Gautaman Bhaskaran
an indian journalist
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© Copyright 2004





In Fashion…The cleavage convulsion

I have often heard women rave and rant about how they are reduced to mere physical objects.

Time was, and not long ago, when every blonde was considered dumb. The colour of her hair was what mattered, and her IQ was measured by how fair her tresses were. It took a long time for blondes to prove that they were not necessarily dull-witted. Or, they were as smart as any dark-haired girl was.

Somehow, even as the world progresses to a greater degree of sophistication, logic and scientific rationale, men seem to be nowhere inclined to look beyond a woman’s physical attributes. On the contrary, the male gaze appears more penetrating than ever before.

Of late, the woman’s cleavage is in focus. Not that it ever went out of focus. But the image of a well-endowed bosom now looks sharper, and, what is more, is hitting the headlines. In July, when British Home Secretary Jacqui Smith made her first public statement on national security, the cameras were travelling up and down her ample assets, leading to media and blog debate on whether she was distracting the Commons as she went about her business. As one writer quipped, “the British with their obsession for reducing everything to an allusion immediately termed the incident a storm in a D-cup”.

Close on the heels of Jacqui’s allure came the Hillary Clinton episode, when the American Senator allowed a bit of her cleavage to peep out of her dress. This became the country’s talking point, and the respected “Washington Post” had a nearly 800-word article on the Hillary cleavage. The paper compared her “exhibition” to a man with his fly unzipped!

But these two women are not the only ones in public circles to have had their breasts discussed and debated. It is said that the French presidential candidate, Segolene Royal, spoilt her chances when the paparazzi caught her in an itsy-bitsy bikini.

Although, there was widespread outrage to this sort of comments in the media – with “Globe” columnist Ellen Goodman saying that there should be a “booby prize’ for the best report of this kind – the world has not reconciled to the fact that a woman can be beautiful and brainy.

A woman whose cleavage shows is not necessarily foolish, and I suppose she is being only natural. I went to the Gucci Awards Function at Venice the other night, and found most women wearing daringly low-cut dresses, showing off their cleavages with gusto. And why not? The men appeared to be enjoying the sight, as they have been from time immemorial. Look at Raja Ravi Varma’s paintings: his women have always been big bosomed. Other artistes have been as fixated.

As one blogger put it, women have breasts. It should be an issue if they did not. Well, well. But this seems to be the season for cleavages and comments on cleavages.

(Webposted September 4 2007)