A frequent source of joshing between my boyfriend and me is the fact that I was breast-fed and he was not. This, I like to explain – slowly, in case he has difficulty understanding – is why I'm so much cleverer than him. After all, isn't there some study which says breast-reared babies have higher IQs than their formula-fed brothers and sisters?
It's rubbish, of course. Not the study, but the boast: I'm neither cleverer nor possess any of those other laudable qualities that bottle-loathing mothers like to boast about. I'm not less asthmatic, or less allergic. I don't even have better hand-to-eye coordination. The study, on the other hand, is perfectly sound: time and time again, scientists have concluded the same thing. On balance, given the choice, all things being equal, breast is – purely medically speaking – best.
Fine. Good. Point noted. It all seems fairly straightforward, doesn't it? Less straightforward, less fathomable, is the rivalry that has been set up between camps. The breast-feeders and the bottle-openers. It is a rivalry that a friend recently witnessed in uncomfortable proximity. Accompanying a newly maternal acquaintance (plus infant) to a café, the pair found themselves joined by an uninvited fourth party: another woman, who proceeded to take issue with the bottle from which the baby was feeding. She cited an assortment of justifications, from the medical to the moral. Bemused, the besieged mother didn't respond.
If she had responded, she probably would have recounted all the times she has tried, unsuccessfully, to do what the stranger recommended. But then, why should she? Even if the bottle was her first choice – well, it's hardly grounds for attack, is it? A straw poll of our social circle indicated that this was no rare thing. It's remarkable, really: the idea of a seemingly sane person taking it upon themselves to lecture a total stranger on the morality of motherhood. Still, it happens.
Kathryn Blundell must wish she'd had my friend's café experience before she wrote her now-notorious article – in which she described breast-feeding as "creepy" and said she didn't want to put her "fun bags" in a "bawling baby's mouth" – in Mother & Baby, the magazine of which she is deputy editor. Or maybe she has, which is what prompted her to speak out in the first place. Certainly, though, she couldn't have expected the vitriol that would spew forth in its wake: Facebook groups demanding an apology, complaints to the PCC, column inches dedicated to decrying her frankness. All for what? The heinous crime of being honest – not honest in the unsolicited, tapping-a-stranger-on-the-shoulder-in-a-café kind of way. Honest when discussing her own experience, in her own magazine. Basically, doing what she's paid for.
I don't for a minute agree with Blundell's standpoint (in sum: mammaries are for sex). And, yes, her description of breasts as "fun bags" is irritating in the extreme, perpetuating the insidious attitude that women are best defined by their role as sexual partners. What I do, however, agree with is her right to express that standpoint, free of demonisation. This tribalisation of the breast debate – whether manifest in a coffee-time reprimand or an online hate campaign – is stupid, unproductive and divisive. It pits women against one other, unnecessarily. And, surely, you don't have to be breast-fed to know better than that.
She's on the road to misfortune already
Kristen Stewart, teenage heroine of the engorged Twilight series, has just been named one of Forbes magazine's "most powerful celebrities". She came in at a modest-ish 66th place (that's 16 places behind her much-fetishised co-star Robert Pattinson, but – crucially – two ahead of Puff Daddy).
Setting aside the sheer meaninglessness of such lists: surely it can't last. Not through any fault of Kristen's. She's by no means a bad actress; from what I've seen, she is far superior to her Twilight co-stars. And she's pleasingly un-coiffed on the red carpet, favouring a kind of messy haired grunginess over her peers' bland, cookie-cutter appeal, with an enjoyable tendency to slip off-message during interviews.
But – and this is the clincher – she has just signed on to play Mary Lou, the wife of Dean Moriarty, in an adaptation of On The Road, a project so long awaited that speculators have already begun wondering if it's cursed. Attempts to capture Jack Kerouac's classic on screen stretch back decades, each one thwarted by some financial or artistic obstacle.
Francis Ford Coppola – whose production house American Zoetrope is producing the current project – has owned the rights since 1980 but struggled to fund his own attempt at directing it in the 1990s. Since then, he has drifted from one screenwriter to the next, each relationship ending as enigmatically as it began. Now he's drafted in Walter Salles, director of The Motorcycle Diaries, and – fingers-crossed – predicts things will finally some together. For Stewart's sake, I hope so.
Harrods do snobbery, not sweaty women
Surely Julia Buckley and Gertrud Porter weren't really surprised to be turned away from Harrods?
Having just finished a 20-mile jog through central London, they chose the antiquated department store as the location for their post-run snack.
This does rather raise the question of, um, why? Why Harrods? Does anyone actually shop there? And didn't they realise that the Starbucks across the road – yes, literally right across the road – would be able to offer them refreshment at a fraction of the cost? Also: it's Harrods!
Of course they're not going to let you in coated in sweat. They barely let you in anyway. They charge for the lavatories, for goodness sake.
Snobbery is what they do. It's their raison d'être. Inexplicable, yes. But the tourists seem to like it.