© 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

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As a Conservative MP, I want Parliament to get a proper debate on Brexit

The government should consider a Green Paper before Article 50. 

I am very pleased that the government has listened to the weight of opinion across the House of Commons – and the country – by agreeing to put its plan for Brexit before Parliament and the country for scrutiny before Article 50 is triggered. Such responsiveness will stand the government in good stead. A confrontation with Parliament, especially given the paeans to parliamentary sovereignty we heard from Leave campaigners during the referendum, would have done neither the Brexit process nor British democracy any good.

I support the government’s amendment to Labour’s motion, which commits the House to respecting the will of the British people expressed in the referendum campaign. I accept that result, and now I and other Conservatives who campaigned to Remain are focused on getting the best deal for Britain; a deal which respects the result of the referendum, while keeping Britain close to Europe and within the single market.

The government needs to bring a substantive plan before Parliament, which allows for a proper public and parliamentary debate. For this to happen, the plan provided must be detailed enough for MPs to have a view on its contents, and it must arrive in the House far enough in advance of Article 50 for us to have a proper debate. As five pro-European groups said yesterday, a Green Paper two months before Article 50 is invoked would be a sensible way of doing it. Or, in the words of David Davis just a few days before he was appointed to the Cabinet, a “pre-negotiation white paper” could be used to similar effect.

Clearly there are divisions, both between parties and between Leavers and Remainers, on what the Brexit deal should look like. But I, like other members of the Open Britain campaign and other pro-European Conservatives, have a number of priorities which I believe the government must prioritise in its negotiations.

On the economy, it is vital that the government strives to keep our country fully participating in the single market. Millions of jobs depend on the unfettered trade, free of both tariff and non-tariff barriers, we enjoy with the world’s biggest market. This is absolutely compatible with the result, as senior Leave campaigners such as Daniel Hannan assured voters before the referendum that Brexit would not threaten Britain’s place in the single market. The government must also undertake serious analysis on the consequences of leaving the customs union, and the worrying possibility that the UK could fall out of our participation in the EU’s Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) with non-EU countries like South Korea.

If agreeing a new trading relationship with Europe in just two years appears unachievable, the government must look closely into the possibility of agreeing a transitional arrangement first. Michel Barnier, the European Commission’s chief negotiator, has said this would be possible and the Prime Minister was positive about this idea at the recent CBI Conference. A suitable transitional arrangement would prevent the biggest threat to British business – that of a "cliff edge" that would slap costly tariffs and customs checks on British exports the day after we leave.

Our future close relationship with the EU of course goes beyond economics. We need unprecedentedly close co-operation between the UK and the EU on security and intelligence sharing; openness to talented people from Europe and the world; and continued cooperation on issues like the environment. This must all go hand-in-hand with delivering reforms to immigration that will make the system fairer, many of which can be seen in European countries as diverse as the Netherlands and Switzerland.

This is what I and others will be arguing for in the House of Commons, from now until the day Britain leaves the European Union. A Brexit deal that delivers the result of the referendum while keeping our country prosperous, secure, open and tolerant. I congratulate the government on their decision to involve the House in their plan for Brexit - and look forward to seeing the details. 

Neil Carmichael is the Conservative MP for Stroud and supporter of the Open Britain campaign.