Anatomy and the construction "normal" bodies

    • 6 posts
    March 13, 2015 8:43 PM GMT

    Anatomy is a supposedly stable claim that the body is natural and knowable. This allusion denies the social construction of anatomy over time and within cultures. Anatomical texts construct simplified and universalized models of culturally constructed, binary sexed bodies that strongly shape our understandings of the body and "normal" female and male traits 


    The anatomy of the breast as represented by textbooks exemplifies a problem of “normalcy” in anatomical knowledge production and transmission. I am a graduate student in anatomy and couldn't help but notice the severe lack of diversity in ALL of my textbooks. Bodies normally come in all shapes and sizes imaginable, so why are we teaching one body type as the "normal" type? 


    In order to graduate, I am required to construct a teaching project.  I decided to write my own text on the human breast, with a focus on breast diversity. One of the first considerations I will make about female sexual anatomy is an acknowledgement that the term “female sexual anatomy” is not unambiguous and people who have anatomy described in a text may not call themselves “female” or “woman”, people who label themselves “women” may or may not have the described anatomy, and people may have parts of “female” sexual anatomy and parts of “male” sexual anatomy. I wanted to come to this site because another aspect of my textbook is combining the biological and the social.  There are souls in bodies and their stories deserve to be heard and as much as their bodies deserve to be seen. I want to not only expand what it means and looks like to have breasts across genders, but also how people of all genders feel about thier breasts. I would truly appreciate any advice, insight, and/or breast stories. 

  • March 13, 2015 9:57 PM GMT

    Sometimes I feel that, we are viewed as some kind of lab rats.    People have a bright idea, lets include something unusual  in our submission papers,  Mmmmm men with breasts, is that Manboobs, too many pie chips and pints of beer?


    First you need to study some basics try:-




    Then perhaps we might be interested.


    This post was edited by Cristine Jennifer Shye. BL at March 13, 2015 10:04 PM GMT
    • 6 posts
    March 13, 2015 10:40 PM GMT

    Thank you for the links! I really enjoyed what I read of your posts/articles. I have been fortunate enough to attend a school that allowed me to get my degree in biology/anatomy and a graduate certificate in gender and women's studies where I was introduced to most of the topics you eloquently discuss.  There isn't a doubt in my mind that the gender and women's studies classes taught me so much more about myself (my bias, privilege and naivity), my fellow human beings, and the world around me than my biology courses ever really could.  Having the opportunity to attend classes from diverse fields, I was able to start critically examining my own field and yes, it often treats human beings as specimens, deviations from a preset norm, or as disembodied parts. This seems to be particularly true in anatomy. I remember being an undergraduate student in a genetics course.  I don't remember much of anything at all from the course haha! But I have a vivid memory of the day we talked about sexual development and genetics.  The professor had slides showing differemt images of intersex individuals.  The reason I remember so clearly was because I left the class room that day feeling very disturbed.  Not because I had seen people with bodies different than mine, but because those images were cold, medical photos that seemed to strip whoever was photographed of their individuality, respect, and voice. And because they were what my professor called "abnormal". I guess I could have viewed the word abnormal as a simple statistical representation, like normal curve distribution, but theres also a derogatory connotation.  Maybe biologists think they can use the word "normal" to be interpreted statistically, but I'd be willing to guess many readers feel differently about that word. 


    Anyway, what grad school has taught me is how little I know. I just hope that when I present my project I can at least try to represent more than the images of young, white hetero woman and man that currently run rampant in textbooks. 

  • March 13, 2015 10:51 PM GMT

    Mia B.

    You are digging yourself a hole here. Your inteligence will not match Crissie's.


    Would you like a photo of my breasts?. They are not cold they are very real and so am I.


    PS: No photo for you sorry find another guinea pig.

  • March 13, 2015 10:53 PM GMT

    Thankyou for still being here and responding, we have so many people join, who realy are not interested in how, what we are or the why's, just to either satisfy some perverse curiosity, or study us, as if we were some abheration.   They set up a profile never to be seen again, so if my initial response seemed curt or offensive my apologies.   Still a rather unusual thesis, breast and how they are viewed.


    Me? I started to developing breasts at the age of 14, I was born with Reifensteins syndrome a form of AIS, rather a difficult time at an all boys school

    This post was edited by Cristine Jennifer Shye. BL at March 13, 2015 10:56 PM GMT
  • March 13, 2015 11:17 PM GMT

    And I am very soft really just like my breasts are. I am having a bit of trouble believing you read those links though. The time lapsed makes you a  very  very  fast reader because I have been watching who is online and you were not online long enough to read the links and reply.

    Anyway have fun because in reality our breasts are no different to any other womans so I am just wondering why the interest?Smile.

    • 6 posts
    March 13, 2015 11:24 PM GMT

    I definitely understand your reservations with me.  I apologize if I am coming off in the wrong way, that is exactly what I wanted to avoid with my project, so this has already been helpful.  I guess what I am wondering is how can I try to incorporate intersex and trans individuals into a biology text in a way that is inclusive and celebratory rather than "unusual"?  I'm not looking for a shock factor. 


    It is an unsual project! I realized early on that I wasn't really cut out for research, so I took the non-thesis route since I love to teach and would then be required to develop a teaching tool to get my degree.  This book is meant to be that teaching tool. 


    Since you seem to be extremely knowledgable, in writing some chapters I have tried to stay away from gendered words like women and men and so generally use female or male....I know there are still problems with this, but I'm not entirely sure how to try to expand out of the binary while being restricted to words derived from that binary. 


    A very difficult time for boys and girls.  I teach flute lessons to students about that age and can only listen and be supportive as they try to navigate that confusing period of their life, confusing without the addition of gender questions. 


    I'm sure you've seen this article, but just in case:


    Hi Julia :]. I am a decently fast reader.  I skimmed the articles on the genetics because I have read most of it previously in the book "sex/gender: biology in a social world" by anne foustra-sterling.  The intersex article was an easy read and I enjoyed it. I understand your breasts are no different and apologize again for any crudeness.  Perhaps I jumped in here sooner than I should have.  I've just been putting my project together and felt I had a responsibility to examine and broaden what i was defining as breast diversity. 

  • March 13, 2015 11:40 PM GMT

    Mia I can see you are an intelligent person. Me? I was kicked out of school at 12 years old so I am a bit thickSmile.


    I discovered a lump in one of my breasts so I had to have a biopsy. It was not Cancer it turned out to be Mastitis. As you most likely know Mastitis is common in breast feeding Mothers. I think that proves that my breasts are just the same as any other females because I cannot get pregnantSmile.


    Take care.

  • March 13, 2015 11:41 PM GMT

    I realy do not understand the ''Breast diversity'' one might as well, write about the diversity of legs, arms, hair, cars.

    Its just another body part that come in all shapes, sizes and colours. We have the odd male in here, no interest in transitioning,they do not suffer any gender identity problems, no biological abnormality, yet they ask questions about increasing breast size, but of course stating they do not want to lose their libido or suffer any erectile problems. perhaps you could write a few chapters on that Laughing I usually recommend, pie chips and copius amount of beer.

    This post was edited by Cristine Jennifer Shye. BL at March 13, 2015 11:43 PM GMT
  • March 13, 2015 11:46 PM GMT

    Can we talk about my bum please?. It is a really nice one Smile .

    • 6 posts
    March 13, 2015 11:55 PM GMT

    Haha! I wish I had time to cover more topics!  I had to find one that would allow me to satisfy my anatomy professors, but that would also make my gender studies professors happy.  That's where the breast diversity came from.  Oh, and we completely skipped the breast in all of my anatomy and biology classes so I decided to focus on it. Thank you both for your responses. I appreciate the conversation ^.^

  • March 14, 2015 12:04 AM GMT

    How can you do anatomy and biology classes and not do breasts?.  That is a bit like doing maths/math with no 3 or 4s.

    Maybe your professor had a breast allergy.

  • March 14, 2015 12:06 AM GMT

    So as we say in the UK, Oh! dear, thats another interesting topic gone TITS UPWink

  • March 14, 2015 12:14 AM GMT

    This is post 700 for me and I want to talk about my bum. When I walk past a group of men they say nice arse. Men are very strange creatures they only do it in a group. If it is a lone man he just wants to give me his phone number.

    • 6 posts
    March 14, 2015 12:17 AM GMT

    Isn't it ridiculous.  He spent plenty of time talking about sperm, but yeah must have an allergy to tits ;p 

    • 6 posts
    March 14, 2015 12:21 AM GMT

    PS happy 700!

  • March 14, 2015 3:37 PM GMT

    I have been thinking about this thread. Can you please tell me why you came to a Transgender website for your research?. There are not that many members here that are on hormones so they basically have no breasts , well not female breasts.


    I googled for you I like breasts . com , there are loads of websites all about breasts but this is for you. Enjoy



    Whoops you do have to sign in to watch it

    This post was edited by Former Member at March 14, 2015 3:38 PM GMT
    • 178 posts
    March 31, 2015 10:22 AM BST

    I'm finding this thread rather odd.  The OP, as a graduate must be aware the most anatomy texts refer to "The normal anatomy of the heart" - or whatever organ you wish to discuss.  What is normal? It simply the average findings of physiology in a statistically group of people.  Of course, there will always be  a number of folks who fall outside that benchmark.  They are therefore not "normal".    Too often that is taken to be a criticism, a value judgement, when in fact it is not.  It is simply a description, when you remove the societal constructs around the word. 


    How to include  people with 'abnormal' physiology?  Just do it, but leaving out value judgements.  After all each of them, anatomically is a specimen, and the best way to honour their individuality is to ignore it IN A TEACHING SETTING.


    Please leave out any quasi-psychology unless you can back it up with good, peer-reviewed studies.


    Oh, and Crissy, I am NOT odd! (wink) so youcan buy me that beer!

  • March 31, 2015 11:53 AM BST

    I am normal and so are my breasts. The blood that runs through my body is female blood. My breasts are hormone induced and they are just the same as any other females breasts. A breast is a breast and saying my breasts are different would be madness. I found this topic rather mad but funSmile. Now the poster has vanished without even wanting to talk about my bum Frown it is a very nice bumSmile. And Amanda I am sure Crissie would never call you odd and I would not either.