Seann McCollum for Weiss


 

On having no tits: a feminist interlocution of Douglas Harding’s “On having no head”

 

Proposal of the Theory of Tit-Eyes
Eyes, Tit E.
University of Boobsborough
Quarterly Journal of Tits and Ass, Volume 36D

“There existed only the Now, that present moment and what was clearly given in it. To look was enough. And what I found was khaki trouserlegs terminating downwards in a pair of brown shoes, khaki sleeves terminating sideways in a pair of pink hands, and a khaki shirtfront terminating upwards in—absolutely nothing whatever! Certainly not in a head. It took me no time at all to notice that this nothing, this hole where a head should have been was no ordinary vacancy, no mere nothing. On the contrary, it was very much occupied. It was a vast emptiness vastly filled, a nothing that found room for everything—room for grass, trees, shadowy distant hills, and far above them snowpeaks like a row of angular clouds riding the blue sky. I had lost a head and gained a world.”

-Douglas Harding, “On Having No Head”

Douglas Harding has no head. He looks through his eyes, not at them. This is the experience of a man.

The experience of a woman is painfully capitated. She tries to look through her eyes, but with layers of mascara blocking the view, only looks at them. Her eyes see themselves seeing, and hence don’t see.

His eyes, on the converse, see but don’t see themselves seeing. Since he does not see his own head and he believes in the world as he sees it, he feels headless. The photograph and mirror image, which capture a woman’s full identity, are unable to do justice to the great void on a man’s shoulders that holds every beach, museum, and woman he has ever looked at.

Background

Scientists have investigated the role of sex chromosomes in rostral cephalization and found no significant correlation between the Y chromosome and headlessness. Several alternative theories remain. Here is a brief review of the literature, followed by an original theory that this paper proposes.

1.  Men gain the status of headlessness by looking at the heads of women (i.e., they look at women to avoid looking at themselves). Men appear to have heads, but if you took a magnifying glass to their “heads” you would find images of women. They have heaps of women where their heads should be, and pile more and more women onto their beds to avoid considering that they have heads. When they start to believe that other men have heads, they yell “no homo” and look away, relocating their gazes onto chicks, bitches, sluts, etc. (Snoop D. O. Double G et al.).

2. Decapitation may be a symptom of castration, given that all men have been castrated at some point in their lives, whether by emasculating, machismo fathers or Nicolas Sparks film adaptations or a taste for appletinis, but women have nothing to castrate. I reject this ad ignorantiam theory, arguing instead that a woman’s “nothing” is in fact something that is always already castrated. Castration means loss of the phallic power so exalted in our society. It means losing a whole world above a man’s shoulders that captures and defines all the mountains, valleys, seas and women he has seen, and replacing this nothingness that holds everything with a head. It means looking at rather than through oneself. It means flattening. It means having four eyes, and I’m not talking about childhood teasing, though that plays into it. I’m talking about a split consciousness, a self above a woman’s shoulders and a self always a few steps ahead of her, gazing backwards at her head, reminding her that she has a head, and of the duty to provide a head for decapitated men—the duty to perform her envy and castration according to his projection, and maintain the illusion that he is not the castrated one.

3. In the master-slave dialectic, the slave/woman loses power and is left only with the beliefs of her oppressor and a head. The master/man is left with a slave/woman, which affords him the title of master/man. He needs no head—nobody can look at him. His gaze is the final answer. The world is as it is through his non-eyes: the floating globes that contain the earth. For her, these non-eyes are mirrors in a funhouse world. She sees her head reflected in these multidirectional gazes—needy gazes, shaming gazes, belittling gazes, lascivious gazes—and orients herself in relation to them—as Madonna, as whore, as child, as sexual receptacle.

4. A woman’s second set of eyes is located on her tits.

Let us pause on this last, original theory, which requires further investigation.

It is important not to be phallocentric and assume that women’s second set of eyes must be on a head just because men’s eyes are on heads.

For there are other parts of a woman. Yes, there are the cheekbones and hair and other features located on her head, but these are usually accompanied by a second important feature: tits. Said tits are so detailed in her occipital visual cortex that, this theory proposes, they must have their own set of eyes just to look at themselves.  Others have noted that many men seem to mistake tits for eyes, requiring women to remind them that “my eyes are up here” (Urban Dictionary et al.), and their intuition may not be so far off. In fact, the neologism “titties,” as well as its variation “tit-ays,” may subconsciously refer to a woman’s tit-eyes. See Appendix A for examples.

Here is the model I put forth: The protrusion angle of the tits allows the tit-eyes to watch the head—keep an eye on it, so to speak—which leads to the question, which eyes will watch the tit-eyes? (Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?). This paper proposes a positive feedback loop between the tit-eyes and head-eyes, which watch each other and mutually relay information from the outside world.

To illustrate: as a woman walks down the street, her tit-eyes detect the gaze of a lecher. The tits transmit this information to her head-eyes, which follow the stranger’s gaze down to the tits to make sure they are not being stared at for an embarrassing reason (funky colorful bra under white shirt; temperature-related nipple rigidity, etc.). The tit-eyes inform the head-eyes that they look silly staring downward, and her day goes on.

Both sets of eyes project their gaze onto another (real or imagined) passerby in order to look at themselves. Women need this gaze of another person in order to see, the way a female pigeon must see another of its species in order to grow genitalia. It is a human instinct, present from infancy in familiar interactions, to follow the gaze of others. At earlier points in our evolution, this alerted us to salient information in the environment. Little did evolution know that humans would abuse an adaptation made to connect them, designating part of humanity as holders of the gaze and the second part as objects of it (see theories 1 and 3). Evolution also did not anticipate that humans would get out eye trackers and fMRI machines to re-stage the scenes of male voyeurism and female masquerade they have written, then call it “natural” selection since electrodes poking into brains don’t lie, and eyes that linger longer on white women don’t lie, and it all starts so young, and what besides nature could possibly explain Toddlers in Tiaras? Soon doctors will be dressing female infants in tiaras, straight out of the womb, and papers will explode all over PubMed speculating on the genetic basis for tiaras on toddlers.

Not only has the patriarchal imaginary made women victims of “nature,” it has also made women nothing more than pertinent information in the environment that nature initially intended them to look at. The male gaze has become so influential as to make women part of nature. Nature has never been thought to have a mind—that is reserved for men—but it has heads of sorts: molecules under microscopes, taxonomies in textbooks. Women are examined similarly under spotlights and in men’s fierce debates over “what women want” (Freud et al). They are seen not as subjects with their own ability to articulate desires but as objects worthy of only receiving desire and scrutiny. Like fickle weather, women are discernable only through the eyes of men who must chart their courses through Mother Nature’s wicked winds and raging seas and raging hormones. This chaos has no rhyme or reason, they say, but let’s get some barometers and see what we can do. Let’s get some wood and build shelters from the storm. Let’s get some tight clothes and see if we can contain her. Let’s flatten Mother Earth onto a map we can sell and purchase so that we can claim expertise on her and carry her with us at all times.

Perhaps because they fear the hills have eyes, men have made an extra effort to ensure that women’s twin peaks belong to them alone, an effort some anthropologists cite as the invention of tits. Biologists, however, are unconcerned with tits’ “invention,” viewing them as natural, and instead have focused their efforts on cataloguing tits’ defining features:

–         They exist on this earth for the eyes of men.

–         They possess a biological allure so strong that it claims to be outside cultural constructs of beauty.

–         They are incomplete without being topped with male sexual fluids (it’s like the icing on the cake).

–         They are best when they are bouncing all over the place and causing discomfort.

–         They require bras only the way a pot roast requires a platter.

–         The best ones are gigantic ones that add to this discomfort and stand out perkily, pleading for male attention, even though there is no size requirement for breastfeeding (look at other mammals, they just have little nipples).

–         They are public property and can be stared at by anyone.

–         They like to be bitten and kneaded like dough and dug into like meat. They demand consumption, not just oral but also monetary and visual. They should be collapsed into a man’s non-head.

–         When touched, they evoke obnoxious whiney noises of pleasure.

Experiment 

If my theory is right, and tits give women heads by making them observe themselves, what might the world look like if women had no tits? My hypothesis is that they would also cease to have heads: according to the model of mutual tit-eye and head-eye feedback, one either has four eyes or has none.

To test this hypothesis, I went about my day-to-day activities with full eye removal (see appendix B for enucleation procedure) and documented the experience in ethnographic fashion. Below is the manuscript.

Results

Day 1

I have no tits. But nobody seems to know this, and the world continues to go on as if I do. When the man on the subway groped my chest, I asked him what he was looking for because — sorry to disappoint — I have no tits. When the hobo following me on the street mumbled something about “titties,” I also had to tell him that I’m terribly apologetic but I don’t have any. But their illusion is too persistent to eradicate simply by informing people of its falsehood. These men actually see tits on my chest! And since they are the headless masters, and we are the capitated unspoken slaves, their eyes hold the Truth that philosophers are so keen on, and their illusions are the ones I have to deal with in my daily life.

Day 4

Or maybe it’s my illusion that I don’t have them. But why get rid of this illusion? It’s no worse than men going around pretending they have no heads. There, I said it! The heretical fact: I see heads on the shoulders of men! Call me crazy, call me schizophrenic, call me delusional, I still see them! The way they see my tits!

From these irreconcilable positions, I’ve concluded that there two types of vision, looking through your head and looking at it, which will never be simultaneously experienced. It is healthy to consider oneself headless and consider others to have heads. It means you are in tune with your own subjective experience. In your experience, it feels like your mind is the only mind that exists! Think of how hard it is to teach the contrary to children.

Think of how hard it is to teach the contrary to girl children, who must go from believing that the world is inside their minds to believing that they are a mere piece of the world inside boys’ minds. Think of how hard it is to think the world as you see it matters, only to realize all that matters is how the world sees you. Think of having your own ability to see contended. Think of feeling crazy because you still believe in your own subjectivity, of being told you are crazy because you don’t believe the theories about your innate vanity and narcissistic sexuality. Think of your body being a political controversy, of men treating it like land on which to fight their battles.  

You can treat me like an object, but you can’t take away my subjectivity. You can tell me I have tits, and I understand that through your eyes I do, but I have the right to my own eyes as much as you. 

Day 13

Now that I have no tits or eyes or head, I was curious as to whether or not I would grow a penis. I did not. My external genitalia, at least from my vantage point, has not changed. But I do have new sensations. Rather than two lips folded shamefully inward, I have desires between my legs that erect themselves, asserting themselves into the world without concerns about their reception. The energy shoots out so that if I dance, I can feel a thing swinging around down there as I shake my hips. But if I look, there is no thing, just an experience — precisely like my non-head. 

Day 17

My vision has gotten much sharper without the view of my tits and head clouding it. Sometimes I don’t know what to stare at when there are people in front of me. I see your face, I see your nose, I can assess your features and their relative sizes and shapes, now what? This has made me quite socially awkward at parties, where people can’t pinpoint me as the man gazing or the woman posing for him.

Day 19

I’ve thought of something to do when I am stuck looking at other people: listen to their words and the intonation of their voices. I was so used to looking at, rather than listening to, myself that this was how I assumed one should respond to other people. Now I see how men have accomplished all their wars and treatises and financial transactions in so few years, and I see why they have not included women. It seems men are capable of listening to men because they are not so preoccupied with the gaze, but when they encounter women, their ears become stuffed with heads and all they can do is stare like the drooling fucktards that heads give rise to.

Day 23

My stomach is less distended; without my tit-eyes I have no way to look down and see it swelling. It used to impede my motor functioning with its unsightly protrusion and insistence on bumping tables in a café or desks in a classroom. Now, similar to my non-head and non-genitals, my non-stomach has gone from an object to a swirling sea of desires. For the first time I feel hungry, full, and nauseated. It has become less and less compelling to starve or stuff myself. Even exercising becomes a hassle when one has sensations, and all my skin products have begun to sting. When my face felt like a mask, my body like a suit, sitting through these ordeals was easier. Plucking my eyebrows — not to mention waxing — is excruciatingly painful. And deceptive, now that it belies the fact that I have no head.        

 

Day 25

Without tits I can wear more comfortable, less fitted clothing. I cannot believe I had convinced myself I actually enjoyed wearing tube tops and mini skirts. My eyes enjoyed them, not me, because my eyes were not mine. They were the eyes of men, showing me what men see, which just happened to be attached to my head and tits. I had corneas and lenses and optic nerves and all, but I didn’t see; I was seen, and I replicated what others saw. No wonder blindness feels so familiar. I never had eyes.

Day 27

This experience has taught me that our heads and our tits are products of our delusions. Even after ocular restoration, I feel that my tits are as poor a description of my experience as Douglas Harding’s head is of his. If Douglas Harding can claim to have no head, surely I can claim to have no tits. (Given what biologists say tits are, it is especially hard to believe that I have them). Everyone is entitled to affirm their own delusions and consider others’ ridiculous. And yet, I can feel someone watching me now…

Appendix A

“Eighty on the freeway, kissin’ on some titties.” – 8 Ball

“When I bust, titties come out.” – Red Man

“Don’t say my car is topless. Say the titties is out.” –Nas

Appendix B

Enucleation procedure includes anesthesia, isolation of the levator muscle, peritonomy, muscle identification, neurectomy, preparation of tenon’s capsule, and implant insertion (not to be confused with tit augmentation implants).


About the Author: Suzannah Weiss is a freelance writer whose work has appeared in Bustle and xoJane and a feminist blogger at dwfdatingwhilefeminist.tumblr.com and noorigin.wordpress.com. She holds degrees in Gender & Sexuality Studies, Modern Culture & Media, and Cognitive Neuroscience from Brown University, which she uses mainly to over-analyze trashy television and argue over semantics.

Artwork: Sean McCollum