Do we free the nipple? That is the wrong question
I recently hosted a pool party where I wore a one-piece swim suit. Yeah, I know what you must be thinking, how is this news, right? To me it was. It is. It’s news that the one-piece suit I wore covered everything an olympic swimsuit would cover, except the liner cup of my breast. That’s all. The swimsuit was cut straight down the middle, resting on the waist. The bottom was a lovely mismatch of funky patch work.
I always love the feeling of my breasts released from the confining of a bra. Yet, I am also thankful to cry out for a bra when they ache; like there must be a heavy object lurking inside needing support. I can feel all these things about my body because it’s mine.
Let’s set the scene. I’m sitting in my lovely swimsuit. I love this swimsuit. I’m by the pool and the water is beautifully blue. Enter the patriarchy.
Someone sits down next to me, and asks, “Explain your swimsuit?”
Suddenly I’m looking down at my body and black begins to climb up my legs and over my stomach, like quick sand. Now this isn’t a Stranger Things moment, it’s not a supernatural expression of oppressive powers.
It’s words. Bundles and bundles of words.
Slut. Attention seeker. Attention whore. She can’t be a feminist and wear that.
Sex. Object. She wants it. She’s begging for it.
They overcome my body, filling every inch with filth. More people enter and I’m clouded. All I can see is the words, no individual faces. The words seep into your eyes and fog your view. You see nothing, but black.
So, this is a dramatic re-telling of how it feels for me when my body has labels. When my breasts are half visible in my home, around friends, and that requires explaining.
Next to me a man sits with a bare chest, nipples exposed. Why is this you may wonder?
His body is not a symbol for sexual pleasure.
It can be. But it can also be natural, it can be fit or unhealthy.
A women’s body can only be sexual. That is it. Her body is used to gratify sexual desire, however it’s not her own. It’s a man’s. Prime examples of this is lingerie football (popular in the States) and advertisement using the female body to sell cologne, beer, cars.
My partner found this image on Instagram the other day and was shocked by the comments.
We see here a dialogue between two women, one believes nipples can only be sexual and one believes they exist outside of sexualisation. That if your nipples are exposed or visible through a shirt whilst you’re working out or at the beach or simply walking to the shops – it’s provocative. Well, it’s not. She’s probably just enjoying the wind on her nipples, and celebrating her release from the bra.
The recent stir of what you might call a 4th wave of feminism, questioning issues of consent, holding sexual predators accountable and listening to women when they tell us their stories – is all a representation of a new bridge we built towards freedom for women. However, we can do better. We can go deeper.
Why at the beach, is a man free to bare his nipples to the world, whereas women are restricted? And this is not a question of whether it’s healthy for society to free the nipple or contain it. It’s about lifting sexual stigma off women’s bodies and allowing them a choice.
To choose, without being held captive by words or phrases like, slut, bitch, attention seeker, I can’t have my children seeing those.
A woman who wears a bra can be a feminist. A woman who doesn’t wear a bra can be a feminist. A woman who wishes to sunbath without a top on can be a feminist. A woman who decides to sunbath wearing a shirt can be a feminist.
There should be no guidelines for feminism, there are no boxes to tick off.
At the moment, I see womankind as if they are in a glass tank. Women observe the world, have opinions about it but all along we are unknowingly fed information from the onlookers. The patriarchy. The other half.
Womankind live off a diet of unwanted sexual advances that are excused depending on how we are dressed or whether we are drunk. We are told that women who don’t wear makeup look “tired” or are in need of a makeover. We are told that women who wear too much makeup are vane and self seeking. We are fed that women’s bodies are something that should be covered and only revealed for sexual pleasure or in one’s own privacy.
Without freedom from these thoughts, how can we ever become capable of making our own decisions? Thinking for ourselves and acting for ourselves is what makes us human. It’s what makes us thriving individuals of society.
We, as active thinkers and listeners can move forward to breakdown the prison of patriarchal oppression, and rise as women of freedom and kindness, to forge the path for women to make their own decisions – without internalised stigma – for their body, their appearance and their mind.
Get to know the editor
Sean Bradley is the editor behind the scenes at Fatally Narrow. He is a true literature enthusiast and feminist comrade, who never fails to pick up on my misplaced commas.