© Laura Dodsworth
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Bare Reality: 100 women and their breasts

A hundred women have bared their breasts and their souls as part of a project to further understanding of how women really feel about their breasts, and how they really look.

There has been so much public debate about breasts recently, from Free the Nipple to No More Page 3, from breastfeeding selfies on Facebook to Rihanna on the red carpet. I think the time has never been better to hear how women really feel about their breasts, and to see how they really look.

I have always been fascinated by the dichotomy between women’s personal lives and how they are depicted by the media; between how we feel about breasts privately and how they are presented for public consumption. We see images of breasts everywhere in the media and yet “real” breasts are taboo, hidden away beneath clothes and bras.

“Bare Reality: 100 women and their breasts” explores how women feel about their breasts. 100 women bare all, bravely sharing un-airbrushed photographs of their breasts alongside intensely personal stories about their breasts, bodies and lives.

Growing up, I never thought my breasts were very attractive. They didn’t seem to measure up to the ones I saw all around me. I grew up believing my breasts were objects that should be “perfect” and desirable for men, and that they fell a long way short. The breasts we see in the media are often surgically enhanced, professionally lit, and photoshopped. Airbrushed breasts, belonging to models and actresses, not only create an unflattering comparison but present an unobtainable ideal. If a model can’t live up to the ideal of perfect breasts, how can anyone else? In creating Bare Reality I felt compelled to share un-airbrushed photographs of breasts.

We love telling our stories, and hearing other people’s stories. I wanted to re-humanise women through honest photography, present our breasts as they really are and burst the “fantasy bubble” of the youthful, idealised and sexualised breasts presented by the media. But the interviews are at the heart of the project. Bare Reality explores what it means to be a woman, and makes women subject, not object. Breasts are catalysts for discussing intimate aspects of women’s lives, such as growing up, sexuality, motherhood, breastfeeding, relationships, body image, health, cancer and ageing.

Creating Bare Reality has been an incredible two year adventure. I’ve met some amazing women, I am deeply grateful to them. Their stories have moved me, opened my eyes, inspired me, and healed me. They bared their breasts and their souls. I am honoured that they shared so much with me. I feel tender about my own experience as a woman and full of admiration and warmth for female experience.

I hope that you will be moved by the wonderful women who took part. I hope Bare Reality can transform you in some way.

This is how we look. This is how we feel.

Support “Bare Reality” on Kickstarter, and pre-order your copy of the book. £1.00 from every book sold will be donated to Breast Cancer UK.


The New Statesman will be publishing stories from Bare Reality over the next month. Bookmark this page or return to this post for the next installment.

1: I’m one of the lucky ones

2: Breasts make you feel like a proper woman

3: God gives life and creates, and as a woman you can connect with that

4: Breasts are an integral part of my identity as a woman

5: My milk went when Hitler marched in

Photo: Getty Images
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The buck doesn't stop with Grant Shapps - and probably shouldn't stop with Lord Feldman, either

The question of "who knew what, and when?" shouldn't stop with the Conservative peer.

If Grant Shapps’ enforced resignation as a minister was intended to draw a line under the Mark Clarke affair, it has had the reverse effect. Attention is now shifting to Lord Feldman, who was joint chair during Shapps’  tenure at the top of CCHQ.  It is not just the allegations of sexual harrassment, bullying, and extortion against Mark Clarke, but the question of who knew what, and when.

Although Shapps’ resignation letter says that “the buck” stops with him, his allies are privately furious at his de facto sacking, and they are pointing the finger at Feldman. They point out that not only was Feldman the senior partner on paper, but when the rewards for the unexpected election victory were handed out, it was Feldman who was held up as the key man, while Shapps was given what they see as a relatively lowly position in the Department for International Development.  Yet Feldman is still in post while Shapps was effectively forced out by David Cameron. Once again, says one, “the PM’s mates are protected, the rest of us shafted”.

As Simon Walters reports in this morning’s Mail on Sunday, the focus is turning onto Feldman, while Paul Goodman, the editor of the influential grassroots website ConservativeHome has piled further pressure on the peer by calling for him to go.

But even Feldman’s resignation is unlikely to be the end of the matter. Although the scope of the allegations against Clarke were unknown to many, questions about his behaviour were widespread, and fears about the conduct of elections in the party’s youth wing are also longstanding. Shortly after the 2010 election, Conservative student activists told me they’d cheered when Sadiq Khan defeated Clarke in Tooting, while a group of Conservative staffers were said to be part of the “Six per cent club” – they wanted a swing big enough for a Tory majority, but too small for Clarke to win his seat. The viciousness of Conservative Future’s internal elections is sufficiently well-known, meanwhile, to be a repeated refrain among defenders of the notoriously opaque democratic process in Labour Students, with supporters of a one member one vote system asked if they would risk elections as vicious as those in their Tory equivalent.

Just as it seems unlikely that Feldman remained ignorant of allegations against Clarke if Shapps knew, it feels untenable to argue that Clarke’s defeat could be cheered by both student Conservatives and Tory staffers and the unpleasantness of the party’s internal election sufficiently well-known by its opponents, without coming across the desk of Conservative politicians above even the chair of CCHQ’s paygrade.

Stephen Bush is editor of the Staggers, the New Statesman’s political blog.