Update to this post – John Lewis have tweeted this:

So it looks like we may not be at that stage just yet …
***

2014-12-09 22_59_36-Buy John Lewis Girl Vintage Floral Bras, Pack of 2, Multi _ John Lewis

John Lewis are selling Vintage Floral bras at £8 for two. It sounds a total bargain, right? Unfortunately they don’t have any in my size. It’s not the usual hassle, where all the nice ranges stop at a C cup. In this case, the problem is age. I’m 39 and this particular range only goes from ages 2 to 5.

I find the whole thing incredibly depressing, and not just due to the obviously creepy aspect of it (who buys a bra for their toddler? And why?). I’m saddened because it cuts into that brief time when girls have bodies that are just bodies and starts to tell them, ever so subtly, what their true value will be. To be treated like a person with breasts is bad enough; to be treated as such long before you’ve even got there is worse.

Feminists have long identified the onset of puberty (the time when you’d usually get your first bra) as a particular flashpoint for girls. Suddenly you’re no longer “a child” – a mini human – but someone whose humanity will always be in question. This shift from unisex person to female object can happen quickly, and cause a great deal of distress (even for girls for whom the onset of menstruation doesn’t mean forced marriage and/or withdrawal from formal education). Growing breasts means becoming fair game, someone who is believed to have put herself on the market simply by existing. You might have no choice in the matter, but still you will be held accountable for the responses your body provokes. (more…)

Whether or not the Duchess of Cambridge chooses to breastfeed her baby – and if so, whether or not she chooses to do so in public – is fast becoming one of those utterly pointless “national debates”, the entire purpose of which is idle point-scoring. True, for all I know Kate Middleton is at home this very minute, scanning the reader comments in the Huffington Post in order to decide what to do with her own breasts and where to do it, but I doubt that very much. I can imagine Diana being that bothered, certainly, if she thought it would simultaneously win the nation’s hearts and piss off the queen,  but not so much Kate. All the same, it’s a bizarre pressure to be placed under. Isn’t it bad enough to be part of a family that is constitutionally obliged to treat you like a brood mare? (more…)

When I first heard that the BBC had apologised for a “revealing” dress worn by a female presenter before 9pm, I felt extremely annoyed. What kind of world is this? Of all the things one could complain about – Justin’s House, poverty porn, the mere existence of Bill Turnbull – why take issue with a flash of boob? Hell, there wasn’t even any nipple involved. What next? A primetime modesty code? Is it just me, or is it nothing we haven’t seen before at this time – except usually the boob-flasher’s not actually doing any talking?

Having since examined the apology in question, I’m less distressed. It strikes me as more of a fauxpology. The BBC is sorry “if some viewers found Holly’s dress to be unsuitable” but “felt the dress she wore was glamorous and wholly appropriate for the occasion”. So really, if you’ve got problems with a bit of female flesh, deal with it, matey. We don’t like you being sad but seriously, get a grip. (more…)

Over the past few days I’ve been deciding what I think of Femen (this has involved a lot bra unfastening and re-fastening while I make my mind up). On the one hand I’m quite drawn to the idea of knocking down great oligarchs with a rebellious, well-aimed tit swing.  And on the other I don’t want to impose boob-centric values on others. Argh! Will it be okay if I expose just one breast? Come to think of it, should I just dig out one of my old nursing bras for ease of selective flashing? Finally, I’ve come down on the side of covering up (even though I’m writing this in the bath, so I’m not actually wearing anything. Just saying). What others choose to do with their bodies is their business – or rather it isn’t, but self-aggrandising, racist rhetoric isn’t going to change this. (more…)

As a woman, I often suspect I am just too close to my tits. After all, there they are, just there, morning, noon and night. There are times I’ve longed for a break. Those few days after giving birth when the milk came in and I suddenly find myself with red-hot, rock-hard, agonizing boulders of pain – I’d have happily gone tit-less then. And then there’s early on, back at school when I realized what an object of ridicule these things made me to bra-pinging, girl-fearing classmates –  that’s not an experience I’d call soarawaytastic, either. But still, it’s not all bad; they provide occasional “adult” amusement, plus they’ve fed my kids. On the whole, I’m happy that my breasts are still with me. Like Bagpuss, they might be baggy and a bit loose at the seams, but I love them. Alas, this means I lack objectivity on all matters tit-related.

When it comes to campaigns such as No More Page 3, it’s worth noting that many of those shouting loudest are in possession of womanly bosoms themselves. This is clearly a worry. What can these people – these women – really know about the role of tits in society? Having never been mere passive observers, they’re simply too involved. What can they possibly understand about the representation of breasts and consequent responses to them? Obviously, a man is required to explain all this (preferably one without moobs). (more…)

As a white, university-educated, middle-class feminist, there are many things about which I don’t give a toss. My children’s health and earning enough money to pay the bills, for instance. When it comes to those things, I really couldn’t give a monkeys. I prefer to let the “real women” worry about such mundane trifles. Meanwhile, my children starve / die of cholera (I pay so little attention I can’t remember which it is), which gives me time to ponder bigger issues, providing they’re not too big. Page 3, Special K, the pay gap – that sort of shit I can handle. I think about these things all day long (there’s nothing else to do except mooch around the coffee machine in my imaginary Bridget Jones office).  As for the real things – FGM, forced marriage, slavery – now that I can’t cope with. Thank heavens, then, for people like Neil Wallis. (more…)

That No More Page 3 campaign – it’s all getting a bit bandwagon-y, isn’t it? Everyone wants to be in on it now and frankly I’m not sure it’s cool any more. Indeed, now that Bryony Gordon of the Telegraph has pinned her colours to the mast, I’m starting to wonder whether I should do an about turn and whip ‘em out for the lads. In fact, just in case you’re curious… (btw, getting that link to work is a nightmare. I suspect it’s because my body’s too bootylicious – or should that be boobylicious? – for it). (more…)

What’s the ideal present for a new mum? Personally I’d recommend a cabbage. Your breasts hurt to buggery in the first week and, having tried all the remedies available (including that massive gel soother that my sons now think is a necklace), I truly believe nothing beats a good chilled cabbage leaf in the bra. Buy it for all first-time mums you know; they’ll thank you later (hell, if they haven’t thrown all the “warmed” leaves away, they could even make you a thank-you soup).

Do not, however, on any account buy them this. It is a nappy cake. A cake made out of nappies. What better metaphor for modern motherhood could there be? But that’s not a reason to buy it. We don’t want metaphors. We’ve just been through labour. We’re hungry. We want REAL CAKE!

The nappy cake looks nice – how thoughtful! Something pretty but you’ve also considered the practicalities – but don’t be taken in. Don’t try eating it, for starters (or for mains – cakes are for pudding). And don’t try putting it on your baby, either; you need to unwrap it first. And yes, it’s in the unwrapping that such all metaphors come to life:

Motherhood: pretty on the outside, possibly overlaid with some disturbing stereotypes (that “yummy mummy” sign, for instance), but overall, it looks ace. And cute. Then you truly get into it and find things don’t fit back together how they used to, and suddenly it’s all full of shit, and you’re left alone with it and no one cares because they still just remember the original cake.

It’s a bit of a bugger really, isn’t it? But hey, don’t despair. This is only because you had the original cake to begin with; if you’d never had it, it would never have fallen apart.

*waits a few moments for everyone to digest this deep philosophical observation*

Well, having given it careful consideration, I’m not going to extend this torturous metaphor any further. I had been hoping to eventually reach the conclusion that motherhood is, ideally, more like a cabbage. But alas, I can’t. I know when I’m defeated.

What I’m really trying to say is, nappy cakes look rubbish, a crappy retrosexist dream of a present. What we actually want is a colossus pack of disposables and an even bigger slice of real cake. That and a cabbage. Don’t forget the cabbage.

Motherhood: the more I think about it, it’s actually just like the end of Crackerjack.

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