Saturday, February 23, 2013

Bare chests and exposed breasts.


I’m stuck on an issue which on the surface seems lightweight but for the moment it won’t leave me alone.  I’ve mentioned before the No place for sheep blog, where its curator, Jennifer Wilson,  puts up posts from time to time on controversial and to me fascinating topics. 

Recently she posted a picture of one Damon Young, philosopher from Melbourne university and a chap who has of late developed a reputation as a social commentator and thinker at the forefront of our community.  In other words his popularity is on the rise.  He’s also the father of two young children, with an accomplished wife.  An all round good guy.

Damon put up a photo of himself, which he took with his i-phone, and posted it on his website and on twitter.  In this photo he is naked from the waist up.  It seems he took the picture almost as an experiment but casually and I gather it might have something to do with the furore raging here in Melbourne over the rights of women to breastfeed in public.

I suppose it comes down to the business of bearing your breasts in public. Damon can expose his chest comfortably with little fear of derision,  but women as a rule do not feel as free and easy about exposing theirs. 

In her beautifully written blog post, Jennifer Wilson wonders about why this might be. 

This post has hooked into my preoccupations of late with the ways in which many men seem so much more comfortable in commanding the limelight, not all of them mind you, but as a group in contrast to the majority of women who command the limelight in a different way, if at all, primarily as objects of beauty. 

I could go on for ages about this but it’s not what troubles me. 

I’m troubled by the fuss that erupted in the comments stream of Jennifer Wilson’s blog when I dared to suggest that the conversation about what to me was an important topic seemed to have become derailed into banter, light mockery and what I thought of as a sort of posturing, which I ascribed to the largely male commenters –like a posse of ‘bare-chested Damons’. 

This need to make light of the topic I thought might have to do with infantile anxiety aroused in relation to the notion of female breasts and I said as much, politely I hope. 

I do not know in fact whether the commenters on Jennifer’s blog are male or female because they do not represent themselves as a rule by their own blogs.  Many comment only and hide behind avatars and often unusual names. 

But they are forceful in their views and dare I say they clobbered me, at least one person clobbered me, in my feeble attempts at protest.

It’s not the first time I’ve found myself risking decapitation for daring to speak out, and it’s not the first time I’ve wondered why it is that the very thing I’m protesting about seems to happen. 

It’s not the first time I’ve found myself in trouble in the blogosphere and no doubt it won't be the last. 

I remember my timidity when I first dared to speak on line, how fearful I was of upsetting anyone.  Now I’m less fearful but still conflict can cut through me even as I tell myself it does not matter a jot. 

These people are virtual people.  If I met them in real life I might find myself drawn to them, even though online we have crossed swords.  These people might in real life be more timid and shy than they are on the page.

It could be worse.  I could be living in a country where women are not allowed to speak at all.  Not just women, but people of particular classes, religions or sects.  It need not simply be between the men and the women. 

It reminds me of the war between the big endians and the little endians in Gullivers Travels.  The big endians believed we should approach our boiled eggs from the big end, while the little endians had formed the view you can only eat an egg from the little end down.  This was enough to cause a war. 

I have answered my own question.  I shall regard this dispute on line as akin to the one in Gulliver’s Travels.  It is such a trivial concern in the scheme of things however much it points to bigger and more concerning issues.  
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