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Volume 4

Aiello 1
© Cupcakes Under Cover


Notes on Cupcakes

by Kierra Aiello

WRIT 1733: The Ties That Bind
Professor LP Picard


“Hey, Boobs!” came from a convertible car where two men were obviously leering at me as I walked to class. The last time I checked, “Boobs” wasn’t my name. They must have felt that would be an effective “hook up” word, a good rhetorical strategy. Let me consider.


118 words for breasts: Tits, titties, tig ol’ bitties, boobs, jugs, melons, cans, hooters, dirty pillows, gazongas, yabbos, tig bitties, knockers, mammaries, fun bags…


Breasts are made up primarily of adipose tissue, which is simply made of fat cells. Milk ducts connect around twelve lobes in each breast with smaller lobules, all of which are responsible for creating and transporting milk. In addition, the breast contains nerves, ligaments, blood vessels, and connective tissues. Lymph nodes throughout the body are in place to filter abnormal cells away from healthy tissue.[1]


honkers, headlights, baps, meat puppets, ta-tas, naturals, boobies, guns, bahama mammas, balloons, bawagos, big brown eyes, blinkers, bobambas, bodacious tatas, bombs, bosom, bosooms, boulders, Bristols, brown suckies…


The media plays a huge role in how people view breasts. Yet this view, the media-enlarged version, should not be considered the average size for women. The “media” proportions are not natural in most women without surgery or without the use of extreme push-up bras. Women like Pamela Anderson come to mind. Those few who do have ideal breasts will only have them for a short period of their lives before gravity and childbirth take effect.[2] American standards in the media do not portray this reality.


Breastfeeding is natural and helps to provide life and nutrition to the next generation; however, many women are subjected to interference with the act and are asked to cover themselves. Come Mardi Gras every year, women are rewarded with beads for flashing their breasts, but when a woman must do it in order to feed her child, she is seen as a public disgrace. Currently, all states have laws that establish a woman’s right to breastfeed in public, but only a few of them give the woman the right to legally fight, in court, against anyone who might challenge them.[3], The Office on Women’s Health provides a list of ways to respond to someone criticizing public breastfeeding, so that women can feel confident in their decision to breastfeed.


bubatoes, bups, bust, busts, cadillac bumper bullets, casabas, chest, chuberteens, cones, gedoinkers, doorknobs, floppers, fried eggs, fugis, gams, gazangas, golden bazoos, golden winnebagoes…


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© Brian Nolan /


I suspect that every high school girl at some point wants the attention of an upperclassman, and I am no exception. Sophomore year in high school, I was chatting online with a boy from school that I hardly knew. I thought he was cute, and I knew that he was one of the smartest kids in my high school. What more could I have asked for? At the end of the school year, we had been chatting for a bit, and I told him that I had almost asked him to prom. He replied that it was a good thing that I didn’t because he would have said, “No.” To this I said, “Which is why I didn’t ask.” And, then, he responded with something I have never forgotten. He said, “However, you do have amazing breasts.”


cushions, dairy section, highbeams, hinyackas, knobs, love apples, love monkeys, luscious scoops of flesh…


When girls go up to other girls at parties and compliment their breasts, some women read this as one of the highest forms of compliment. Other girls understand what it is like to look in the mirror every day trying to make their boobs look “good” in their tops.


According to a study recently completed in England, men generally do not prefer large breasts. When asked to rate images of women, most men preferred medium breasts. The men were also asked to complete a questionnaire to determine their levels of “hostility toward women, more sexist attitudes toward women, benevolent sexism [belief in conventional gendered stereotypes that are harmful], and objectification of women.” [4] The study found that men who chose large breasts consistently had higher scores in hostility and sexist attitudes. Take from this what you will.


mounds, mountains, marshmallows, maguffies, grenadoes, hogans, honkers, itty-bitty-titties, jalobes…


My art history professor said that Michelangelo has never been known for depicting “beautiful” women. His men are muscular heroes whose masculinity is impressive, and his women are often the same. Michelangelo did not do this out of malice for females or because he had never seen a nude woman. To him, perfection was realized in the male body, and so in order to flatter women, he made them appear manlier. Eve and Mary are heroicized in their own right through extreme musculature and a bit of masculinity.


bazongoes, bazookas, bazooms, bazoos, ninnies, nips, nupies, pair, nice pair, penis squeezers, beamers, starter buttons, tads, handles, tatas, tittyboppers, bee stings, jiggers, jobes, rolling hills, cupcakes…


Plastic Surgeon Dr. Randolph H. Guthrie, The Truth about Breast Implants, writes: “On the whole, small-breasted women don’t want to be large-breasted sex bombs, they just want to look ‘normal.” [5]


Breast implants in the United States have increased 257 percent since the late 1990s.[6] This increase includes both those women who have the procedure for aesthetic reasons and also those who undergo reconstructive surgery. Generally, the appearance of breast reconstruction will be slightly better if it directly follows the mastectomy; but if further treatment must be administered, the patient will be advised to wait.


Saline and silicone implants are popular. One must understand that in saline implants, there is a chance of leakage or rupture in the body; and in silicone implants, contracture (when the body surrounds the foreign mass with scar tissue and then contracts) is not uncommon and is very painful.[7] Another method, autologous reconstruction, involves taking tissue from other parts of the woman’s body, such as the abdomen, and using it to form more natural, softer breasts. This method, however, takes more extensive surgery and recovery time. In addition to any of these surgeries, nipples can be reconstructed. Tattooing can recreate the appearance of the areola or adhesive prosthetic nipples can be used.[8]


twins, love warts, watermellons, wazoos, whoppers, winnebagos, yabos, mambas, mammas, mamms, massive mammaries, mazabas, mellons, milk factories, mcguffies, mosquito bites, perkies, pillows, pimples, pink chewies, rack, set, smosabs, stacked, torpedoes, towel racks. [9]


Then I hear my mother’s words on the phone. She is saying, “They are taking a biopsy. I might have breast cancer.”


Genes such as BRCA1, BRCA2, and P53 are thought to be some of the genes that cause breast cancer, and these can be traced through family history of the disease. It is estimated that these hereditary genes are responsible for 5 to 10 percent of the cases of breast cancer.[10] Angelina Jolie, for example, carried a mutation of the BRCA1 gene; and according to her doctor, this meant that she had an 87 percent chance of eventually being diagnosed with breast cancer. Since Jolie’s mother died of ovarian cancer, she decided to take preventative measures and had a double mastectomy in order to bring her chances of contracting breast cancer down to five percent.[11]


Considering that breast cancer has been diagnosed on both sides of my family tree, this statistic, Jolie’s 87 percent chance of contracting cancer, is not encouraging.


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© 4thfullmoon


Breast cancer is usually diagnosed with the same three steps. First, a woman will go in for a routine mammogram. After, if cancer is a likelihood, there will be a clinical breast examination. If this too shows the possibility of cancer, then a needle biopsy will take place. If the test comes back positive for cancer, it will most likely be one of three different types of breast cancer.


Pre-invasive breast cancer involves cancer cells that have not yet penetrated the basement membrane. Invasive lobular cancer first affects the breast lobules and then spreads to the surrounding tissue. The most common form is invasive ductal cancer; and in that case, the cancer cells originate in the ductal epithelium and then break out into the surrounding breast tissue.[12] All of these can be graded to determine the aggressiveness of the cancer cells, but the staging of the cancer will take place after treatment.


David Jay’s photographs of young women who have undergone mastectomies show the reality and the pain of women with breast cancer. The black and white images are startling in their raw truth-telling ability; the tears coming down faces, the missing pieces, the twisting scars, all scream out to the viewer. By participating in Jay’s SCAR-project, many women feel a small sense of victory over the disease.[13] One woman is shown with her lover, another still wears the compression sock required after surgery, and yet another is pregnant without breasts. They are giving everyone, including other young women who may have recently been diagnosed, a fresh lens through which to regard the experience.


Women with breast cancer may lose their breasts and no longer be able to breastfeed their children. Many of these women will also lose their fertility.[14] Chemotherapy and early menopause can both cause a loss of fertility in women who have been treated for breast cancer.[15]


In some other cultures, it is the women with wrinkled, sagging breasts who are thought of most highly. These women were mothers and have stood the test of time. They possibly possess more wisdom than any girls with firm breasts can imagine.[16]


In 1521, Michelangelo designed tombs for two Medici men. On their combined tombs is the cycle of the day personified. The tomb of Giuliano de Medici has the figures of night, a woman, and day, a man. Night appears to have two large lumps that slightly resemble breasts pasted onto her otherwise masculine chest. Again, it was not that Michelangelo had never seen breasts in person; the reason is much more complex. Medical men of the time may not have known what breast cancer was or how to treat it, but they did recognize that once a woman’s breasts started to appear extremely abnormal and lumpy, she was going to die. Night represents the death of the day, and, just so, her unnatural breasts represent, perhaps, her disease, and the end of the cycle.


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Michelangelo, Tomb of Giuliano de’ Medici, Night and Day © Miles Berry


Once one has been diagnosed with breast cancer, there are a few treatment options depending on the stage of the cancer and the potential for recurrence. Chemotherapy is an option. It is usually undergone in conjunction with surgery for moderate to severe cases because the combination is most effective in ridding the body of cancer and ensuring that it does not come back. Since chemotherapy affects the healthy cells as well as the cancer cells, however, the quality of life for the patient may be greatly reduced for a significant portion of time. Radiation is another possibility. This treatment is given to most patients because it is a point specific method and usually only causes redness to the area and fatigue. Hormone therapy is meant for women whose hormones, such as estrogen, caused the tumor to grow. Various drugs are taken for a period of five or more years and are dependent on whether or not the woman has gone through menopause.[17] An additional treatment that many women receive to some degree is surgery.


All breast cancer surgeries involve taking out the tumor as well as a fair amount of tissue that surrounds the cancer. Around one-third of patients will be advised to receive a mastectomy because conserving the breast would be dangerous to their health.[18] In a mastectomy, all of the breast tissue is removed and, rarely, part of the pectoral muscle.


Mastectomies cause the most psychological damage to their patients compared to all other treatments. To many women, breasts are the most feminine part about them. The cutting away of breasts means that a woman will have to deal with her body image and overall sexuality in entirely new ways. One woman from a study on the effects of breast cancer on young women (under 50) said that “in one fell swoop I was told that everything that was feminine to me was gone.” [19]


While the pain is physical and psychological, I know that a woman who has breast cancer does not merely become the disease.


When my mother first was diagnosed, she felt as though the world that she knew was ending. Even though her cancer was diagnosed early and the treatment options were statistically high for recovery, the small chance that something could go wrong and that her life could have ended was still present. When she first received radiation, my mother felt incredibly vulnerable and insignificant. She went into the pre-operation room and undressed. When she came into the radiation room, medical students, both male and female, were simply observing her. To them, she was part of a textbook, a study. After the surgery, when asked to write a review of the experience, she wrote: “I did find it difficult for me to have student [physicians] observe my breast radiation session as it made me uncomfortable with individuals casually walking around and watching.” None of the students even asked if it was acceptable for the group to watch her procedure. After the operation, my mother, a person in the medical field, turned to research to find both information and solace. She changed her diet, completely eliminating animal protein, and I changed my diet to be mostly vegetarian. Her findings changed our paths.


The 17th century painter, Rembrandt, a widower, fell deeply in love with a woman he could not marry. Since their love was looked down upon by the church, he chose to recreate the story of Bathsheba, a Biblical woman who loses her child because of her adulterous affair, and to use his mistress as a model. She is fleshy and nude; her breasts exposed. The left breast is asymmetrical and shows discoloration, which can be one of the signs of breast cancer if the tumor is close to the skin.[20] Some think Rembrandt was painting the cancer. In Rembrandt’s later depictions of his mistress, we can see that her health deteriorates. She died within nine years. Rembrandt avoided idealizing his lover’s body and her breasts; and, knowingly or not, the artist depicted the cause of her eventual death.


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Rembrandt, Bathsheba at Her Bath © Steven Zucker


I have come to read breasts as texts, as signs and symbols. At one level, they are physical assets. They suckle babies. They catch the popcorn that drops from our mouths in movie theatres. They make seatbelts a daily challenge. They display name tags. They change the way we wear clothes, the way we notice ourselves in the restroom mirror, the way we turn and gaze at ourselves, sometimes in dismay, sometimes proudly, as we struggle to lower the neckline of our clothes to show our breasts off. They can be inflated. They are Pamela Anderson’s brand. They cause men to call out to us on the street. Breasts are also texts of a woman’s inner being, her spiritual health. They force us to assess our identity as women. They are a part of our body that is milk-transporter, life-giver, mother. They are fat cells, adipose tissue, mounds, vessels, soul-flesh, arousal mechanisms, and, always, prompts to self-knowledge. They are mortal parts.


Sometimes I consider how, like Rembrandt’s mistress, my mother knew pain and diminishment and how, like Angelina Jolie, she had to find measures (in my mother’s case a biopsy and radiation) to save her life. When this happens, I think of the early-nineteenth-century artist William Etty, who was known for his ability to study a woman’s physicality for hours. He would translate the curve of her body and softness of her flesh onto canvas, making his teacher comment that if he were to prick the study with a pin, it would bleed.[21] For Etty, God’s most glorious work was woman, and all of the capabilities of human beauty were in her.


I am standing in the women’s restroom at a local restaurant. A young woman is studying herself in the full-length mirror. She is looking at her fun bags, readjusting her low-cut dress so that her tittyboopers are even more evident. She is enjoying the moment, gazing at her body and possibly thinking of the attention it might bring to her. I smile at her as she passes by and exits. I understand her pride, her desire. She is a beautiful woman with a fine, healthy body. We all want to be that. I step up to the sink. I look in the mirror. I look down at my own breasts for a moment, my cupcakes, my own tig ol’ bitties. Then I look up at my face. I see I have my mother’s eyes.


A note from the author

During my freshman year at the University of Denver, my mother was diagnosed with breast cancer. Everyone has different ways of coping; this paper was one of my coping strategies after the drama had subsided. Research and personal stories all come together to form a collection of diverse viewpoints complicating the issue of not only breast cancer in today’s society but also body image more generally. This paper is organized as a series of notes, which help to organize the many lenses through which I look at the topic. Because I had never written in this style before, I found it somewhat difficult to organize all of my ideas. At the same time, since I was using this paper to address my contrasting feelings, I do not believe I would have been able to adequately express these feelings with a different structure. 

The class prompt for the paper dealt with the idea of loss.  It may be odd to some that I eventually decided to discuss the loss of breasts and what that means to women like myself.  I am equally as attached to my pinkie fingers as to my breasts—I am a musician after all—but I believe that society needs to become more comfortable with the discussion of the loss of a body part that is both sexual and biologically nurturing.  

About the author

Aiello BioKierra is a junior at the University of Denver and is pursuing a double major in cello performance and art history. She hopes to earn her Master’s degree in the 4 + 1 program. Her favorite DU memory is being invited to participate in a masterclass in which she performed for one of her favorite cellists, Joshua Roman. His ability to apply what he knows to other fields inspires her. A Colorado native, Kierra enjoys biking on the empty roads of the western slope of Colorado and hiking around the lakes of the Great Mesa.



1. “Breast Anatomy,” National Breast Cancer Foundation, Inc, 2012,

2. Rose Weitz and Samantha Kwan, The Politics of Women’s Bodies: Sexuality, Appearance, and Behavior (New York: Oxford University Press, 2003).

3. Jake Marcus, “Lactation and the Law,” Breastfeeding Law: Know Your Legal Rights, 2014,

4. Viren Swami and Martin J. Tovée, “Men’s Oppressive Beliefs Predict Their Breast Size Preferences in Women,” Archives of Sexual Behavior 42.7 (2013): 1199–207.

5. Clare Chambers, Sex, Culture, and Justice: The Limits of Choice (University Park: The Pennsylvania State University Press, 2008), 185.

6. Judith Timson, “Breast Stroke.” Maclean’s, Sept 26, 2005: 44–45.

7. Chambers, Sex, Culture, and Justice, 190.

8. Antonia Dean. “Primary Breast Cancer: Risk Factors, Diagnosis, and Management,” Nursing Standard 22.40 (11 June 2008): 47–55.

9. “Breasts.” Urban Dictionary, Feb. 16, 2004, accessed April 1, 2014,

10. Dean, “Primary Breast Cancer,” 47.

11. Ed Paye. “Angelina Jolie Undergoes Double Mastectomy,” CNN Entertainment. CNN, May 6, 2013,

12. Dean, “Primary Breast Cancer,” 49.

13. “The SCAR Project by David Jay,” Daily Art, July 2014,

14. Elisabeth Coyne and Sally Borbasi. “Holding it All Together: Breast Cancer and its Impact on Life for Younger Women,” Contemporary Nurse 23.2 (2007): 157–69.

15. “Fertility After Chemotherapy.”, March 2, 2014,

16. Weitz and Kwan, The Politics of Women’s Bodies.

17. Dean, “Primary Breast Cancer,” 49.

18. Dean, “Primary Breast Cancer,” 49.

19. Coyne and Borbasi, “Holding It All Together,” 161.

20. Peter Allen Braithwaite and Dace Shugg, “Rembrandt’s Bathsheba: The Dark Shadow of the Left Breast,” Annals of the Royal College of Surgeons of England 65.5 (1983): 337–38.

21. Corinne Saunders, Ulrika Maude, and Jane Macnaughton, The Body and the Arts (Houndmills: Palgrave Macmillan, 2009).