health

"Why does the woman topless sun baking make me uncomfortable?"

There is sand and sun and surf (and more sand).

The quintessential Aussie beach holiday stretching out the month of January with boogie boards and newly made friends. There’s a dusty kayak and not-quite-enough lifejackets and just a few steps down the creaky wooden stairs to the beach something unexpected awaits on the golden rippled scorching sand. Boobs.

They sway and jiggle and wobble as their owner’s swipe their iPhones and reach for their slightly ironic fedoras. Image via iStock.

Big bright female breasts.

There are small white ones and large, oiled bronze ones. They sway and jiggle and wobble as their owner’s swipe their iPhones and reach for their slightly ironic fedoras.

They point perkily up towards the air as my three children, two dogs and I stumble down the stairs of the holiday house we are spending a few weeks in this summer. Laden down with beach paraphernalia, a chorus of muumm-the-sands-too-hot and an eyeful of fleshy boob spread out on circular towels (since when did towels get round?).

They are hard not to notice, those breasts absorbing all that Vitamin D and overexposure to the sun there they are. In your face and in the face of my three small children.

At first the kids were too excited to have the beach just steps away to even notice the display of flesh. There were waves to surf and ripples to jump and castles to stomp on. But then they did.

She’s not wearing a top.

She’s only in her undies.

"She’s not wearing a top Mama" they cried. Image supplied.

Why can you see her boobies Mama?

They not just noticed, but they laughed and pointed and spoke in voices that could probably have been heard on the other side of the flags.

LOOK AT THAT LADIES BOOBIES.

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I shushed them, hushed them and moved them on with whispers of its-rude-to-point and shes-just-sun-baking and its-just-a-woman's-body-nothing-to-get-all-fussed-about.

WATCH a woman attempting to breastfeed in public and the reaction she gets. Post continues after video...

Video via ODN

And once they were happily distracted with bubblegum ice-creams I stopped myself. I realised that they were just being kids, they probably would have laughed at anything out of the ordinary. The one who was uncomfortable was me.

Me. Me who consciously tries not be uncomfortable with my own body around my kids. Me.

I’ve written countess articles about the important of normalising breastfeeding, of how mothers shouldn’t have to be made to feel like they should cover up, of how a woman’s breasts are natural and normal. My kids have seen their fair share of adult female breasts every morning when they bust in on me in the shower to ask me something of critical importance (Muuuummmm I can’t get Minecraft to work) and yet here I was going all Katie Hopkins on myself.

The one who was uncomfortable was me. Image via iStock.

Won’t someone think of the children?

Of course there are things that are far more offensive on the beach than a shiny pair of freshly oiled breasts.

As I write this propped up on a towel watching my kids run through the shallows a man is emptying the contents of his son’s nappy in the softly lapping waves in front of me. Swim nappy around his child's ankles and there he is, super-dad using his hands to scoop hunks of faeces off the toddler's legs to be washed away with that seaweed and bluebottles.

There are men in Speedos and teenagers in t-shirts with racist slogans. There is a small lagoon with litter floating across its silver-blue top.

And yet I am affronted at the sight of my three kids having to walk past each morning (and yes, it wasn’t a one off - each morning it became) a half naked woman.

The fact is there are topless men everywhere and at that, my kids don’t bat an eyelid. Half the time my boys are topless themselves. But the truth is that a female topless is different from a male topless. Its an unfortunate, culturally definitive thing- that social construct around a woman’s body that says its on display. Look at me, I am female.

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I realise, averse to having to explain why she would want her breasts to look good to my kids. Image via iStock.

And that’s what bothers me, the fact that these breasts are prettifying themselves, grooming themselves, increasing their desirability right in front of my eight-year-old son. While I am not adverse to a woman wanting to feel good about herself I am, I realise, averse to having to explain why she would want her breasts to look good to an eight and six-year-old boy and a four-year-old girl.

If I could accept and normalise topless sunbathers, I could show my children that a woman's body is a natural thing, not an object, not an unusual sight and that the only thing these women were doing wrong was exposing themselves to unnecessary levels of ultraviolet radiation, nothing else.

But yet, despite trying to reason with myself, it still bothers me. Image supplied.

But yet, despite trying to reason with myself, it still bothers me.

And so, in desperation to justify it after a week of questioning I resort to the time honoured method that mothers for decades have resorted to.

I lie.

Look Mama it's that ladies boobies again where is her top?

My daughter asks.

She lost it darling. She lost it in the ocean and she is so very cold she is using the sun to get warm again.

Come now this way my love lets get another bubblegum ice-cream and leave her to it.

I reply.

Have you ever had the same experience with your kids?