IT’S been an interesting week for boobs.

A brave Man on the Internet kicked things off by asking the following question.

“Why do women go on about equality but wear clothes showing a lot of flesh in the shoulder, leg and often bosom department. It’s wonderful to see but doesn’t this negate their attempts at equality?”

He received 16,000 replies to that tweet. While the overwhelming majority were critical of his stance, women should really be thanking him for his wisdom.

Now we know that the gender pay gap, maternity discrimination, violence against women, unpaid care work and the underrepresentation of women on boards and in public life can be all be solved if women just pay closer attention to how much of our “bosom department” is visible.

Coincidentally, the gentleman who asked the question also looks like somebody who would have almost certainly been frothing at the mouth when it was announced that the “national institution” of topless photos on Page 3 was to be scrapped.

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We should know the rules by now anyway. Women’s bodies are to be used and enjoyed by men, on their terms. The choice of women to wear anything from a short skirt to a niqab brings the ire of a patriarchal society that sets the boundaries of what should be shown and when: when it is immodest, and when modesty becomes something that should be punished.

We bombard women and girls with images of perfection and negative commentary on the diversity of their bodies and then act confused when some of those messages invariably filter through. Women are judged for their looks but castigated if they show any outward sign of being happy with themselves. Young women and girls are disproportionately and hysterically criticised for so-called “selfie-culture” while being objectified and harassed and groped and blamed for it.

Boobs are political. They are a staple of the advertising industry; a product to be consumed, coveted and used to decorate. They are scrutinised and shamed by the media, and in the disingenuously named “women’s magazines”.

They bring with them a lifetime of unsolicited comment. Many women will tell you that their first experience of street harassment came with the arrival of their breasts, while they were still at school. From men old enough to be their fathers shouting lewd comments as punishment for existing in public spaces while possessing such an overt symbol of womanhood.

This week, airline KLM found itself in the middle of a Twitter tornado for its response to a question about its breastfeeding policy. They stated: “Breastfeeding is permitted at KLM flights. However, to ensure that all our passengers of all backgrounds feel comfortable on board, we may request a mother to cover herself while breastfeeding, should other passengers be offended by this.”

We know that one of the reasons breastfeeding rates are so low is because of the nervousness new mothers feel about feeding in public.

Incidentally, by the time most mothers are ready to feed in public, they have learned how to do so with maximum efficiency. It should come as no surprise to anybody that feeding mothers already do all they can to “cover up”.

They don’t want Derek in Row H seeing their breast. They just want to feed their hungry child; to soothe them when they are upset, and to help relieve the discomfort of high altitudes on their baby’s ears. Derek can suck his Werther’s Original but the baby needs its milk.

There is something fundamentally wrong with a society that is happy to monetise and objectify breasts while simultaneously stigmatising breastfeeding.

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Think of the worst plane journey you ever had. Did it involve you staring at a woman feeding her child and being traumatised by catching a glimpse of flesh? No. More likely it was the rowdy, aggressive and drunken behaviour of your fellow passengers that raised your blood pressure.

The reason some men are irritated by breastfeeding is because it is not for them. It is not for their gaze or their pleasure or their consumption. Any genuine issues over the so-called “immodesty’ of it are down to an inability to see breasts as anything other than an object of sexual desire.

Here’s a radical idea: stop making women’s bodies and breasts a point for debate. Stop ascribing value to our contributions or our activism based on the percentage of our skin that you can see at any given time.

Understand that breastfeeding women are not trying to titillate you or doom your mortal soul. They are just feeding their hungry babies. Unless you are offering a comfortable seat, a glass of water or a nod of encouragement: leave them be. Put a blanket over your face if you feel compelled to stare or complain to over-worked airline staff that the nasty woman and her baby are making you feel uncomfortable.

Extend this principle to all your interactions with women. If you feel the sudden urge to query what they are wearing, showing or covering up, pause for a second and think.

Ask yourself: is this any of my business? Does this woman I don’t know really need to hear my input or opinion?

Be honest with yourself. Are you coming across as a bit of a tit?