Can you imagine any portion of the male anatomy deified as the female breast has been in recent years? If there were ten-foot phallic symbols lining the mall in Washington, would we be any more in thrall to masculinity than we are to femininity in our current state of outright breast-worship?
Last week, newspapers and TV news programs gave top billing to the news that women in their forties may do okay without mammograms. It was as if government officials had ordered mass mastectomies, so intense was the alarm and the widespread concern that the breast – o, sacred teat! – was not being given its due.
Breast cancer is a serious and terrible scourge. But, breast cancer in women in their forties is not as pressing a concern as male heart disease or childhood leukemia and yet it is hard to believe similarly minor news about these diseases would have received such near-hysterical attention.
No, the breast is sacred.
But it is also profane. With the current state of women’s fashion, the breast has been ironically cheapened at the very moment of its glorification. There is more exposed cleavage in the average corporate office than rump roasts in Costco’s refrigerated cases. The breast spills forth from its bindings with molten overabundance. Even the female leaders of Western nations – senators, ministers and diplomats – freely advertise their wares. Over-exposed in this way, the breast becomes something sad: just one more piece of flesh.
And yet how beautiful it can be. How truly sacred it is. Fountain of life. Pillow for weary heads. Gift to men. Nothing more lovely was conceived by God. If we did not see the body itself as profane, a mere biological manufacture, we would not deify the breast as we do.