(This is the second most-creative Pride and Prejudice pun I’ve made. The first one was a concept for a Teresa Giudice spin-off show entitled Pride and Pregiudice).
I saw boobs at Pride, and I need to be chill about it.
I wore a Golden Girls t-shirt to Pride this year; it got a lot of positive attention and led to me screaming, “OLD NAVY” in a lot of public places. The doorman of my friend’s apartment building confided in me that his favorite was Blanche (mine as well); a woman whose path I crossed in the street screamed at me and pointed to her own Golden Girls t-shirt, which she had cut into a cuter shape. We screamed together, hugged briefly and then went our separate ways.
I had figured out the perfect Pride outfit: gay, but functional. I thought, smugly, that real queer people don’t need to dress up so extravagantly. My feelings were confirmed when I got onto the train and noticed a gaggle of four, blonde teenagers who looked, as I later described to Nina, “like they’d gotten mugged by a rainbow.” Pride stickers on their faces, enough glitter to kill a dog smeared on their legs. Obviously, I don’t know for certain, but I had a reasonable measure of certainty that these teenagers were straight.
I looked across the aisle from me. A pair of lesbians were sitting down, hands loosely intertwined. They were, like, so cool. Fresh, dark tattoos decorated the insides of their arms, that kind of tattoo freshness that makes your skin look like cool, dry paper. They were dressed simply and similarly, high-top Vans and crisp button-downs. We’re cool, I thought, my eyes flicking to the teenagers again.
The friends that I was celebrating Pride with (a few lesbians, a couple of bi’s, a straight sprinkled in) were dressed similarly to me. Cute, but not over the top. I hadn’t been to Pride in a few years, but I felt so confident that only annoying, co-opting straight people dressed like Party City.
We meandered down from Madison Square Park towards the end of the parade, deep in the West Village thicket. The deeper we got, the more I noticed the more outrageously people were dressing. And not, just, like annoying straight people. Queers—my people. Leather speedo; harnesses; mesh (so much mesh, you guys; enough to catch a village’s worth of fish), platform stilettos. And, people with boobs baring those boobs. (I’m saying people because not just those that identify as women have breasts).
And I noticed something weird about myself everything I saw someone’s bare boobs.
I gave an internal flinch and felt a flicker of…something.
Embarrassment. Judgment. A hot melting of the two. And then just as soon as I felt the flicker, I shoved it away, annoyed that I could be affected like that.
I pride (heh, get it?) on being progressive. I’m a feminist. I try to keep myself educated and open-minded; I firmly believe that one is the best judge and decider of their own body. In spite of my own body issues, I am extremely body-positive for others. I try. I really do
So why was I, someone I thought was progressive and open, getting a slight weird chill every time I saw bare boobs?
I noticed it wasn’t just me. One of the girls I had been hanging out with, a new friend, caught my eye as someone walked past, their boobs scrawled with glitter. “Those are some titties,” she half-whispered, and I laughed.
“I know, and I keep feeling weird, and like, that’s not cool,” I confided. “I shouldn’t feel any different about a girl being topless versus a guy. That’s not fair.” She nodded, understanding.
In a situation a few months ago, I was the chill, woke one. I was getting ready with my friend for a party, and she was wearing a gorgeous purple-velvet crop top. She was going braless, because she has amazing boobs and the shirt called for it, but felt a little weird about it.
“No, I think it looks amazing,” I assured her, and it did. Another friend was less sold, but couldn’t put a finger on why. Later, me and Velvet Top debriefed. “I think,” I said, lounging in my own progressiveness, “that they were weirded out about the nipples. Like, we’re taught that women should be covered up. They might not have the vocabulary (emotional vocabulary) to verbalize that.”
Do you ever go so far up your own asshole that you see out of your mouth?
So why was I, he of such progressiveness (did you hear how I used the word ‘vocabulary’?) so weird about boobs?
Because, despite all of my progressiveness, and my education, and my body positivity and my talk, I was still raised in a misogynistic, patriarchal society. I was still raised in a culture that commodified, vilified and objectified femaleness. I might not have made any active choices to be in that culture, and I don’t agree with it, but it’s still my origin.
It’s the same reason I still feel weird when I see a same-sex couple engaging in PDA. Half of it is the fear of what might happen to them, but a very real other portion of it is the childhood, deeply-ingrained belief that this is not okay. And more than a little bit of it is jealousy.
For most of us, we were raised in worlds that treated women as objects on a vast spectrum. We saw catcalling; we saw girls penalized for skirts too “high.” We saw women called “crazy.” We saw new mothers being harassed for breast-feeding in public. We have sexualized women’s bodies but imbued that sexuality with male possessiveness. So when women act outside of the agency of men, that sexuality turns sour; in their own hands, in their own choices, we are taught that women, and by extension femme, non-binary, non-traditional people, are dangerous.
I flinched because I was raised in a society that vilified women with agency, women with sexuality. Whether someone with breasts wears a bra or not is not the point; it’s the fact that they should have the ability to choose for themselves.
And while Pride is a fun day to celebrate queerness and femininity, it also originated as a political act. It came from the Stonewall Riots, where trans women of color, and queer people, and drag queens, and non-binary people, and gay men, fought back against a world that was trying to destroy them. Pride came out of that political activism and agency. So yes, Pride is a day to wear glitter and be fun, but it’s also a day to attempt to deconstruct the norms and roles that have been bred into us that are harmful.
It’s a day to challenge why I might feel weird about seeing naked boobs, for me to dig into the reasoning behind the emotion. It won’t stop me from having those kneejerk reactions, but it helps me to understand the why and the how.