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BreastIroning:ProtectionorMutilation?

mehervaswani
almost 3 years Story
Breast Ironing: Protection or Mutilation?

While men and women alike develop breasts, the biological purpose that distinguishes women's breasts from men's breasts is that women's breasts serve the primary function of feeding and nourishing an infant child. A woman does not develop breasts to flaunt them or for enticement. The hyper sexualization of women's breasts, however, have resulted in violent measures against the development of women's breasts under the pretext of protection, as in the breast ironing ritual that is widespread in Central and West Africa and endemic in the UK.

    Breast ironing, the kneading of a girl's breasts using hot objects such as hot stones, hammers, and spatulas, twice a day for weeks or months to burn the breast tissue hence stunting their natural development, is a practice done with the belief that it will offset her perceived sexual attractiveness. Parents believe it will protect girls from rape, sexual harassment, and early pregnancy, thereby allowing girls to continue their education. 

    Essentially, the flattening is conducted by female family members when the girl hits puberty. The consequences of the flattening include scarring, cysts, breast cancer, and breastfeeding issues, in addition to the psychological trauma associated with the practice. 


    "Breast ironing is just another way to control a woman’s sexuality and perceived attractiveness. Breasts become a dangerous body part that must be removed in case they attract male attention, as if removing all signs of femininity from a girl’s body could protect her from being raped," writes Leyla Hussein, an anti-FGM campaigner and psychotherapist, on the Cosmopolitan blog.


    We inhabit a world where men are not held culpable for their urges and actions while women face abhorrent, violent procedures to the point that they, eventually, feel an aversion to their own bodies simply because the natural state of their bodies are 'scandalous' and 'indiscreet'. 

    The issue at this point is the lack of awareness surrounding the issue. The UNFPA has listed breast ironing as one of five under-reported crimes related to gender-based violence. 

   Fortunately, there exists movements to combat the prejudice.  Cawodigo, a London-based charity, campaigns to raise awareness about breast ironing. "The girl believes that what her mother is doing is for her own good and she keeps silent," they write on their website. "This silence perpetuates the phenomenon and all of its consequences." 


9 replies

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  • kfresne
    almost 3 years ago

    this is so sick and twisted. it makes me want to uninvite men from living on this planet. nice ones can visit but they have to go home.

    this is so sick and twisted. it makes me want to uninvite men from living on this planet. nice ones can visit but they have to go home.

    • mehervaswani
      almost 3 years ago

      I don't believe that men per se are to blame. The issue lies with how we raise these men. With this issue in particular, breast ironing is done by family members such as mothers or aunts. Thus, making everyone complicit in this issue.

      I don't believe that men per se are to blame. The issue lies with how we raise these men. With this issue in particular, breast ironing is done by family members such as mothers or aunts. Thus, making everyone complicit in this issue.

  • Érika Cristina 56
    Érika Cristina 56 Social Worker
    almost 3 years ago Brasília - DF, Brasil

    These stories make me think too much, what is the world for women. In the 21st century we are faced with questions like these, it is even hard to talk about evolution with minds so backward. It seems like a crime born woman such penalty imposed. I doubt my if someday the world will become better for independent human sex or continue only made for men.

    These stories make me think too much, what is the world for women. In the 21st century we are faced with questions like these, it is even hard to talk about evolution with minds so backward. It seems like a crime born woman such penalty imposed. I doubt my if someday the world will become better for independent human sex or continue only made for men.

    • mehervaswani
      almost 3 years ago

      So true! It is so difficult when the natural state of our bodies are rebuked!

      So true! It is so difficult when the natural state of our bodies are rebuked!

  • Kenia Basilis
    [deleted]
    almost 3 years ago McLean, Virginia, Estados Unidos

    [deleted]

    [deleted]

  • Kenia Basilis
    [deleted]
    almost 3 years ago McLean, Virginia, Estados Unidos

    [deleted]

    [deleted]

  • Courtney Dercqu
    Courtney Dercqu Content Marketing Strategist & Writer
    almost 3 years ago

    Mehervaswani - This story made me cringe in an absolutely required way. I appreciate you taking the time to write about breast ironing because it's something that a lot of us have previously heard of. I know I haven't. Born and raised in the US, I think stories like this hit us because it's something we don't encounter usually. I hate to hear what these young girls have to succumb to. Although sexualizing breasts is something we encounter often over here, it usually becomes something we talk about. We hear countless stories of women being shamed for breastfeeding in public, but taking such drastic measures like breast ironing is horrific. Why do you think sexualizing breasts has become such a large issue as of lately? Do you think society would feel just as outraged if young boys were going through a similar mutilation to de-sexualize them?

    Mehervaswani - This story made me cringe in an absolutely required way. I appreciate you taking the time to write about breast ironing because it's something that a lot of us have previously heard of. I know I haven't. Born and raised in the US, I think stories like this hit us because it's something we don't encounter usually. I hate to hear what these young girls have to succumb to. Although sexualizing breasts is something we encounter often over here, it usually becomes something we talk about. We hear countless stories of women being shamed for breastfeeding in public, but taking such drastic measures like breast ironing is horrific. Why do you think sexualizing breasts has become such a large issue as of lately? Do you think society would feel just as outraged if young boys were going through a similar mutilation to de-sexualize them?

    • mehervaswani
      almost 3 years ago

      I'm glad that I could spread the word about such issues that deserve more discussion. In my opinion, we see breasts in the media, in the pornography industry, and well, sex sells so inevitably, breasts have become a sexualized commodity. It is unfortunate because men have breasts too that do not even serve a biological purpose and if a man were to roam the streets topless, he would not be castigated for it and yet, women are criticized for even breastfeeding in public. And you're right, there is nothing sexual about breastfeeding! Hm, you pose an interesting question about whether or not outrage would persist if men endured such abuse. I would think so, or at least I would be. I firmly believe in the equality and bodily autonomy of beings regardless of gender. I hope this helps!

      I'm glad that I could spread the word about such issues that deserve more discussion. In my opinion, we see breasts in the media, in the pornography industry, and well, sex sells so inevitably, breasts have become a sexualized commodity. It is unfortunate because men have breasts too that do not even serve a biological purpose and if a man were to roam the streets topless, he would not be castigated for it and yet, women are criticized for even breastfeeding in public. And you're right, there is nothing sexual about breastfeeding! Hm, you pose an interesting question about whether or not outrage would persist if men endured such abuse. I would think so, or at least I would be. I firmly believe in the equality and bodily autonomy of beings regardless of gender. I hope this helps!

      • Courtney Dercqu
        Courtney Dercqu Content Marketing Strategist & Writer
        almost 3 years ago

        Thanks for your reply! I don't have children yet, but I've honestly been contemplating not breast feeding once I do because of the horrible stigma around it now. Although there shouldn't be, it's something I worry about. Isn't that terrible?

        Thanks for your reply! I don't have children yet, but I've honestly been contemplating not breast feeding once I do because of the horrible stigma around it now. Although there shouldn't be, it's something I worry about. Isn't that terrible?

        • mehervaswani
          almost 3 years ago

          I'm sorry you feel that way :( I hope one day we can live in a world where women feel comfortable doing something so natural and necessary such as breastfeeding!

          I'm sorry you feel that way :( I hope one day we can live in a world where women feel comfortable doing something so natural and necessary such as breastfeeding!

        • kfresne
          almost 3 years ago

          the stigma is more about breast exposure while nursing

          the stigma is more about breast exposure while nursing


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