© 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.

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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
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Why isn't Labour putting forward Corbynite candidates?

Despite his successes as a candidate, the organisational victories have gone the way of Corbyn's opponents. 

The contest changes, but the result remains the same: Jeremy Corbyn’s preferred candidate defeated in a parliamentary selection. Afzhal Khan is Labour’s candidate in the Manchester Gorton by-election and the overwhelming favourite to be the seat’s next MP.

Although Khan, an MEP, was one of  the minority of Labour’s European MPs to dissent from a letter from the European parliamentary Labour party calling for Jeremy Corbyn to go in the summer of 2016, he backed Andy Burnham and Tom Watson in 2015, and it is widely believed, fairly or unfairly, that Khan had, as one local activist put it, “the brains to know which way the wind was blowing” rather than being a pukka Corbynite.

For the leader’s office, it was a double defeat;  their preferred candidate, Sam Wheeler, was kept off the longlist, when the party’s Corbynsceptics allied with the party’s BAME leadership to draw up an all ethnic minority shortlist, and Yasmine Dar, their back-up option, was narrowly defeated by Khan among members in Manchester Gorton.

But even when the leadership has got its preferred candidate to the contest, they have been defeated. That even happened in Copeland, where the shortlist was drawn up by Corbynites and designed to advantage Rachel Holliday, the leader’s office preferred candidate.

Why does the Labour left keep losing? Supporters combination of bad luck and bad decisions for the defeat.

In Oldham West, where Michael Meacher, a committed supporter of Jeremy Corbyn’s, was succeeded by Jim McMahon, who voted for Liz Kendall, McMahon was seen to be so far ahead that they had no credible chance of stopping him. Rosena Allin-Khan was a near-perfect candidate to hold the seat of Tooting: a doctor at the local hospital, the seat’s largest employer, with links to both the Polish and Pakistani communities that make up the seat’s biggest minority blocs.  Gillian Troughton, who won the Copeland selection, is a respected local councillor.

But the leadership has also made bad decisions, some claim.  The failure to get a candidate in Manchester Gorton was particularly egregious, as one trade unionist puts it: “We all knew that Gerald was not going to make it [until 2020], they had a local boy with good connections to the trade unions, that contest should have been theirs for the taking”. Instead, they lost control of the selection panel because Jeremy Corbyn missed an NEC meeting – the NEC is hung at present as the Corbynsceptics sacrificed their majority of one to retain the chair – and with it their best chance of taking the seat.

Others close to the leadership point out that for the first year of Corbyn’s leadership, the leader’s office was more preoccupied with the struggle for survival than it was with getting more of its people in. Decisions in by-elections were taken on the hop and often in a way that led to problems later down the line. It made sense to keep Mo Azam, from the party’s left, off the shortlist in Oldham West when Labour MPs were worried for their own seats and about the Ukip effect if Labour selected a minority candidate. But that enraged the party’s minority politicians and led directly to the all-ethnic-minority shortlist in Manchester Gorton.

They also point out that the party's councillor base, from where many candidates are drawn, is still largely Corbynsceptic, though they hope that this will change in the next round of local government selections. (Councillors must go through a reselection process at every election.)

But the biggest shift has very little to do with the Labour leadership. The big victories for the Labour left in internal battles under Ed Miliband were the result of Unite and the GMB working together. Now they are, for various reasons, at odds and the GMB has proven significantly better at working shortlists and campaigning for its members to become MPs.  That helps Corbynsceptics. “The reason why so many of the unions supported Jeremy the first time,” one senior Corbynite argues, “Is they wanted to move the Labour party a little bit to the left. They didn’t want a socialist transformation of the Labour party. And actually if you look at the people getting selected they are not Corbynites, but they are not Blairites either, and that’s what the unions wanted.”

Regardless of why, it means that, two years into Corbyn’s leadership, the Labour left finds itself smaller in parliament than it was at the beginning.  

Stephen Bush is special correspondent at the New Statesman. His daily briefing, Morning Call, provides a quick and essential guide to British politics.