BISBA - which stands for the “Burr Identification System of Breast Analysis” - is misogyny masquerading as science. Burr claims to have made the astonishing discovery (well, it would be astonishing if it were true) that a woman's character is revealed by the shape of her breasts. Not only that, he says, but character and breast shape are inherently linked, to the extent that if one changes so must the other, correspondingly. Thus by studying what Burr calls “gynecomammology” one is enabled to determine the true nature of any woman simply by examining her breasts. (“You seem like a nice girl, but would you mind stripping to the waist so I can check?”)
Human natures and bosoms come in a wide variety of forms and Burr's classification system for the latter is accordingly complex and sophisticated. Each subject mammary must be categorised according to its “type”, “style”, “mode”, “fashion” and “class”, to give a five-part “BISBA rating” from which one can then make an analysis of the person to which it is attached. As an example of the utility of his system, Burr urges employers to ask for a BISBA rating (“certified by a gynecologist or other qualified physician”) on the application form of any prospective female employee.
BISBA is really no more than a feeble attempt to justify the shallow male habit of judging women by their bodies alone. It tells us nothing about the female character but somewhat about Burr's own, who must have been driven by some powerful - not to say obsessive - need to rationalize his feelings about women, to create such a monstrous excrescence of a book. His writing style, like that of many deeply insecure people, is grandiose and didactic, as here:
That the focal point of sex attraction of the gynecomorphous anthropidan is indicative at least to some degree of the personality and character has long been known or at least suspected by man (and by woman). However, through the centuries, instead of man and his sciences delving into and being analytical of this fact and suspicion and thuswise availing himself of the knowledge that such an analysis could impart, man has viewed the breast vulgarly and lasciviously with only such generalities of depiction in mind as (pertaining to the breast's owner) undesirable, desirable, makeable, sexy, pushover, slut, and sloven. True, the breasts so indicate those qualities (or lack of quality), but they also indicate much more and, when properly viewed and analyzed, indicate the mentioned qualities and many others in all their varying degrees (instead of merely generally) and enable one to make a critical and exacting interpretation of all the facets of personality and character. [...]
Through proper critical observation and evaluation of the breast it is a simple matter to determine whether its owner is likely to be jovial or morose, shrewd or gullible, thrifty or wasteful, industrious or lazy, sensuous or frigid, enthusiastic or indifferent, faithful or false, honest or deceitful, brazen or bashful, and almost anything else one might wish to know about the individual's personality or character. Conversely, the woman who desires true breasts of a certain type and style instead of false ones need only learn what traits of personality and character produce such a breast and then set about the molding of her personality and character to those traits in order to achieve the breasts she covets.
The verbosity (“gynecomorphous anthropidan”, indeed!) and repetitiveness shown in this passage is typical of the book as a whole. It is far from being an undemanding read, especially when one comes up against stuff like this:
To avoid a multiplicity of numbers in our symbolizing, whenever breasts greater than Class 9 are encountered BISBA indicates the higher class identification by underscoring the digital figure of the computed number of fifths and then dropping the figure that appears before it in the tens column. Thusly for Class 15 we underscore the digital number (15) and eliminate the tens number (
15) and have 5 as the proper symbol for a Class 15 breast. A BISBA rating containing such a symbol, for example E+UY45 would be read aloud as follows: E, plus-U, Y, four, fifteen.
Burr also makes the personality analysis section of his book more complicated than it need be by his practice of using invented or fustian words to denote character traits, as in:
The female who has this [veined Style P] breast is always porcine and is at the same time porcinely inexpressive. She is at all times overbearing and, not only domestically, she is naggish and is therefor [sic] as completely as possible avoided. She not only is happiless, she is joyless [...]
The female possessing this [rugged Style P] breast is firstly and foremostly undomestic. Understandably therefor, she is secondly reprehensive and thirdly parvenutive. She recognizes herself as impetuous [...] she is fatuous but she is very conscious of being levitous [..] lastly, she is gamish.
Helpfully, he provides a glossary of all these terms. Some have questioned whether Burr was entirely sincere, whether in fact he had his tongue in his cheek, and the above passages do have a certain humorous quality that might arguably be deliberate. My answer would be that no one possessed of any real sense of humour could possibly have written anything so unendurably dull when read at length. Even if Burr was not as serious about his subject as he makes out, he was evidently obsessed enough to write this damn book, with all its painful attention to pointless detail.
In other words, he was ananous, pedantine and - most of all - onanistatory.
Scribbled by Alfred Armstrong 12 years 7 months ago