zebra pen

Photo via J Wynia/Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

We blame Ann Landers.

This article contains explicit material and is NSFW.

If there’s one thing we can agree on a as a people, it’s that boobs are pretty great. Everyone loves boobs. Unless you’re a jogger and you have big boobs that get in the way. Or you have small boobs and you feel self-conscious about it. Or you have perfect boobs and get harassed about it. Or you just want to feed your kid but you keep catching flak about it.

OK, so maybe boobs can be a pain in the ass (or back) sometimes, but they are nice to look at—as long as you’ve been invited to do so.

The problem with boobs—which, by the way, would be a great name for a movie—has always been more about the people looking at them then the boobs themselves. In the 1920s, people often said the perfect breast should fit into a champagne glass (the saucer-shaped ones, not the flutes, that would be weird), and throughout history there have been all sorts of trendy ways to decide what constitutes a “perfect” breast.

In 1971, women going braless was huge public debate, and advice columnist Ann Landers claimed she got a “deluge of mail” about it. One woman from Chicago choose to skip the political implications and simply wrote:

The question to “bra or not to bra” can be easily answered if the undecided woman will apply this test to herself. Take an ordinary wooden pencil. Put it under one breast. If the pencil stays there you should wear a bra. If it falls one can go braless.
 –One Who Flunked

In addition to missing the point, this woman, who was likely just reiterating a bit of folk wisdom, created a standard that would last for decades, and which for some reason has currently become all the rage in China and Japan, with women proudly posting pictures of themselves “passing the test” (which, by the way, used to be “failing the test”).

Two things:

  1. Technically speaking, those aren’t pencils.
  2. We apologize for posting an article about boobs and making you read a bunch of history stuff before you got to actually see any.

Luckily, some ladies are calling bullshit on the whole concept and posting their own pictures to mock it.

Even a few dudes got in on the act:

It’s a bit of a crazy trend, but like all trends, it will no doubt fade in time. But not to worry ladies: We, as a society, promise to keep coming up with stupid new ways to judge your bodies. 

H/T Mashable | Photo via J Wynia/Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

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