirmed it. Two measurements both between 1-2cm. Biopsy next week. Last mammo was about 14 months ago. Lymph nodes were not flagged.

    We are offering Spouse empathy, space to feel, hugs as wanted, cuddles. Spouse has tears, fear.

    The only thing we asked Spouse was no searching online.

    Can you offer advice on how to support Spouse? What a biopsy is like. What it’s like to wait for results. Anything? Maybe your partner has advice for us?

    Spouse wasn’t going to tell kids so as to not worry them away at college. Spouse asked if we would tell them. We said we don’t know. We said do know that Spouse misses them and we asked if Spouse would benefit from their support. Spouse said yes and may tell them.

    Thanks 🙏

    • It’s good that your spouse went for a mammogram, and good that the lymph nodes aren’t flagged. There is a possibility that the biopsy will come back with good news. Perhaps a cyst or a calcification. And if it is malignant, it can be removed!

      My advice is try not to think ahead. Try not to let the mind wander to what if… Take one step at a time. Stay present.

      The biopsy is a needle. To be honest, I don’t remember feeling it much at all. But that depends on how deep they have to go to get it, I guess.

      If it’s negative they will likely insert a small chip as a marker for future mammograms. If it’s something that needs to be removed they will likely suggest a lumpectomy. Followed by a pathology work-up. Then there are so many possibilities.

      Maybe it will be as simple as having more frequent sonograms and keeping close watch. Maybe radiation or oral chemotherapy. Maybe maybe maybe… There are too many possible scenarios. So again, stay present. One step at a time. Breathe.

      As for support, just be there. Listen. Reassure them that great strides have been made in breast care in recent years and this is not the same cancer our grandmothers and mothers knew. And hugs help.

      So I’m sending them to both of you. ❤️

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