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Elisabeth Dale, The Breast Life

Keeping Abreast: Reclaiming Our Bodies and Our Breasts

A interview with The Breast Life's Elisabeth Dale

Few women have focused on the topic of breasts quite like Elisabeth Dale. Author of “bOObs: A Guide to Your Girls” and the forthcoming “The Bra Zone: How to Find Your Ideal Size, Style and Support,” Dale began her career as a breast expert after a series of life changes prompted her to write about her relationship to her own breasts. Now, Elisabeth Dale’s “The Breast Life ” provides women with a wealth of information about breasts, raging from the practical to the philosophical.

We recently caught up with Elisabeth and covered a wide range of deliciously thoughtful turf. This is part 1 of a 2-part interview.

Lingerie Francaise: Give us a little back story: what prompted you to write about breasts and start “The Breast Life”?

Elisabeth Dale: I was inspired to write my book after taking a creative writing class right after I had breast surgery, when I was 47 years old. I’d taken up running for the first time in my life and had lost a bunch of weight.  My whole body got in shape like it had never been in my entire life. 

But my boobs were a different story: After three kids and going up and down the alphabet cup, my boobs just laid there like dog ears on my chest. I had this hot little body at 47 or 48 and could wear whatever I wanted, but my boobs were a problem.  I had to have bra cups sewn into things.  It drove me crazy.

Then one day a friend suggested that I just get a breast lift, which at the time I knew nothing about, but, in fact, it totally changed my life.  Fast-forward to that writing class: We were asked to write a short story about something we were passionate about. I decided to write a short story about my boobs and how they changed my life.  It was very funny.  It started off with me in the South of France looking out at basically a sea of breast. 

In fact, I’d never felt comfortable with my body until I got toned and my boobs matched my body. I finally got it. That’s why I titled my short story: “Boob Job.” And since everybody in class was writing a memoir, I decided to call mine a “Mammoir.” Eventually, other people started telling me about their “mammoirs” and I thought maybe we need a book about this.  One thing led to another, and I eventually published: bOObs: A Guide to Your Girls.

“BOOB” … IS THE WORD THAT WOMEN USE AND OWN FOR THEIR OWN BREASTS

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LF: Let’s talk about the word “boob.” We have so many words for our breasts, but what about the word “boob”?

ED: I stopped branding myself as the “boob lady” awhile ago, though some people still call me that.  I have pushed over to The Breast Life. But they wouldn’t let me say the title of my book when I was interviewed by Diane Sawyer, and they wouldn’t let me say “boobs”. 

LF: Why not?

ED: I think because they thought it was crass for a news organization, even though they were there talking about cleavage.  Also, when I wrote my book Boobs: The Guide to Your Girls, Barnes & Noble wouldn’t do a book signing even though they were doing a book signing on a book about breast cancer that had an acronym for boobs in the title.  And I got rejected from a radio show because they said it that the show was ‘family friendly.’  It’s almost as if they think that you’re going to be showing nipples when you talk about boobs – like the word is too much information and too casual, whereas “breast” is clinical. The whole experience blew me away.

LF: “Boob” is a fun word.  It’s a word we all use.

ED: I have theory in my book: I think that the reason we’re not allowed to say “boob” is because it’s the word that women use and own for their own breasts.  When I interviewed hundreds of women about their breasts, almost all of them, except for own 80 year-old mother, used the word “boob”. 

LF: What do you think about the “Free the Nipple movement”?

ED: The nipple thing is crazy here in the United States: With the “Free the Nipple” movement, we have women walking around top free, but I think to myself: Really? Is this the most important right women should be fight for these days?  We still don’t even have equal rights. Women still make 70 cents on the dollar.  Our rights to control our own bodies when it comes to birth control are being taken away literally every day in every state in the country - and freeing the nipple is what’s important to us? 

I think it’s a distraction.  And it speaks to the fact that boobs are a distraction, period, by themselves.  That’s really the ultimate irony:  We’re using our own boobs to keep ourselves down instead of actually owning our bodies.  We should be asking to free the nipple in lingerie ads, in normal lingerie ads, not sexy lingerie ads.  And we should take our nipples back from the porn industry.

LF: What’s the connection?

ED: Here’s the deal: In the last 35 years, the nipple has been legislated. This is not just a matter of public breast-feeding being legislated; the government legislated the nipple for beaches and for topless bars.  That’s what’s happened – and this is the irony of it: Women in topless bars wear pasties because you can’t show anything below the areola.  So what do pasties do?  Pasties just put more focus on the nipple.  It’s really pretty crazy when you think about it.  In fact, it’s insane, all of this hiding. But if you look back at Victoria’s Secret in 1970s advertisements, you see nipples in lingerie.  Now you never see nipples in lingerie ads at all. 

In my opinion, the Free the Nipple campaign hasn’t freed the nipple.  It’s freed gawkers.  It’s freed men to take your photo.  It’s freed them to make fun of you.  And incites women to judge each other and their bodies.  It’s having the opposite effect of its original intention.

THOUSANDS AND THOUSANDS OF YEARS AGO, WE WERE WORSHIPPING LITTLE TINY FERTILITY GODDESSES


People need to take biology 101.  They don’t even understand that the human race has been sustained forever through breastfeeding.  It’s connected to women having property and ownership of their bodies. We forget about the connection between our breasts and our ovaries.  It’s all about giving life and sustaining life.  This is really heavy stuff.

Thousands and thousands of years ago, we were worshipping little tiny fertility goddesses. People would carry them in their hands.  You’d find them everywhere in matrilineal societies because a naked woman’s body and her breasts were seen as the symbol of Mother Earth. It was all about the woman being naked not as a sexual thing, but as a symbol of life force. We forget that that’s the way it used to be.  People used to worship a giant breast in the sky.

LF: That’s quite a concept.

ED: It sure is.

Stand by for part 2 of our interview with The Breast Life’s Elisabeth Dale.

September 18, 2015 
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