Puberty guide causes fury with “extremely problematic” explanation of breasts

Posted by
Sarah Biddlecombe

A puberty guide for boys has come under fire for its “extremely problematic” explanation as to why girls have breasts.

The book, called Growing Up for Boys, rightly explains that girls have breasts to make milk for babies – before going on to state they’re also there “to make the girl look grown-up and attractive”.

Published by Usborne and written by Alex Frith, the book is billed as a “frank and friendly book offering boys advice on what to expect from puberty and how to stay happy and confident as they go through physical, psychological and emotional changes”.

But the disgusting explanation for why girls have breasts has caused uproar online, with people taking to social media to slam the publishers for failing to remove such a sexist sentence.

Rather brilliantly, they have also been heading to Amazon in their droves to leave a string of paltry one-star reviews on the book’s listing page.

Despite the book being published in 2013, the sentence about breasts only attracted public attention earlier this week. 

Writer Simon Ragoonanan, who blogs about fatherhood at Man vs Pink, took to Twitter to share an image of the offending page (above), writing “wtf?”

On the page, titled “What are breasts for?”, Frith writes, “Girls have breasts for two reasons. One is to make milk for babies.

“The other is to make the girl look grown-up and attractive. Virtually all breasts, no matter what size or shape they end up when a girl finishes puberty, can do both things.”

Unsurprisingly, Twitter users had something to say about the passage, with Claire Nicholls, a teacher from Bristol, writing, “As I sit here breastfeeding, it's good to know that there's another reason my breasts are useful...seriously, Usborne?!”

“It's terrifying that you have this in a book for boys Usborne – so irresponsible,” added another woman.

“You cannot be serious... Tell me this is fake, please,” added yet another.

The cover of the Growing up for Boys book

The cover of the Growing up for Boys book

Speaking to The Guardian, Nicholls summarised what many believe the problem with the sentence to be – namely, the sexualisation of breasts, which is already an issue in so many cultures across the globe.

Stating that the sentence was “extremely problematic”, she said it “reinforces the sexualisation of breasts, which makes girls and women self-conscious”.

“The other huge issue is the false equivalence of developed breasts with attractiveness and being ‘grown-up’,” the teacher added.

“The ‘grown-up’ statement is troubling. There are girls of 13 with developed breasts. To describe them as ‘grown-up and attractive’ would be worrying, as would infantilising an adult woman with smaller breasts.”

And even if the book’s author was attempting to somehow reference the idea of 'attractiveness' as an evolutionary reason, it is a woefully misguided passage to include in a book for young boys.

Following the onslaught of criticism, a representative from Usborne told The Guardian, “Usborne apologises for any offence caused by this wording and will be revising the content for reprinting.”

But, as one Twitter user pointed out, the publisher could take another step: “Good that Usborne have listened, apologised and responded to the criticism… Great if they recalled existing stock.”

Images: Usborne