An online women’s magazine in New Zealand (http://www.nzgirl.co.nz/) had, some time ago, initiated a campaign called ‘I’ve got a lovely pair’ to raise breast cancer awareness. For every 50 pictures of breasts posted by women, NZ Girl claimed to donate $1000 to breast cancer research. The website, targeted at women in their 20s and 30s, experienced an unusually high number of visitors the night they initiated the campaign, resulting in the website crashing down.
Only a couple of months ago, the US based GoTopless campaign had created a similar controversy by organising a day long event/protest in which women asserted their right to be topless on a beach just as men can be by going, well, topless. Unsurprisingly, a large number of male photographers turned up on the site of the campaign.
Any woman baring her breasts has never escaped controversy be it a mother feeding her baby on the bus, a supermodel going topless on the cover of a glossy magazine or the good old ‘bra-burners’ whipping them out for equal rights! The threat remains the same – the possibility of all these actions spilling over into the realm of pornography. But can the opposite be true – that is, pornography being threatened by these actions? Arguably so.
Though NZ Girl came under the fire from several of its readers and feminist groups for using images of women’s breasts to increase their website traffic, it is worth holding back for a moment to notice the wondrous multiplicity of the pictures of breasts posted by women, and men, on the website. Numerous images of small breasts, large breasts, bare breasts, breasts covered up in bras, saggy breasts, breasts with birthmarks, breasts having undergone surgery and men’s breasts were posted on the website.
It is refreshing to not only see pictures of what would be otherwise strictly called men’s ‘chests’ under the classification of ‘breasts’, but also to note that these breasts are not the voluptuous, equally sized, well rounded, pornographically glowing breasts; in fact, each pair tells its own story. And the campaign line goes very well with this plurality – I’ve got a lovely pair!
Now whether or not men are going on to the website for the mere attraction of ogling at women’s breasts is a different story. Do men find women’s breasts sexually appealing? No doubt, most of them do. Do women consider their breasts to be sexual assets? Once again, most of them do. It might be extremely difficult to unlearn the sexual deposit in breasts made by culture but it is certainly not impossible to rescue them from the idea of that perfect pair of mounds of flesh meant to be ogled at for sexual pleasure/arousal.
There is a glimmer of hope in campaigns that show off women’s breasts because they have started to take up space in the new media that has been, for quite long, the reserve of pornography. I would love to know what you think about campaigns like these.