Fri | Nov 22, 2019

Letter of the Day | Don’t value the breast, value the woman!

Published:Tuesday | October 15, 2019 | 12:17 AM
Andre Haughton

THE EDITOR, Sir:

The recent outcry that elicited an apology of sorts from opposition Senator Dr Andre Haughton, regarding his “love breast” comment, which he claimed was an icebreaker, in Parliament recently, is a moment that we should be proud of as a nation.

Yes, it is not new for us to demand better from our public officials. What I am applauding is that it ensued from what some might consider a minor offence, or no offence at all, given the more substantial issues with which we are grappling.

In his comment, he has actually tapped into the age-old objectification of women, which reduces us to body parts to be valued solely for their use to others, particularly men. Singling out the breast as separate from a person (who is suffering from a disease in this case) reduces her to a sexual object of male desire. There are women who have lost their breasts to cancer, and for the senator, in speaking to the country, to declare his love for breast sends a rather disconcerting message.

Furthermore, does he not know that men are not immune to breast cancer? Of course, the prevalence is very low, but that does not negate that fact. Perhaps, then, he should have considered that before advertising his base masculinity.

Don’t value the breast, value the woman! There are women who have died because of this culture of objectification. Unfortunately, many women have bought into the notion that they are nothing without these body parts, and some would rather hold on to them to their graves.

His initial defiance to issue an apology added further insult to injury.

As such, the ‘apology’, as reported in the media, raises questions as to the sincerity of the senator’s regret. It was perhaps only for political expediency rather than genuine recognition that he was wrong. As a young parliamentarian, he should understand that accountability is not just for the big issues.

Letting the seemingly small things slide is just a path to more serious violations, and in this instance, for some of us women, it was not a small issue. If we normalise such behaviours and let things slide, the seemingly small offences add up, and the envelope is pushed until we have the type of society we are now attempting to curb, without much success.

CAROLYN A.E. GRAHAM (PhD)

carolynaeg@gmail.com