Last night I dreamt that I was at my old dance school: it was the summer show rehearsals and I was parading around topless. No top, no bra, zilch. As were about twenty percent of the girls at the show. In the dream we were all taken up on stage and ridiculed in front of everyone, made to be embarrassed for baring our chests and shamed. We were told to cover up. This was a very strange dream for me for three reasons:
Number one; as anyone who has danced will know, when it comes to quick changes, tits fly about everywhere. I have seen almost everyone who I danced with boobs, and them mine, and this was completely normal. Getting ready to get back on stage in two minutes was far more a priority than delicately covering my nipples from my fellow naked friends gaze. Yet in my dream, nudity was foreign.
Number two; I hate my boobs. I am so self-conscious of them. There is no way you’d find me walking around anywhere topless out of choice (quick changes being the one exception). Yet in my dream, they were free as anything and I did not have a care or worry in the world.
Number three; I would not consider myself a feminist (or maybe I just don’t like labels), but this dream was definitely clinging onto some very feminist view points and ideas. It instantly brought me thoughts about the “free the nipple” campaign and the basically topless photo of RiRi which is currently being blasted over social media (before rapidly being removed).
But anyway, it got me thinking. And for what was supposed to be a relaxing Friday morning off work it got me thinking hard. Truthfully, I wanted to be my dream version of myself. How did she have the confidence to walk around completely topless, not scared of judgement? And I wanted to stop my dream society. How dare they tell us to cover up and portray our breasts as a negative!
Yet this is society. This wasn’t a made up dream world. If I was to walk down the street topless this is exactly the response I’d get. And if I was to post a photo that dare showed my nipples on Instagram? They’d have it removed faster than I could scream the words “free the nip-”.
Society is messed up.
I think half the reason I am self-conscious of my breasts is because if anyone any female shows a sneak peak of nipple the world goes nuts. We are made to shame our own boobs and hide them away (unless for sex, in that case whip them out gals!). In fact, at my last cheer competition mid toe-touch my nip popped out the top of my leotard, and popped straight back in in about 0.0007 seconds. But that was it: our outfits were “not suitable for family viewing”. Kit warning it was. How ridiculous.
The argument against showing tits and nipples is of course that they are sexual. But are they really? It’s an argument that has been had a gazillion times and one that will happen a gazillion times more. But the bottom line? Of course not; they are sexualised by society. And there was a time oh way back when where men’s nipples were sexualised too. But of course, today seeing topless men is the norm. Yet my nipples meant our costumes weren’t family appropriate? And no doubt if I walked around Leeds city centre with my nips out men would oogle. They’d be a “distraction”. It would be “inappropriate” as breasts are sexual.
But who is defining what we see as sexual? If the only time men are going to see nipples is in porn or when having sex, of course female nipples will be sexualised. Duh! If women were to parade around topless every day? Soon this too would be the norm and women would not be so objectified.
During my frantic morning Googling (I don’t think I have ever laid my eyes on so many nipples before 10am), I found this hilarious post on Instagram by Matt McGorry where he uploaded a topless photo of himself, with the nipples of Miley Cyrus and Chrissy Teigan edited over his own. I won’t bombard you with the whole caption (it’s rather lengthy) but here’s a snippet:
“This is a photo of me from my bodybuilding years, circa 2010. And these are the nipples of @mileycyrus and @chrissyteigen (I hope you don’t mind me borrowing them!) from their Instagram posts that were removed due to the dangerousness of their visible female nips. Can’t you tell by how perverse my photo has become without my asexual male nipples?”
The post is so ridiculously sarcastic it makes the point clear and simple: these female nipples do not look at all sexual when placed on his male torso. Nipples, be them male or female, are not particularly sexy. A nipple is a nipple, so let’s just treat them fairly.
I don’t think we will ever reach a point in my lifetime where it is completely normal for men and women to walk around topless. Did you know it’s actually legal to walk around topless in the UK? No, me neither (not until my serious Googling session this morning). But as legal as it is it’s anything but socially acceptable.
I’m not saying every woman should walk around topless; like I said at this point in time I wouldn’t have the confidence to do so myself (once again let’s blame society). But to have the option, that is a great thing. If all my friends were walking around topless, hell I might even feel I can. I’d save money on bras and have no nasty tan lines, whoop whoop! But with all tanning, bra shopping issues aside, equality does matter and it is important. And while nipples will always remain, well, just nipples, they stand now for something so much more. An acceptance.
So, while this was all whizzing around my head, I had one last question to ask myself: wait, does this make me a feminist? To me, feminism has always seemed too radical; feminists seem to be as much about gender equality as they are about shaming men. They don’t want to be equal, they want to be better.
I don’t want to be better. My nipples are no better than yours. Or his, or hers. Just as I am not better than you, and you are not better than me. So all labels aside, let’s strive for equality. And if you want to get your nips out, be brave. Break the rules. Here’s to us.