A Woman’s Assets
This evening, I visited Victoria’s Secret for a little lingerie shopping. I wasn’t searching for anything in particular and was there mainly to accompany a friend. Either way, I looked through the different selections, found two designs I liked, and held them in my hands as I continued browsing. A helpful staff member then approached me and asked if I knew my measurements.
“Yes, I think I do.”
“Would you like to be measured?”
I thought, Why not? It’s good to be sure. So I nodded.
“Alright, she will help you. She’s in training, so you’ll let her measure you and I’ll measure you after.”
The young employee measured me and said, “32A.”
I was dumbfounded. Shocked. Speechless.
Seeing the surprised expression on my face and the disappointment I tried so hard to conceal, the older staff member came to me and began taking measurements of my chest.
I admit now, I was wishing so hard to myself, Oh my, oh my, no, don’t say ‘32A.’ Tell me she got it wrong.
I immediately tried to justify it, uttering, “Oh, I see. Oh yes, I lost weight. Oh okay. Oh alright.”
I was shocked, and above all, I was devastated. The embarrassment I felt, having to exchange the 32C bras I held in my hands for 32As, was unbearable.
I looked to my friend and told her, “Babe. I’m so sad. Like, my boobs are my only asset and — ”
“Don’t be silly, the American sizes are probably bigger! Don’t worry about it. When you’re back in Singapore, you’ll be 32C again.”
I knew that wasn’t true. She was just being kind, comforting me, as I was visibly upset. I took the 32A bra with me into the changing room, along with a card that the staff passed me earlier, and there it was — my name and a huge ‘32A.’
I entered the changing room, took off my shirt and then my bra. I looked at my bare chest, front view and then side. I saw it differently now. My breasts somehow looked small. Now, all I saw were assets I was no longer proud of. I tried not to feel sad. I put on the 32A bra and thought it fit me. While the bra rested on my breasts, I looked at my cleavage, wondering if this was it. Had I really downsized by two whole cup sizes since the last time I got a bra?
I pressed the buzzer for a staff member to come in. I wanted to make sure I was buying the right bra. A helpful changing room attendant came in, looked at my chest, and got me another bra she said would fit better. She passed me a 32C.
I put it on, silently wishing, Please, please, please fit.
At last. It did.
The attendant came in again, and told me that this was a perfect fit. She gave me a new card and yes, there it was — my name and a huge ‘32C.’ I never felt such relief in a long time. My happiness lasted for a few minutes, and then something hit me.
Why? Why did it hurt me so badly when I heard about the A-cup? And the bigger question:
Why did I, even for once, think that my boobs were my only asset?
That’s when I realized how sad it was that I did not feel proud of the other things I had — this goes beyond the size and shape of my body, the other dimensions of me — my personality, character, strength, intellect, and skills. Heck, I did not even think about them as valuable things I possessed. Unknowingly, I had relegated my self-worth to nothing more than a number and a letter of the alphabet. I actually saw myself as attractive only because of my “assets.”
To satisfy my curiosity (and you can try it too), I did a quick Google search of “a woman’s assets.” This came up:
Clicking that first result, I got this:
According to Merriam-Webster, the definition of asset is a valuable person or thing. When the search terms “a woman’s assets” return a top result about female body parts — not any body part but specific ones like her breasts and hips — we are conveying the wrong message. Contrary to this message, a woman’s most prized possession is not her body (more specifically, not her body sexualised). A woman is worth more than her sex appeal.
I am not saying Urban Dictionary is a trusted source. What I’m saying is it is frightening, for me as a woman, to realize that when someone mentions a woman’s assets, the first thing that comes to mind for many people is her curves, her breasts, her hips, rather than any other tangible or intangible qualities she has. Yet, if I overhear “a man’s assets,” the first things discussed are rarely physical traits.
We live in a society that conditions females to grow up thinking their looks are paramount — thinking their value as people is solely based on physical attributes, believing beauty is a common goal instead of a matter of perception. We, good men and women alike, are equally guilty of this with the ideas we perpetuate through our daily speech and practices. Mass media and consumerism have worked together so nicely, partners in crime to influence us in ways that dehumanize the individual — relegating us to the numbers on our scales and clothing labels.
I cannot change the media, and I am not above the forces of society that shackle both women and men to unrealistic standards of beauty. What I can do, however, is to attempt to change things in the littlest ways manageable. Because even the slightest change is progress.
A woman is more than just her physical traits. She is more than just a number or a letter of the alphabet. She is a sophisticated being, just like any other man. An equal.