All breasts are equal. But some breasts are more equal than others.
This is the message to be deciphered from the bizarre, breast-related stories that emerged in the news last week. It seems that these days, breasts fall into different categories and their levels of exposure carry different meanings.
Some breasts are naughty-naughty, and need to be covered up at all costs, as Holly Willoughby found out when the BBC received over 100 complaints due to the revealing black lace dress she wore to present The Voice final.
While the BBC apologised on behalf of Willoughby's exposed breasts, her co-presenter Phillip Schofield rushed to her defence: "139 complaints over Holly's gorgeous Voice dress? Let's hope those outraged on behalf of their kids don't take them to the beach this summer. God forbid they might see a woman in a bikini before 9pm and be traumatised by the sight of her cleavage!"
Cosmopolitan also gave their two cents, fuming: "Holly Willoughby is absolutely gorgeous and rightly proud of her assets, so why shouldn't she wear a dress with a plunging neckline on The Voice?"
Why indeed. Presumably if you're a fabulously rich, gorgeous celebrity, with perfectly-sized, perky breasts, you have every right to show them off. Women with too small, too large, too saggy, too old or too misshapen breasts, put them away, yeah?
Some breasts are even more naughty-naughty than Willoughby's, so naughty in fact, that feminist groups are campaigning to get them out of newspapers. The opposition group to The Sun's Page 3, the No More Page 3 campaign, suffered something of a setback when David Dinsmore, The Sun's new editor, declared that Page 3 topless women would continue to be a feature of the newspaper. Rupert Murdoch had hinted in tweets earlier in the year that he would get rid of them.
The No More Page 3 campaigners penned a letter to Dinsmore's predecessor demanding he remove Page 3, "because boobs aren't news". They somewhat ironically used Willoughby to make their point: "Philip and Holly don't flash up pictures of Danni, 19, from Plymouth, in just her pants and a necklace, on This Morning, do they, Dominic? No, they don't. There would be an outcry." Clearly Holly and Philip, even with Holly's penchant for wearing cleavage-exposing dresses, are the bastions of good-boob etiquette according to No More Page 3 campaigners, whereas Page 3 is the worst of the worst.
Then there are breasts which are used to campaign for all sorts of right and wonderful causes such as the NOH8 campaign, for which celebrities exposed their breasts (with a bit of strategically placed duct tape over the nipples) to campaign for gay couples to receive the same federal benefits of marriage as heterosexual couples in the States. There are even militant feminist breasts, belonging to feminist group Femen, who frequently stage topless protests in their ongoing fight against patriarchy (Tunisia last week freed three Femen members who had been jailed for protesting topless.)
What do we make of all this? Breasts are slutty and shameful and should be covered up? That it's ok for Holly Willoughby to wear a revealing dress on television but not for Page 3 women to bare all? That breasts are actually beacons of radical campaign and protest and that rather than cover them up, we should in fact get them out more in order to make our voices heard?
Whatever you choose to do with your breasts, however much you choose to expose them, campaign with them, or campaign to cover them up completely, they continue to be part of an ongoing debate about objectification, sexualisation and femininity. And that's healthy. Yet sadly, there's little discussion or public depiction of breasts which aren't the perfect, porn-star look-alikes that in this day and age, they are apparently supposed to be. When there is any discussion of their primary function (to feed children, just in case you were wondering), it's often accompanied by a tirade of male voices voicing their opposition to breast-feeding in public.
Breasts should and do provoke public discourse. It's a choice to expose them or to cover them up. But there still remain inconsistencies over which breasts we want exposed and which we don't, and whether it is liberating and feminist to expose them, as Femen believe, or whether, by revealing them on television shows, music videos or in newspapers, it's actually the exact opposite.
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Here are pictures from The SCAR Project, that the patient's photograph featured in.