Halsey’s album cover needs a response
By, Matthew Fraser, Editor in Chief
Why should someone be so worried that college students will have their eyes/spirits/souls hurt by a picture of just a single breast?
In our last issue here at the Other Press, we featured a review of Halsey’s newest album If I Can’t Have Love, I want Power. The review itself raised no issues, but our featuring of the album cover did. On it, Halsey is seen seated on a throne holding a child with her left breast bare and exposed. This female breast caused concern to some as they felt that it was a sexual image and therefore (potentially) inappropriate for a student newspaper.
It is important to point out that Halsey herself intended for the cover and the entire album itself to be about the: “Joys and horrors of pregnancy and childbirth.” A fact she made clear in the Instagram post debuting the album’s very cover. Later in the same post, Halsey points out that: “We have a long way to go with eradicating the social stigma around bodies & breastfeeding.” Clearly, the artist herself was fully aware of and anticipated the potential for controversy and intended for her art and efforts to advance a non-sexualized image of a women’s body.
But it’s not always up to an artist to determine how the world reacts to their work and their ideas. We live within cultural boundaries and some ideas regarding bodies are outside of those lines. For many people, every image, any hint, even the very thought of a women’s breast is sexual. Now, I’m not personally a feminist, but I agree with the argument that a woman breastfeeding her child is not sexual at all; further still, the image of a women’s breast should not be the sexual taboo that it is here in North America.
Maybe part of the issue is the inherent separate treatment of male nipples and female nipples. There is and has been for a very long time the idea that a topless woman is indecent or inappropriate. This idea and more importantly, the hypocrisy of it reached its zenith in the #Freethenipple movement.
In an Instagram post highlighting this precise hypocrisy, non-binary model Rain Dove plays basketball topless. Their point was simple: if someone who identified as a man did this, it wouldn’t be a problem, why is it a problem when they do it? Surely, it’s not the identity of the individual as that would render Dove’s action inoffensive. It must simply come down to a few standards prevalent in our culture revolving around: “Swinging sacks of potential food providing flesh;” and like many traditional lines, these ideas are arbitrary.
However, the context of Halsey’s album cover was about motherhood and in the artist’s eyes, directly related to breastfeeding. I have yet to find an article that argues that breastfeeding is unnatural or detrimental on a scientific basis. The few that argue against describing breastfeeding as natural do so due to the minority of people who use this language to paint vaccines as unnatural. Suffice to say, a mother feeding her child with breast milk isn’t itself problematic. So why then has our hypersexualized view of a woman’s body invaded the intimate bond between a mother and her child? Why then should someone be so worried that college students will have their eyes/spirits/souls hurt by a picture of just a single breast?
Clearly, I will not win this war by myself; thousands, if not millions of posts on social media have tried long before I wrote this Lettitor. Still, I do think it’s worth pointing out that one female breast, two female breasts, even nipples aren’t inherently sexual. Some pictures are, but it’s not just the body parts that make it so.
Check out the original review here