Boob-flashing and fury do not a lady royal make

Article by Lauren Rosewarne /
ABC The Drum /
September 18, 2012 /

Click here to view original /

If I were a celebrity and stalked perpetually by flash-happy creeps, I’d like to think I’d be careful about when and where I removed my bra. Secluded villa in the South of France or not.

On the other hand, everybody – celebrity or not – should be entitled to some privacy; should not have to fear a telephoto lens while sunning on a private property.

More interesting than debates over whether the Duchess of Cambridge should have been more pap savvy or about whether trashy mags could possibly trawl any lower, however, is the press coverage about Kate’s supposed humiliation.

As Kate and Wills graced the natives with their presence in the Solomon Islands, reports repeatedly told us that she kept cool, composed and donned a brave face in the face of her embarrassment. Reports revealed that the Duchess was simply mortified that the pictures were taken and published.

So why are we assuming she feels embarrassed? Why is the press running with the humiliation line? Of all the very many emotional reactions to the breach of her privacy, why are we assuming that shame is her default position?

Why not angry? Why not invaded?

Aside from perhaps slightly suspect judgment, Kate has nothing to feel embarrassed about. She is an attractive woman who was vacationing with her husband and she simply took off her bikini top. We weren’t given an insight into any weird or wonderful fetish, she didn’t reveal a grotesque disfigurement or a third or fourth nipple, her breasts were simply made visible. And then published without her consent.

Maybe I’m being optimistic here about audience intelligence, but I’m pretty sure we all already knew the future queen has breasts. No, not for a moment do I think we had a right to see them, but I didn’t see anything that shocked or alarmed, similarly I can’t think of any reason why the Duchess would feel shameful. Aside from the whole sunbathing thing – which perhaps isn’t the healthiest use of her time – she’s done nothing to warrant humiliation.

Ridiculous sure, but framing this story as one about an embarrassed princess is perfectly in line with the ever-encroaching conservative agenda that dictates that women, that girls, should conceal their bodies for fear of stirring the desire/wrath/rage of oglers. That yet again it is the woman who is being expected to take responsibility for the bad things that creeps do to her, else hang her head in repentance.

Framing this story as one of an embarrassed princess is also a way to dictate which emotions are appropriate – are dignified – for women to publicly feel. Apparently it’s feminine to be embarrassed. Being shy, being coy, being coquette, being modest are each feminine qualities, feminine virtues.

It’s feminine to blush, to feel responsible, to feel guilty and shameful about our sexuality.

Less feminine of course, is to be angry. To feel outrage, to seethe, to feel – and act – as though an assault has occurred.

Pitching this story as one of embarrassment and humiliation is in line with what our culture expects of refined women, of princesses. Boob-flashing and fury evidently do not a lady royal make.

Focusing on Kate’s “dignified” reaction avoids the big questions about sexism; about male paparazzi routinely photographing women. About men breaching women’s rights. And simultaneously works to perpetuate one very seedy violation.

© Lauren Rosewarne