Breasts were everywhere this week, no matter where we looked. Celebrities, commentators and institutions alike were falling over themselves to make a – ahem – tit of themselves.
From Madonna embarrassing her poor children yet again to the Victoria’s Secret fashion show; from Melanie Sykes’ endless I’m A Celebrity bikini scenes to the palaver over a mother breastfeeding at Claridge’s, and the subsequent protests against the enforced cover-up, some of the “news” stories even made it into my everyday line of sight.
Out Christmas shopping, I passed Claridge’s on Saturday when about 25 mothers milled around in the cold, “ostentatiously breastfeeding” their babies in the street watched by twice that number of journalists and passers-by.
What a sad state of affairs that mothers in 2014 have to protest about palpable nonsense like Louise Burns being forced to cover up her feeding with a large napkin, when there are innumerable bigger subjects that demand their attention.
The “nobody puts baby in the corner” protest was organized by the Free to Feed group, in turn set up by Emily Lough when she was called “a tramp” because she breastfed in public. What is the matter with everyone?
Just what is so scary: the breast or the act? It was bizarre to hear bystanders shout out loud that they think it’s “disgusting”. What’s disgusting? Do we fear being reminded that we are actually animals?
The Claridge’s saga provided piquant juxtaposition to the Victoria’s Secret fashion show last week. In another London hotel, enjoying a quiet drink one evening, we suddenly became aware of an extraordinary array of beautiful women with very prominent décolletages in stunning designer gowns. They were Victoria’s Secret models waiting in the lobby to be shuttled off to their latest media event. It was impossible not to stare – which is the point.
In the show itself two of the “Angels”, Adriana Lima and Alessandra Ambrosio, each wore a jewel-studded bra worth in the region of $2 million. Within a couple of miles of each other, Londoners were worshipping before the idealized breast and relishing the display of flesh on an Earl’s Court fashion runway and simultaneously disdaining its natural purpose and enforcing a cover-up in a five star Mayfair hotel.
To add magnificent madness to this mixed-up mess, we then have Jeremy Clarkson writing in the Saturday Sun - where usually the Page 3 girl is not quite topless because “Saturdays are more family” - that breastfeeding women should be “more discreet”. Jeremy’s clearly become a bit more sensitive since the days when he wrote “men do not find breastfeeding natural. We find it deeply disturbing. This is because men do not see breasts as part of the reproductive process. We see them as a plaything, a toy”.
I know, I know he’s supposed to be a provocateur, but the cheap attempts to “get a rise” out of the public surely belie what too many men really believe.
One of the innumerable differences between breastfeeding and Victoria’s Secret models’ boobs is that unlike supermodels, feeding mothers are not inviting us to look at their breasts, they are simply feeding their babies. There is no sex involved here, just reproduction. So, if that really bothers you, shut up and look away.
Stefano Hatfield is editor-in-chief of High50.com
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