Well, here we are again. A woman wears a dress, people with too much time on their hands complain. This week it’s Holly Willoughby’s turn, after she wore a plunging neckline on the final of The Voice last weekend. 139 people complained. So that’s 139 people who were so offended by a couple of inches of Holly’s skin, they went out of their way to look up the Ofcom phone number, pick up their phone, dial said number, and explain to some poor operator exactly what bothered them so much. I can only begin to imagine how that conversation went. “This is 8pm on Saturday night primetime television, she should be wearing a poloneck!”

Whilst it baffles me as to how you could be bothered to go through this rigmarole, it baffles me even more why it would even occur to them to be offended. She wasn’t naked. She didn’t have a ‘nipple slip’. You could see absolutely nothing inappropriate. It was literally just skin. But God forbid children should see a woman’s skin. I can only imagine their horror when they go to a swimming pool and see a woman in a costume- the lifeguards must be inundated with disgruntled swimmers. And summer holidays to the beach must be hell.

Thing is, we live in a world where lads mags are freely available in supermarkets nationwide, and boobs are published in The Sun every single day. Why is it acceptable to walk past bare boobs on your way to the fruit aisle whilst doing the weekly shop, but shocking to see a covered-up pair on television? Why is Holly Willoughby (who, ironically, has garnered the nickname ‘Holly Willoughbooby’ after her appearances on Celebrity Juice) so subject to criticism, whilst ‘Lucy, 23 from Harrogate’ goes about her daily business unaffected after whipping her Willoughboobies out for everyone to see?

I’m only glad the BBC issued such a ‘crowd pleasing’ apology. By crowd pleasing, I mean, clearly-not-giving-a-toss-but-apologising-anyway apology. “We’re sorry if some viewers found Holly’s dress to be unsuitable” is bullshit, corporate code for “we’re sorry some of you are idiots”. “We’re sorry some of you have no life and enough money to throw away ringing a premium rate phone line for no apparent reason”.

When it comes to something like this, the viewers involved most likely aren’t complaining based on feminist sensibilities of gender equality and the attempt to end the objectification of women. It’s more discomfort at the sight of a female body, and that troubles me. They attempt to regulate the ways in which the female body is represented, just like those who tut at women breastfeeding do. We may be in an age where women are ‘liberated’ (just turn any music channel on and you’ll be privy to this), but although women are allowed to wander round in hot pants, they’re still stigmatised for doing so. ‘Respectable’ women are still expected to cover up and behave like ‘proper’ women. Quiet, unremarkable. If you’re confident you’re not a ‘confident woman’, you’re ‘like a man’.

Holly is supposedly in the ‘good’, ‘respectable’ camp. A wife, mother, and presenter of daytime talk show This Morning, Holly is the picturesque ‘family’ television presenter. She is portrayed as inoffensive, as the girl next door. So is this why everyone was so offended, because her boobs meant she couldn’t be pigeon-holed into the ‘good girl’ category anymore? “Holly Willoughby doesn’t do that… she used to be a kid’s presenter!”

Whichever way you look at it, and for whatever reason these people chose to complain, the whole thing is quite frankly ridiculous. A load of blown out of proportion nonsense. Next time Janet Jackson’s nipple pops out on television let me know, until then no one else had better complain about a pair of boobs.


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