beauty

The untold truth about having big breasts at work.

In a recent interview with Harper’s Bazaar Australia, model and actress Emily Ratajkowski said the size of her breasts have been a hindrance in landing jobs.

“There’s this thing that happens to me: ‘Oh, she’s too sexy,'” she told the publication. “It’s like an anti-woman thing, that people don’t want to work with me because my boobs are too big.”

While many might scoff at her complaint – I feel her pain.

I still remember the day I became aware that having breasts was a problem to be managed.

My auntie had just had her third child and we went to the hospital to visit them. I was 12, and I was wearing a purple cheesecloth dress appropriate to the hot December weather in Brisbane.

As I bounded down the corridor towards the maternity ward I heard my mum and my aunt’s friend talking about me. “Gosh she’s really grown, hasn’t she?” my aunt’s friend commented. “Look at her chest.”

“Yes,” my Mum replied. “We are going to have to deal with that soon.”

Deal with it we did, and I’ve been dealing with it every day since.

Cry me a river, you might say – like so many of my less-endowed friends have in the past. But large breasts are actually terrible 95 per cent of the time.

Kate Upton. Image via The Other Woman.

They are terrible when you are at work. They are terrible when you try and wear a button up shirt in your size. They are terrible when you want to wear a singlet because it's hot. They are terrible when you need to sprint for the bus but you're not wearing a sports bra. They are terrible when people feel like it's ok to say things to you like "your breasts look spectacular, can I touch them". They are never not viewed by 99 per cent of the people around you as sexual objects to be discussed and touched and treated like an extension of your personality.

Here's the thing though, they are just breasts. And people who have large breasts have little to no control over how large they are (beyond minor weight fluctuations and drastic surgery).

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And we don't get dressed every day to titillate or beguile you. We are just trying to move through the world, wearing comfortable and temperature appropriate clothing.

I once worked an office admin job where I was pulled aside regularly and told my top was inappropriate, because even though it had a pretty high neck, you could still see a hint of my cleavage poking out the top.

Never mind that the woman on reception regularly wore far more revealing tops, her lack of endowment made all that skin permissible, but my top was out of line.

"When you lean over, people can see right down the front and they will be looking," I was told.

I didn't really know what to do. Short of wearing a skivvy in the Summer, I was stumped as to how to fix this "accidental cleavage lean in problem" I was now responsible for.

When I got my first real job, straight out of university, I went shopping at all the big ladies workwear brands for proper work attire. I tried on suits and quickly realised they weren't designed for my shape. So I turned to shirts that zipped up and fancy workwear dresses in serious colours like brown, black and grey.

I bought a bunch of camisoles to sit underneath and further shield the world from my bosom.

I went to work in my fancy new clothes, and I felt good about it.

About three months in I got pulled aside by an older female staff member and told another woman at work had commented that my clothes showed too much cleavage and the men in the office probably wouldn't take me seriously.

I went home and cried.

Christina Hendricks. Image via Mad Men.

Because the thing is, when you have large breasts you are never not conscious of them and their place in our society as a hyper-sexualised asset. You never don't worry that they're in the way or making people take you less seriously or the only reason why someone might be attracted to you.

You never feel confident to wear the clothes you want, because you're worried they'll be interpreted the wrong way by the wrong people.

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At university I went to a student conference in Perth. A lot of students were staying together in a backpackers in the middle of town. People I had never met before were there alongside some of my closest friends, people I respect and whose opinions I value very highly.

One night I was drinking in the common area with my friends and a guy who was at the conference with us who I had never met before wandered over.

"You have magnificent breasts," he said very loudly interrupting our conversation.

A number of my friends turned around and glared at him angrily.

"Oh don't worry honey, I'm not hitting on you, I'm gay. I'm just stating a FACT."

I told him to leave me alone, but he just kept on going. Swilling his beer and leering at me, making pronouncements about my bust, utterly embarrassing me and humiliating me.

Eventually, I left the drinks and went to bed. Because it was easier than fighting.

When you do have a bigger bust it is impossible to escape. You are never not being sized up in some way. You are never not worried about what people think, or how your clothes look.

Amy Poehler Image via Mean Girls.

And people seem to view breasts as public property. They comment, and in some cases touch, with very little regard for boundaries.

Women with large breasts are always being told to contain themselves and make themselves smaller because the world is distracted by them. Or offended by them. Or scandalised by them.

Your relationship to other people's boobs is not the problem of the person with the boobs. It's your problem. So please stop making it my problem, or the problem of other large breasted women. Let us move through the world in peace. We don't care how you feel about our boobs. And we don't want to hear about it.

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