I've said it before and I'll say it again; if you're a famous old popstar/actress/fashion designer, nine times out of ten, when the nipples go south the nose goes north. High-profile women who would strip off at the drop of a hat when young and perky suddenly come over all moral once they've been mugged by gravity. And like all 'morality' driven by hypocrisy, it stinks AND it's very amusing.
It's very much the thing now for everyone from conservative newspapers to liberal entertainers to bash barely-clad female popstars. Even female popstars such as the awful Annie Lennox, who were more than happy to prance about in their scanties when young and perky, feel fit to pronounce "Nowadays, women are so sexually explicit and they use this as a tool to get popular, and I find this very one-dimensional. Surely we have evolved further than that. I'm all for sexuality being free and liberal, but I feel so sad that's like a one-trick pony. It's a sad thing because people fought so hard to liberate us and to give us the vote and to give us equal opportunities, and it looks sometimes to me like we're really going backward."
Did Lennox feel that she held the balance of a century of suffragettism in her hands when she stripped down to a red bra onstage? Granted, the spectacle was approximately as sexually arousing as having a twice-used tea bag thrust into one's mouth during a French kiss. But the point is that Lennox DID strip off while promoting her singing career - as did Madonna, numerous times. So why the lemon-sucking faces when young singers such as Rihanna, Beyoncé and Shakira display their gorgeous physiques in the course of promoting their work?
There's something very shady about the way that white women such as Lennox and Madonna were allowed to display their bodies throughout their careers and it was considered arty and classy - but now when young women of colour do it, they are lectured and censored by older white women. Does their ethnicity render them too dumb to understand the dynamics of sexual display?
Similarly, I really do have a problem with a lot of the women now trying to shield their tweenage daughters from prime-time shimmying sin. If a mother concerned about inappropriate underage sexuality is coming at the issue from a background of her own sexual rectitude, I totally see her point and have nothing but respect for her opinion. HOWEVER. Many women now carping about 'pornographic' pop singers themselves dressed and/or behaved like absolute slappers when they were teenagers. If THEY get het up about Rihanna's bum being on show, I have to assume they're just jealous - of her, and of their own beautiful daughters.
Forget all the alarmist nagging about the way that young girls today are being encouraged to define themselves solely by their sexuality - if that was so, would female academic achievement be going up, up, up as never before? I think it far more likely that young girls today just don't see why they have to choose between being a slut or a swot, a book-worm or a booty-shaker. They can be both, or neither, at once, or now and then, and it really doesn't matter. If that isn't feminism, I don't know what is.
Julie Burchill is a renowned journalist who has contributed to The Times, The Guardian and The Sun among other publications - she currently writes a weekly column for The Independent. She is also the author of several successful books including Not In My Name: A Compendium of Modern Hypocrisy and Sugar Rush.