Magazine article The Spectator

The Topless Feminists

Magazine article The Spectator

The Topless Feminists

Article excerpt

Can you really fight the male gaze by exposing your breasts?

Imagine that you have stepped back in time to the 1970s. Feminists are out on the streets of London protesting against the Miss World competitions. There you meet a sleazy men's magazine publisher who tells you he has a new idea for getting women to show men their breasts. He's not going to offer them money or fame like Playboy or Penthouse . No, he's going to get them to take off their tops in the name of women's liberation. 'I have seen the future of feminism,' he tells you, 'and it has great tits!'

Naturally you think: this man is insane! Surely no woman would fall for that? Wrong. Not only did they, but the link between showing your breasts and serving the feminist cause didn't come from men but from women themselves! How's that for insane?

I call it flaunt-it feminism. A key moment in its history was the founding of Femen -- a radical feminist protest group of 'brave topless female activists' created in the Ukraine in 2008. Their motto and means are summed up thus: 'Our mission is protest. Our weapon is bare breasts.'

They are the ones behind the first ever International Topless Jihad Day, two years ago. One Femen member was quoted as saying, 'Our tits are deadlier than your stones.' It would be funny if women weren't actually being stoned to death and cartoonists shot dead. But for sheer flaunt-it feminism lunacy you can't beat the woman in Dresden last year who stripped off her top as an anti-fascist protest to reveal a slogan praising Bomber Harris on her breasts. It read: 'Thanks Bomber.'

Bare breasts are still at the forefront of the battle against sexism and most recently the publication of naked pictures of girlfriends (revenge porn) and celebrities who have had their phones or emails hacked like Jennifer Lawrence. The ideological justification has been provided by the Guardian . There you can find its ideological champions like veteran feminist Joan Smith, who not long ago wrote that 'Posing nude is one of the ultimate feminist acts.'

The Guardian , in the name of feminism, recently provided sexy pictures of a naked blonde and her breasts. The pin-up was Emma Holten, a Danish journalist who had been the victim of 'revenge porn'. (Her ex-boyfriend published naked pictures of her online four years ago.) Holten has been receiving nasty comments and emails ever since and decided that enough was enough; it was time to fight back. So what did she do? Write a complaint to Google? Name and shame her odious ex-boyfriend? No. Holten arranged to have photos of her breasts taken and then posted them online! It's a curious logic, this -- fight pictures of naked women with more pictures of naked women.

Woman's rights organization FEMEN protest against the execution of a woman in Iran in front of the Iranian embassy in Berlin Photo: Getty

The movie actress Jennifer Lawrence has likewise decided to fight nudity with nudity. When last October naked photos of her were posted online without her consent, Lawrence told Vanity Fair magazine she was the victim of a 'sex crime'. Now that she has consented to appear naked in Vanity Fair (with a boa constrictor covering her private parts), Lawrence defends her actions thus: 'It's my body and it should be my choice.'

For Holten, Lawrence and the flaunt-it feminists, choice is everything. …

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