Of all the things I consider my right as a woman – hell, as a person – one that I’ve never really questioned is the right to be the Boss of My Boobies. And that includes all aspects of showing them.
So when I read things like this article in The Guardian about the recently leaked topless photos of Kate Middleton, I have me a moment or two of helpless rage:
The editor-in-chief of Denmark’s Se og Hør magazine, which published a 16-page supplement of the photos, has implied Kate must accept some responsibility for “willingly revealing her breasts towards a public road”.
In other statements, said editor-in-chief has said she (that’s right, she) has a duty to entertain her readers and satisfy their curiosity and for her magazine, every time the Duchess is topless, it’s relevant news. In essence, because Kate Middleton has breasts, everyone has the right to see them if they can. Even if it requires an intense telephoto lens and slightly unethical definition of newsworthiness.
Frankly, for me, the question is – who was her intended audience? Information is one thing, but no one’s body should be subject to anonymous tipsters. If Kate’s intended audience wasn’t the public, the public in fact has no right at all to see her breasts. The fact that anyone thinks otherwise reminds me that at some level, society considers female bodies and attention its property.
It’s the same philosophy that’s at work when one of us gets called a bitch for refusing to let a man at a bar buy her a drink. You’re present. Therefore it’s his right to try to make your presence benefit him. When you – gasp! – shut down his attempts before he can even really get going, he’s justifiably angry, right? Only if you accept that the person who has the rights in this situation isn’t the woman.
If you accept that you have rights to a woman’s attention even if she doesn’t want to give it to you, on some level you also accept that if her breasts are uncovered, you have the right to see them even if she didn’t show them to you. If you believe that, it’s hard to believe you think that woman has the right to agency at all. Like I said, it seems pretty basic to me that the decision on how, where and to whom you show your body belongs solely to you. When we let a magazine or a photographer take that decision from a public figure like the Duchess of Cambridge, we’re giving just that much more permission to society to take it from us, too.