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Thank you, Germaine, I’m enjoying all the breasts

Any week beginning with Germaine Greer inviting the nation’s women to crash my website by sending photos of their ‘unsupported breasts’ is bound to be an interesting one.

16 September 2009

12:00 AM

16 September 2009

12:00 AM

Any week beginning with Germaine Greer inviting the nation’s women to crash my website by sending photos of their ‘unsupported breasts’ is bound to be an interesting one.

Any week beginning with Germaine Greer inviting the nation’s women to crash my website by sending photos of their ‘unsupported breasts’ is bound to be an interesting one.

Greer wrote a page of splenetic ‘comment’ on my new book, Woman as Design, in Monday’s Guardian. Her charge is that, like all knuckle-dragging males still emotionally located in the mastodon era, I fetishise and eroticise the female breast. This is said to be wicked. By offering ‘support’, the bra deforms reality, says Greer, and she wants me disabused of my idealism by a frank photographic confrontation with what gravitational forces do to the average boob.


What makes elderly feminists so humourless and unlovable? So leached of style? Is it racist even to discuss race? It certainly seems to be sexist to discuss sex and its aesthetics. At least if you are a heterosexual male. Jenni Murray on Woman’s Hour told listeners that in Woman as Design I had written a coffee-table compendium of filth for perverts. Of course, the truly insulting phrase in that sentence is not ‘filth for perverts’ but ‘coffee-table’. Be that as it may, I thought modern women had stopped being ashamed of their bodies.

It’s for others to judge the quality of Woman as Design, but accounts of it by rancorous feminists have been a travesty of its contents and purpose. It was written as a generous, sympathetic and ruminative account of how we adapt nature to cultural purposes. While ranting about me and my boob fetish, Greer neglected to consider the central and sympathetic argument. Take the Virgin Mary. Since in art she is usually only shown dead, in supplication, breast-feeding or crying, the Queen of Heaven has traditionally suggested limited roles for women. This I deplore. I bet Germaine does too.

And why do elderly feminists become so forgetful? Professor Greer recently published a book called Beautiful Boy. Some masculinists might argue that this was a clammy, pseudo-pornographic exercise in the art of objectification, not to say evidence of sadly frustrated yearnings. Not me. I’m happy for Germaine to have her beautiful boys. I don’t require her to publish a photographic tribute to middle-aged male love handles. Nor have I encouraged my elderly male friends to text her photos of their genitalia. I think, if I did, I might end up in court.

Some men would probably pay to be as badly beaten up by feminists as I have been this week. Just the day before Greer’s invitation to unhook, I was being attacked on Sky News by a lesbian activist called Julie Bindel. ‘People like you will always write sexist drivel,’ she said. Pleasing, then, that just before we went on air, Bindel had joyfully sprinted from the green room to get to hair and make-up (a service I was denied). This was not seen as being complicit in the manipulative objectification which so hobbles a woman’s life.

And here’s a footnote for Greer: the modern bra which ‘objectifies’ the female breast by so stylishly packaging it was designed by — a woman! Mary Phelps-Jacobs patented her bra design under the name of Caresse Crosby. Still, it’s a brilliant idea to ask the sisters to send me photographs of nature in the pendulous raw, so thank you, Germaine, I am loving every minute of it.


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