Mine: Thoughts on agency and Kate Middleton

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.

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One Comment

  1. Posted September 27, 2012 at 4:34 pm | Permalink

    I am not sure what to think, actually.

    What I do believe, though, is that Mrs Windsor’s breasts were not the issue (in a way). I spent a week in the south of France two weeks ago, and the beaches are full of naked breasts. So if a photographer wanted pictures of breasts, he didn’t need to go to so much trouble.

    What titillated the press (yes, easy, I know) was the fact that they are attached to the future Queen of England. And having the fQoE baring her breasts outside is news – because unheard of (and hitherto unphotographed).

    Had she being snapped picking her nose, then yes, that would have made the news too. Rightly or wrongly (I’m sure plenty of people pick their nose on the beaches of the south of France).

    All this leads me to say that the nakedness was notreally the issue. Had William, the fKoE, been snapped naked, then that would have been news. And no one would have claimed that mens’ bodies are considered society’s property.

    There is no room here to discuss the differences between English law and French law with regard to the concept of privacy; I would say that what concerns me most is this – what level of privacy can one expect in the garden of a friend? Absolute? A lot? None? Is the distance from a public a factor? The height of the hedge? I admit to not knowing the answer.

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