Boobs, Feminism, and Gender Ideology

Women, you should not eat this. Women, you cannot say those. Women, you cannot wear that. My dear reader, man or woman: these are strands of social discourse about women – but not mine.

Vanity Fair recently published several photographs of Emma Watson, one of which ‘contentiously’ shows a major part of her body: Boobs. The photograph led to societal backlash. In particular, one of the responses from the Twitter-verse reads:

In summary of such anti-boobs argument with reference to feminism, some think that if feminists – like Watson herself – want to empower women, showing side-boobs will only ‘weaken’ the feminist activism.

I am a male feminist, and simultaneously a straight man; I also want to help empower women. Hence, according to Hartley-Brewer’s idea of feminism and gender, I should not have sex with any woman in my entire life and instead advise women not to have sex ever, because having sex and getting pregnant would ‘weaken’ the social statuses of women. Dear reader, I understand, it certainly sounds ridiculous.

In all seriousness, the strong reactions to Emma Watson’s photograph actually suggest a larger issue than her feminist identity. It re-introduces to us the societal phenomenon in which patriarchal values and gendered ideologies remain dominant: women’s freedom of choice is still governed by the fossilised discourse that includes ‘mansplaining’ and ‘you-should-not-wear’. To dig deeper, we shall look at the ironic examples in society.

On the one hand: Too much ‘boobs’

When we’re like…we both have nothing to wear LOL @emrata

A post shared by Kim Kardashian West (@kimkardashian) on

Last year in May, Daily Mail columnist Piers Morgan bombarded Kim Kardashian and Emily Ratajkowski for their ‘nonsense’ selfie in the bathroom. In addition, Morgan denounced also other female celebrities who (in his opinion) revealed too much of their anatomy.

Such recognition of the selfie received substantial endorsement in the Twitter-verse and other spheres of interaction. In spite of the defence by my species of feminists who argue that such actions empower women’s freedom of mobility, conservative spectators – such as Morgan – believe that it ‘defied’ feminism.

Hence, according to the champions of feminism vis-à-vis anti-boobs, it is logically true that they want women to wear more. Yet, on the contrary, women wearing too much is unfortunately condemned too.

On the other hand: Too little ‘boobs’

Source: askmen

Last year, three male policewomen (or male policeperson) – who were armed with pepper spray – forced a woman to remove part of her clothes in Nice, France. In fact, this is one of the many instances of patriarchal coercion.

The burkini has been progressively banned in many regions of the world – in particular, France – mainly due to the escalating threat of global ‘Islamic’ terrorism. Nevertheless, I have two points against the political notion.

First – some digression, though – terrorism and Islam are theoretically unrelated. Islamisation of terrorism not only humiliates all our Muslim friends, it helps legitimise terrorists who exploit the holiness of Islam as the basis of their violence; in fact, almost no religion will ever condone such behaviour.

Second, for goodness’ sake, did they not want women (including Emma Watson) to wear more because they revealed too much? Or can they decide when women should reveal and conceal their boobs? Notice that ‘they’ include not only the aforementioned men, but also some traditionalist women.

Everyone: Shut the Hell Up about the Female Body

The true objective of feminism – the to-achieve-list of feminists – are equal freedom(s) for all genders in all aspects of society: freedom of choice, freedom of speech, the right to vote, freedom of mobility and all-you-name-it.

Women can attend universities; women can be political leaders; women can be entrepreneurs; women can be better than men based upon an equal platform for professional contestation – all while choosing what they want to wear, eat, and say.

Cleavage? She remains the prime minister of the United Kingdom. Source: The Daily Star

Most importantly, women can decide what to do with their bodies. Women can wear skirts without being stared at. Women can reveal body parts without being sexually harassed. Women’s attire shall not be scapegoated in cases of sexual offence; rapists should be punished, instead. A woman need not be lectured by any other human (including other women, indeed) on the ‘appropriateness’ of her appearance.

Boobs and feminism are compatible: in fact, they even co-exist. On an urgent note, it is such societal reactions to Watson’s ‘display’ of her boobs that manifest the stubborn presence of gender inequality in the modern world. In response to that, we must not wait any longer to inform everyone in our circles of daily conversation: just like men, women and female feminists alike have complete autonomy of their own bodies. Women are also humans.

Written by Teoh Sing Fei

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions or positions of the editorial team at IGNITE.

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"All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others." (George Orwell, in Animal Farm, 1945)

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  • March 7, 2017

    Anonymous Goat

    Great article. I have a question though: who draws the line on what is appropriate and what is not, and how do we know when we’ve crossed the line?

    “A woman need not be lectured by any other human (including other women, indeed) on the ‘appropriateness’ of her appearance.”

    Is it appropriate for a woman to go to a bank with her vagina shown in clear view? What about a man with his penis hanging out in front of a kindergarten? These may sound like silly questions but I am genuinely curious about what your answer to these would be.