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Tits Up

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Member Reviews

A provocative history and science of the female breasts. It is sometimes more story than fact, but it is a fun, insightful read.

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This was fascinating! Academic and well researched, whilst still easy to read, engaging, and deeply human. Written by an ethnographer, it incorporates history, facts, and personal perspectives derived from the authors observations and interviews. It reminds me of a little of a written radiolab-podcast episode, diving deep into a niche history, that you may not have ever considered before.
I loved the chapters on breastfeeding and plastic surgery. I do wish the author had gone a little deeper into some of the implications that she noted; such as how modern feminism has excluded sex workers, contributing to harms against the community or how capitalism has affected traditional breastfeeding practices. (though I think the purpose of the book was breadth rather than depth).
Overall: highly recommend and gave me several things to look deeper into and consider further!

Thank you to NetGalley and the Publisher for an ARC!

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4.5/5 ⭐️
A sociological look into society's relationships to breasts. Thornton explores many different facets of breasts in society - sex work, breast feeding, and more.

I thought this was a really good dive into society. My biggest critique would be organization. I can't think of a better way (initially I thought maybe chronologically when I started the last chapter, but then musings in that chapter made me think it fit there), but something in the progression just felt off to me. Despite that, this was a really interesting look into the world of boobs, breasts, tits, and all the other names around the world.

I received my copy from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

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I really wanted to love this book - and for a while, I did. In fact, I still appreciate the multiple perspectives that Thornton took with her chapter choices. Breasts in sex work, motherhood, plastic surgery, fashion, religion/spirituality; pardon the pun, but it’s a well-rounded exploration.

I learned a lot of interesting tidbits throughout this book, like how milk banks are just one more good thing that was once co-opted by eugenics. I smiled at the inclusion of sex-positive pioneers such as Annie Sprinkle. And I found myself irate at, well… usually the patriarchy. (Perfect example? Male plastic surgeons who will place nipples in a higher position that they find more visually appealing but that women don’t actually like living with.)

However, I also found myself rolling my eyes at the author for stating things like “in stripper slang, she’s a domme disguised as a sub.” (I hate to break it to you, but I don’t think that’s just “stripper slang.”) Use of out-dated and stigmatizing language such as “full blown AIDS.” Or her frequent slights aimed at other feminists, such as “a phenomenon that a militant might dub medical misogyny.”

As more time passed, I started to notice that perhaps that low-key level of tone-deafness was really just the tip of the iceberg with this book.

Thornton puts a lot of work into TELLING us that she’s rather progressive. She explicitly refers to TERFs as bigots, for example. But then she makes an argument that is all-too-familiar in TERF rhetoric: that gender neutral terms like “chestfeeding” erase cisgender women. Her overreaction goes even further, fearing that no woman will be able to identify as a “mother” anymore. In short, she misses the argument completely.

At other times, it’s less about Thornton’s own misguided ideas and more that she chooses to give credence to others’ harmful opinions by not consciously examining them. For example: Thornton spends most of one chapter with a plastic surgeon who waxes poetic about how breast augmentation can be really empowering for women. The surgeon then hypocritically states that she has never performed a chest masculinizing surgery because “I love breasts and mastectomies are very permanent.” At least in this instance, Thornton provided alternative insight from another (less closed-minded) surgeon. But the problematic statement was never actually unpacked.

It’s like how Thornton makes multiple statements about how feminists have focused too much on the right NOT to have children - even pointing out that some (anti-choice?) activists feel the need to distance themselves by using the term “birth justice” instead of “reproductive justice.” Thornton never challenges this by educating on the actual values of reproductive justice - which includes not only the right to have children, but to parent them in safe environments. This does an injustice not only to feminism, but specifically to the Black feminists who founded the reproductive justice movement and have spent their lives rallying behind the rights of mothers.

I don’t want it to seem like I absolutely hated Tits Up; I didn’t. But I would say that if you are sensitive to transphobic micro-aggressions or feminist infighting… I wonder if maybe you’d do better to get your titty facts from books such as Breasts by Florence Williams. I haven’t yet had the chance to read it, but now I feel the need to compare.

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"Tits Up" by Sarah Thornton is a book dedicated to tits. From witches to plastic surgery, Thornton covers it all.

I really enjoyed this book purely for the fact that it was approachable non-fiction. I think a lot of readers would be able to access the information in "Tits Up". Thornton herself underwent a double mastectomy and began thinking a lot about her relationship with her own boobs and what boob meant to others. She covers sex workers, dancers, plastic surgeons, witches, and milk banks.

This is such an interesting and easy read and I think a lot of readers would benefit from reading!

Thank you Thornton, NetGallet and Norton for providing us with this title.

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Tits Up is a nonfiction book in which Sarah Thornton discusses breasts in many contexts - sex work, plastic surgery, undergarments, and religion/witches.

I learned so much and had a great time reading this.

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“If someone wonders why a book on boobs has no pornography chapter, my reply is clear. Tits up investigates sex work in real life, it focuses on women’s perspectives rather than the male gaze”

This was fascinating! Academic and well researched, whilst still easy to read, engaging, and deeply human. Written by an ethnographer, it incorporates history, facts, and personal perspectives derived from the authors observations and interviews. It reminds me of a little of a written radiolab-podcast episode, diving deep into a niche history, that you may not have ever considered before.
I loved the chapters on breastfeeding and plastic surgery. I do wish the author had gone a little deeper into some of the implications that she noted; such as how modern feminism has excluded sex workers, contributing to harms against the community or how capitalism has affected traditional breastfeeding practices. (though I think the purpose of the book was breadth rather than depth).
Overall: highly recommend, and gave me several things to look deeper into and consider further!

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What an unexpected surprise this book was! This was a fascinating book about a particular body part, obviously by the title, tits, aka boobs, aka breasts, aka about a million other terms widely used. Thornton did an excellent job explaining many different sides and aspects to how breasts are used, viewed, appreciated, objectified, treated, and needed. She spends little time on her own personal opinions and more time on really digging in to varying views and ideas. All sprinkled with some humor along the way and some amazing photographs that really capture the ideas she is discussing. I thoroughly enjoyed this book so much more than I was expecting and was amazed by how little I knew of my own body! I highly recommend for anyone who has boobs, had boobs, likes boobs, knows what boobs are…everyone! It’s extremely insightful and will open your eyes to so much you may not have know.
***Thank you NetGalley, Sarah Thornton, and W.W. Norton & Company for an advanced copy of this book in exchange for an honest review***

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Fabulous facts and viewpoints on this often misunderstood body part. You'll never look at boobs in the same way again!
An amazing read. Made me think, made me giggle, made me pause.

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Sarah Thornton is a sociologist and ethnographer, and when breast cancer forced her to have a double mastectomy — and she didn’t think twice about having breast implants as part of her reconstructive surgery — she received blowback from her feminist friends that she was caving to the pressures of the patriarchy. Being a lesbian and a public feminist herself, Thornton was in a unique position to self-interrogate on just why she wanted the implants, and as an author who has made a career of writing on art and culture, she went out into the field to investigate those whose work centres on women’s breasts: sex workers, milk bank donors, plastic surgeons, bra designers, and in a bit of a stretch thematically (but intriguing to read about), pagan/witchy women who bare their breasts ritually. In Tits Up, Thornton approaches each experience with curiosity and impartiality, and from lapdancers to lactation consultants, she treats everyone she encounters with dignity and genuine interest. From the fascinating facts to the engaging writing style, I loved everything about this; four and a half stars, perkily rounded up.

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This was soooo interesting! For anyone who appreciates boobs, you will love this. It was funny, sensitive, and very informative. The author really picked great perspectives to view the topic from. There was so much interesting information, not just about boobs, but about history and pioneers in various industries. Really, really interesting stuff. I loved reading it!

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This book is for anyone who loves microhistories, has boobs, or loves boobs! I was immediately drawn into "Tits Up" with Thornton's tongue-in-cheek humor and ability to tell a story. She craftily delves into the anatomy of boobs, why tits are objectified and sexualized by many, and the many industries that thrive off boobs. Thornton does a superb job of shadowing and interviewing sex workers, exploring what boobs mean to their industry, while also treating them with dignity and respect. She then analyzes the nurturing and mothering aspect of boobs, exploring breastfeeding and the options of why some moms use formula. Interestingly enough, readers will also learn about the cultural differences of how boobs are perceived globally, and what the preferred shape and sizes are, which has allowed the plastic surgery industry to be so successful. I also loved the chapter on the fashion industry, what goes in to making a bra, and why are breast sizes classified the way they are in terms of alphabetical cups. Readers will laugh out loud while reading "Tits Up," while equally feeling enraged by the censorship and unfair standards placed upon women's breasts (federal law demands augmentation for women who lose their boobs to mastectomies, but doesn't protect breastfeeding). I have already recommended this book to several people, and will continue to promote it as a must-read!

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