Kochie, the boobs and the feminist bait

Article by Lauren Rosewarne /
The Conversation /
January 23, 2013 /

Click here to view original /

I’m a vegetarian who’s served as an apologist for KFC. I abhor the elevation of athletes to God-like status, but sure, I’ve defended Warnie. I actually quite like David Koch so writing a defence of him wouldn’t be impossible. And I’ll do a little of that. Along with spotlighting his el cheapo publicity stunts.

First, let’s backtrack a little.

The Kochie/boobgate scandal has been raging for a couple of days now and I’ve consciously resisted getting involved. I blame my fears of the mommy bloggers. Not because I have anything against them, of course, but being childless, my broaching parenting is done with both reluctance and great, great caution. That, and I really hate the feminist vs. feminist / mothers vs non-mothers wars: actively playing into that game bores me and I so hate the catfight frame.

But I did a couple of interviews on the topic today – in essence, I “broke my silence” – so I may as well write the piece.

I am, without question, supportive of those mothers who chose to breastfeed. Hell, I’m quite okay with non-mothers breastfeeding too. “Go for your lives,” as my grandmother would say: suck, be sucked, all good by me; I won’t ever question your right to offer up the nip’.

I happened to be watching Sunrise when Kochie made his comments. He was talking about a woman who had been breastfeeding at a public pool and he used the words classy and modest in a criticism of her act.

Classy and modest are inflammatory words to me – undoubtedly more so to militant mothers – and he was always going to get a rise. A rise I’m thoroughly convinced was orchestrated, but that’s a point I’ll return to later.

I don’t find breasts offensive. I have a set, a great number of us do, and they really should appear in one of those HSBC ads captioned by “food/sex/disease”: they are more value-laden than any other body part and this makes them a perpetually complicated display.While I may be all good with the boob, some people are much less so. And yet those people – who very well might be criticised as boring or retrograde or fuddy-duddies – have just as much a right to use public space as every nursing mother. In turn, they need to be free from images that they find offensive.

I was talking to a friend about this topic over lunch and she remarked how rare it is to see public breastfeeding. I’m not sure that it actually is all that rare: I’m more sure however, that most mothers during public feedings hold their babies against their bodies without much booby fanfare. I don’t think it’s about them being classy or, God-forbid modest, rather them simply taking into consideration their environment.

And we’re back to Kochie’s point.

Sure, he used some stupid words – deliberately, but I’ll get to that point in a minute – but he was simply trying to contend that one’s surroundings are worth thinking about. Are worth considering.

Isn’t this what I do every time I listen to my music via earphones rather than a boombox?

Is that really such a scandalous idea?

Ahh, but it was so scandalous because Kochie constructed it to be so. I’d argue that he deliberately used words that would inflame. He went on to read aloud text messages from those aggrieved and continued talking about the topic the following day. He kept stirring the pot until the nursing mothers felt compelled to lactate outside his studio.

I should divulge that I don’t actually have a problem with any of the Sunrise tactics: Kochie and Co can do whatever they like to promote their show and viewers can respond accordingly. What I do have a problem with however, is feminists taking the bait.

Last year in this space I wrote about the lingerie football stuff. About how this crap only ever makes papers because feminists naively keep buying into these carefully stage-managed faux-debates. By allowing Kochie’s comments to inflame, protesters are both validating his low-brow techniques and helping deliver him more publicity.

Who wins? Kochie solidifies his fan base: those who love him continue to see him as a host who dares to “go there”; those who hate him never watched the show anyway so he loses nothing.

I didn’t want to touch this topic; I’ve now devoted some 800 words to it: I too have bitten. But I think it’s really, really important that we feminists pick our battles carefully. Mine today centre on encouraging media literacy and familiarisation with the art of PR. Kochie and the Boobs are much less interesting.

© Lauren Rosewarne