Sunday 18 October, 14.00 until 15.30, Frobisher Auditorium 1, Barbican Feminism and Its Discontents
Breasts seem to be the focal point for numerous contemporary controversies. Some argue that women’s position in society is adversely affected by the objectification of breasts and by images of certain breasts in public spaces, for example in the Sun’s Page 3 or in advertising and entertainment. For decades, feminists have campaigned against photographs of topless female models. More recently, students’ unions have banned the Sun from campus shops to maintain the campus as a ‘safe space’ for female students. After pressure from advocacy groups, some supermarkets and newsagents have introduced ‘modesty sleeves’ to cover up pictures of breasts on the covers of certain magazines. In these instances, the presence of ‘sexualised’ naked breasts in public view is said to be offensive and even harmful to women and children and to contribute to an unhealthy social climate for all.
Conversely, probreastfeeding activists regularly stage ‘feedins’ or ‘flash mobs’ in public places to assert the right of mothers to breastfeed wherever necessary and the ‘Free the Nipple’ campaign calls for ‘equality’ in the way male and female nipples are treated in legislation and on social media. Even more confusingly, feminist campaigners such as FEMEN have taken to baring their breasts in public in protest against what they see as the misogyny of institutions like the church. And so it seems, some breasts are good and some breasts are bad.
All of which raises the question, who decides? Why have breasts become such a focus for contemporary advocacy and campaigning and is it really possible or desirable to ‘desexualise’ breasts?
associate professor of sociology, Northeastern University, Boston
associate professor in public health, Swansea University; researcher into breastfeeding
photographer; author, Bare Reality: 100 women, their breasts, their stories
Dr Jan Macvarish
associate lecturer and researcher, Centre for Parenting Culture Studies, University of Kent; author, Neuroparenting: The Expert Invasion of Family Life
Dr Ellie Lee
reader in social policy, University of Kent, Canterbury; director, Centre for Parenting Culture Studies
Middle-class breasts on Instagram – good. Big tits in the Sun – bad.Ella Whelan, spiked, 9 April 2015
Is it possible with some cultural engineering, a littleLina Esco, Huffington Post, 2 August 2014
Free The Nipple, a movement which fights for women to be allowed to go topless in public, has gained popularity after Bruce Willis's daughter, Scout, walked half-naked through New York.Radhika Sanghani, Telegraph, 6 June 2014
The real question about female nudity isn't why anyone would want to show or see women's breasts if they're not titillating. The real question is about who has the right to say what they're for, where and when they can be seen and by whom.Soraya Chemaly, Huffington Post, 22 April 2014
Breastfeeding whenever, wherever a child is hungry is an integral component of breastfeeding success. To take that away is to inhibit mothers who only want to do right by their child.Katharine McKinney, Huffington Post, 4 January 2014
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