in conversation with Emily
our womanhood ~ chapter IV
As part of our latest campaign, we invited our community to take part in a shoot for womanhood. As with all our images, they remain untouched.
We had a chat with Emily about what womanhood means to her and the journey she has been on.
Emily wears Dora Larsen
I was never the pretty one. At school, I was always a little bit shorter, a little bit curvier and a little less interested in the things that seemed to make the boys declare us attractive. But from an early age, I realised that I could make people laugh, which became my superpower. And though it would take me many years to learn it, it turns out that usually, the things that make you attractive to people are the way you make them feel, and the things that make you who you are – not just what you look like.
It didn’t help that at school, I was also The One With The Boobs. At age 13, they seemed to appear overnight, and a trip to M&S with my mum told me that they were a 32D. They only continued to grow, too and at 18, I was carrying around a 32G chest. Unpadded, minimiser bras became my lifeline – all of which were very unfun, very unsexy and very expensive.
I spent the next 15 years navigating life as The One With The Boobs. I knew that wearing any relatively low or tight top that showed even a tiny amount of cleavage would prompt comments about being ‘too low’, ‘too tight’, or ‘too inappropriate’. Friends with smaller chests would wear the same top and appear to get less criticism, and I never understood why. It’s only in the last few years that I’ve realised that the message I ended up getting wasn’t that my clothes were ‘inappropriate’, it was that my body was.
And so, with this message being delivered to me from boys, teachers, family members and friends alike, I began to cover up my body. I’d wear oversized clothes, which made me look bigger and feel less attractive. I didn’t exercise, because I felt like I looked ridiculous, would have to wear two sports bras and even then, would still attract comments and stares. When friends would talk about the joy of taking a bra off at the end of the day, I’d just stare blankly at them. My bras were my scaffolding and my lifeline – and the only time I’d ever be without them would be in the shower. Strappy vests, backless dresses and non-underwired bikinis were, as far as my boobs and I were concerned, things that only dreams were made of.
So for years, I was ashamed of my body. And I feel so sad to think about that now, when I know that the shame was actually caused by other people’s projections. As a woman, you’re taught to be responsible for everyone else’s attitudes towards your body. It’s exhausting. If only boys were taught to respect girls, they might grow up to be men who respect women – which could one day mean that women wouldn’t feel so judged by impossible beauty standards. Be thin, be curvy, be toned – but don’t turn down pizzas and beers. Be cool. Take the banter. Don’t take yourself too seriously. But take your body seriously. But don’t be vain.
This year, at 27, I finally had a life changing breast reduction. After 15 years of back pain, unforgiving underwired bras, unwanted comments and spending far too much of my time and energy feeling self conscious, negative and unhappy about my body (and ultimately, making myself miserable), I booked a consultation with Dr Ahid Abood on Harley Street. 30 minutes later, I’d never been so sure of a decision.
Elective surgery is a big decision, and general anaesthetic is daunting. On the day I booked my surgery, a friend told me to buy The Bra Of My Dreams in the size that my surgeon and I were aiming for, and to hang it on the back of my bedroom door. She told me that whenever I felt nervous or anxious, all I had to do was look at the bra – and I’d remind myself of how it’d all be worth it in the end.
So, after months of gazing at the gorgeous green Lonely Lingerie bra on the Womanhood website, I bought it. The Bra Of My Dreams arrived, and I hung her up on the back of my door immediately. And sure enough, every morning, she was the first thing I’d see at the end of my bed, and any worries or anxieties I had would be swapped for the excitement of finally being able to wear a bra that’s sole purpose wasn’t to act as scaffolding, to make me look smaller or to hide a part of myself away – but to instead make me feel good.
I cannot understate how life changing this surgery was and is. The negativity and criticism I once subjected my body to every morning has now disappeared from my life. I hunch less, stand up straight and I now walk past mirrors and shop windows without searching for my reflection to see how big ‘they’ look.
And strangely, now that there’s less of me, I feel like I can bring more of me to every day – which is such a sad concept that makes me feel very angry with myself, with the curse of comparison culture and with the way that female body parts are sexualised and shamed by an inherently patriarchal society. My only regret is that I didn’t do it sooner, and could’ve spent more of my 20s feeling this happy in my own skin.
It goes without saying that feeling good about your body 24/7 is easier said than done – and my body and I still have a complicated relationship. So many of us find it so easy to champion and cheerlead the people in our lives with endless variations of, ‘You look beautiful! You look amazing! You’re such a babe!’’ declared in person, and typed in Whatsapps and Instagram Story replies and comments. And yet when social media is filled with impossible beauty standards, we end up operating on a flaw-first mentality when it comes to our own bodies, and it’s so much harder to see ourselves through the lens we apply to others. It’s such a toxic daily relationship to have with yourself – especially when an able body, that others find beautiful inside and out, does so much for you.
So I’m trying to be kinder, less critical and to see myself through the eyes of the brilliant, gorgeous people in my life who love me for the way I make them feel, and the things that make me who I am – not just what I look like. And when I’m in doubt, I usually find that The Bra Of My Dreams is a great support – in more ways than one.