The Breast Archives: Nine Women Bare Their Breasts

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Could you bare your breasts and then talk about them on camera? Read the fascinating story of  the upcoming film, The Breast Archives, directed and produced by Meagan Murphy:

An inspirational and gently provocative documentary, The Breast Archives explores the complex, yet elusive and hushed relationship women have with their breasts. In the film, the women share their deeply personal memories of puberty, aging, sexual pleasure, nursing, and breast cancer–to name a few. As they give voice to these memories, they find an innate and guiding wisdom as they realize how they’ve tied their feelings about their breasts to their self-worth. These women courageously bare their breasts to the camera, each inviting the audience to accept her naked, imperfect truth.

Making The Breast Archives was a powerful experience for every woman in the film. “I can honestly say to you this may be the first time in my life my breasts and I are befriending each other,” says Sandy. “I am a whole woman as I sit here with you.”

Sandy

Through bold & candid personal narratives the film illuminates many significant themes and often-stifled experiences of womanhood in America: adolescence, sensual and sexual experience, health and aging. The Breast Archives will make some people uncomfortable. It will elicit emotions, memories, and provocative conversations. It will compel people to explore their own stories. By exposing themselves, the women expose and challenge all of us.

 The participants, aged 32-68, knew beforehand that they would be asked to expose their breasts to the camera. They chose to participate because they felt empowered to take part in what they knew to be a new and necessary conversation, and they understood that baring their breasts was part of that. There were moments of nervousness as they removed their tops, but these moments tended to be fleeting and quickly shifted toward feelings of generosity, authenticity, and dignified courage.

Once the breasts were revealed, the interviews shifted dramatically, becoming more profound and openhearted. Being topless gave the women a heightened awareness, and was visibly transformative. As the women sorted through their experiences and feelings, and as they articulated their insights, their perspectives began to shift.

The camera captured everything as they began to assimilate experiences that had been previously compartmentalized. As one woman said, “There are so many things that I haven’t really thought about concerning my breasts and their ability to open me up.” Removing their shirts wasn’t just about daring or boldness, or even self-acceptance, but about asserting a right to claim their identity and love themselves.

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Read more about the film here, on the website.

Like The Breast Archives on Facebook. 

Follow the film on Twitter.

About director Meagan Murphy: 

Meagan Murphy is an award-winning Director/Producer with 25 years’ experience in both film and broadcast. In addition to earning a BS from Northeastern University in 1992, Meagan received two certificates from the International Film and Television workshops in Maine, as well as certificates from a New England-based Women’s Mystery School, Mama Gena’s School of Womanly Arts, and a 200 Hour Teacher Training certificate from Expressive Arts & Yoga through Northampton’s Embodiment Institute.

She earned a Communicator’s Award for her work with teens and a Medical Journalism Fellowship through Blue Cross Blue Shield. While at PBS-WGBY, she contributed to and oversaw several award-winning series. Her film repertoire includes Night DepositFathers & Sons, and Victor’s Big Score.

Meagan is active in several industry and networking associations, including the International Documentary Association, Women Business Owners Alliance, eWomen and Women in Film and Video/New England. Additionally, she sits on several committees for the Arts Council in Easthampton, Massachusetts.

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“I’d like to be a role model who inspires courage, compassion, and authentic expression. I am also deeply committed to changing society’s faulty perceptions of women and their feminine bodies as somehow dispensable, and I intend to use The Breast Archives as a springboard to make a difference in this arena.”

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15 responses »

      • And unfortunately there are the multi-million pound lingerie and cosmetic surgery industries only too willing to profit from our feelings of self-consciousness!

  1. Fascinating! I can do that in front of my gyno, but no other friends. Why is that? I guess this is why we take issue with seeing a woman breastfeeding in public. We have been stigmatized regarding our breasts since we were prepubescent. I applaud their strength!

    • Hi Lisa,

      About breast feeding in public: I was so surprised when at a special public event at a Chinese restaurant, a banquet for our daughter’s “one-month old” birth celebration (a tradition in my husband’s culture), my birthing coach (a Caucasian with bright red hair, at a table of almost both equally Asians and Caucasian guests) bared her breasts to feed her baby. . . at the banquet table with everyone seating waiting for the dinner to begin! Well, her baby’s dinner did begin right away, and unabashedly!! And, you know what? No one of any culture there seemed to have any problem whatsoever!

      Our birthing coach, well she just never thought anyone would be offended! She was a product of the “60’s” and to her this was “just normal”!

      I never did that, breastfeed openly in public that is, although I did breast feed our daughter for 3 months. I found the nursing rooms at places like Nordstrom’s private and peaceful places.

      But, I will never forget the unassuming naturalness of our birthing coach at that event!

      • I dd the lift the shirt not show much technique. It worked so well unless I was wearing a dress. But sad there’s such a stigma against nursing in public. My daughter’s friend was asked to leave a winery in VA. You’d think a winery would be pretty chill.

      • Unfortunately I wasn’t able to breastfeed my son successfully and remember feeling such a failure at the time!
        Over here in the UK I wouldn’t say that people necessarily take issue with breastfeeding in public particularly if it’s done discreetly as described by Barbara.

  2. So glad people are able to bare themselves and discuss our breasts to the world. I know I couldn’t do it. I think one of the main issues is that our country sees breasts in a sexual way where that isn’t the case in some other countries. But because of the sexual way we view breasts I think women think it is way more important to have breasts that men find attractive instead of seeing them as just another important part of our bodies which were given to us to feed our babies. Therefore many women try to make them look or be bigger and stand out for others to see and to want in a sexual way. I think that is why there is such an uproar over breastfeeding in public. I don’t understand that that should be an issue at all. I am a private person who doesn’t really like to even dress in front of other women, but I breastfed my children in public with no problem (I did cover myself while doing it however for those who might be offended). It is too bad we have made our breasts into sex objects, but since we did and since even women see them that way, I guess there will always be outrage when exposed for whatever reason.

    • Bravo, Gail for your honest and brave response! I saw Barbara’s post, and said no way will I respond. But, here I am. But I’ll make this short. When I was first “developing” and got a “training bra” I think that’s what it was called, my Mom asked my Dad to respond to my new body. Needless to say, it wasn’t positive. Even our family members may not know how to support us, and can affect our perceptions of our bodies for years ongoing.

      • I was always a bit of a tomboy, so tried to ignore by developing breasts for as long as I could and hoped that nobody else would notice them.

        Mum obviously did notice and bought me a couple of training bras, but at least she didn’t insist that I started to wear them straight away. I don’t recall dad ever making any comments, either positive or negative, but looking back I don’t think were were as close as when I was younger.

      • Hi Andrea,

        So great that you didn’t get negative feedback from your Dad. I can tell you, as a developing adolescent woman, negative feedback from a father is the last thing you need for your self-esteem as a woman. When I told my husband I was writing about this and showed him my Dad’s comments, he said “No, don’t write that statement of your father. It could be really offensive to people even when they read it, as to what he said.” As, I can assuredly tell you, it was offensive to me (and hurtful). Unfortunately, I now know as a menopausal woman, that my life growing up was incredibly “challenging.”

  3. Hi Phyllis,

    So sorry to hear that you had such a hard time when you were growing up.
    I was puzzled about your saying that your mum asked your dad to ‘respond’ to your new body – did she mean by giving you a little more privacy than had previously been the case?

    Do you think that your dad deliberately intended to hurt and embarrass you or just that he was trying to make a joke of it, not realising that impact that it would have? I remember seeing a family of mum, dad and a couple of preteen girls in a department store a few years ago. The mum was looking at bras and the two girls wandered over to the training bra section and started looking at a few. Anyway the dad saw them and said something like “I think someone is kidding themselves aren’t they”. He was probably right that the girls didn’t need one yet, but I still thought it was a little insensitive.

  4. Thank you, so much Andrea, for your sensitive and kind response.

    In answer, no, unfortunately, my mom didn’t give me more privacy. She instead, took away much of any kind of privacy that I could hope for by “parading” me in front of my father: I wore my new training bra under the currently popular top at the time ( a “shell,” I think we had called it in the late 50’s). His response was difficult to take for a 13 year old. Luckily, I contacted my girlhood crush when growing up, and he helped me get through it. Thank you, my childhood friend.

    We can sometimes have no idea what lies behind the motivation of others, for example why my father would say what he said or why my mother paraded me before my father to begin with.

    However, comments and actions by family members can be very hurtful and have lingering impact.

    Fortunately for me, my girlhood crush and others helped, and I made it!! 🙂

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