Where women were once criticised for showing off their boobs, now they are feted for flaunting their absence, as Emma Corrin has shown. But her flirting with trans ideology sends an irresponsible message to adolescent females.
Unlike most other body parts, breasts are subject to the vagaries of fashion. One year, 1930s-inspired androgyny is all the rage; the next it’s hourglass curves we’re after. Honestly, it’s hard for a girl to keep up. But if changing fashion wasn’t enough to contend with, there’s politics too. And when the two combine, things get very complicated indeed.
This week has seen the release of images of actress Emma Corrin; in two she is wearing a chest binder, in a third she wears men’s shorts and covers her breasts with her arm. They are beautiful pictures. Professionally shot and tastefully black and white, they reveal a side of Corrin new to those only familiar with her as the shy, young Princess Diana in Netflix’s The Crown. But is this art? Or politics? Or fashion?
Back in the 1970s, members of the Women’s Liberation Movement disrupted the ‘Miss World’ beauty pageant being held in London. They threw flour bombs to protest against the objectification of women. Their message was that flaunting breasts for male gratification and self-promotion was a very bad thing to do.
But fast forward several decades and a new movement emerged. Free The Nipple was all for women baring their breasts in public – as long as it was to protest the sexist double standards that permit men to go topless on the beach, on social media and even at football matches, if celebrating an England victory but censor, condemn or even arrest women who do the same. So it’s boobs out for equality!
And not just equality. If you’re sufficiently well-spoken, any political cause can be used as an excuse to get naked. Back in 2019, Cambridge academic Victoria Bateman toured TV studios performing her attention-grabbing party trick: stripping off to reveal the message ‘Brexit Leaves Britain Naked’ daubed across her bosom.
No doubt many of those cheering Bateman on had spent the previous few years raging against that old tabloid favourite, the Page 3 Girl. From Samantha Fox in the 1980s to Jordan (a.k.a Katie Price) in the 1990s, ‘glamour modelling’, as it was euphemistically referred to, provided working class girls with a chance at fame and fortune. Price recalls that, when she started out posing for The Sun, she took home just £30 a shoot. But, following several rounds of breast-boosting surgery, she was earning seriously large sums of money. All of which was too much for the feminists who swooned and hollered until, in early 2015, The Sun retired Page 3 once and for all.
Feminists have long since got their knickers in a twist over breasts. In the hands of campaigners, boobs became political but, at very least, all sides acknowledged their existence. Until now. And this is why the pictures of breast-bound Emma Corrin should disturb us all.
Those behind ‘free the nipple’ were nauseatingly middle class but at least they admitted to being women and acknowledged that women’s bodies tend to come with breasts attached. The privately-educated Corrin ticks the thoroughly posh box but rather than getting her boobs out to promote a woke message, she’s flaunting their absence.
Corrin’s pictures don’t just normalise breast binding, they make it fashionable. She even promotes the name of the company that made the binder. Corrin may not have transitioned, or even be in the process of transitioning, but she is clearly identifying as a trans ally – someone who is, at best, deeply ambiguous about her sex and her body. She tells us not to assume she’s a woman and that good breasts are now bound up, unacknowledged, a shameful sign of being female.
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Ironically, Corrin – for all her qualifications and acting credentials – has more in common with the working class Page 3 girls than she might care to admit. Corrin’s topless shots might be more tastefully done but the message – look at me, hire me, pay me – is exactly the same. The only difference is, Corrin hides coyly behind a veil of woke. I’m progressive, she tells directors on the look-out. Cast me in your next film and you won’t have to worry about protests or boycotts – you’ll get praise and publicity by the bucketload.
But Corrin is far more of a threat to adolescent girls coming to terms with their changing bodies than Jordan ever was. Breast-binding can do lasting physical harm. Official NHS guidance says, “Binders may strain the back and distort breast tissue, making surgical reconstruction less successful.” Often, binding is a first step on the way to breast removal surgery – a procedure Juno star Elliot Page has recently undergone to much fanfare.
Twenty years ago, Jordan’s boob jobs prompted feminist pearl-clutching. This sends the wrong message, they warned: women should love the bodies they’ve got, not get surgery to change themselves. How things have changed. If surgery to make breasts bigger is bad, cutting them off entirely is, it seems, good. Bring back Page 3 and the sexy young women who had a laugh while raking in the dosh!
It is dangerous and irresponsible to make changing gender fashionable. We know that increasing numbers of young girls are seeking help with gender identity and wanting to transition. Feminists might argue about which boobs send the right political message, but surely we can all agree that it is better for young women to be happy as females, than to be encouraged down the path of transitioning.
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