‘Free the Nipple’ sparks debate, abolishes prejudice

Elaine Sine, co-opinions editor

The less clothing I wear, the more comfortable I am. In fact, when I was a toddler, every time my family wrestled me into sweaters and jeans during the winter, I squirmed out of them in exchange for a tiny t-shirt and shorts, thinking only of my comfort and not if it was enough to brace the cold.

Therefore, while scrolling through my Facebook one evening and landing on a video titled, “These women are going topless, but it’s for a very good reason!”, I watched as the Free the Nipple campaign merged into my knowledge, thus unabashedly becoming a supporter of the movement.

Free The Nipple is a national and worldwide equality movement meant to defy the stigma against the female body, according to freethenipple.com. Women walk around topless to protest the censorship of their nipples and general repression of their decisions regarding their bodies. Even in states where being topless is legal, such as New York, women still get arrested.

However, although my protest against clothing wasn’t problematic for me as a child, it became more so as I grew older. It actually became very “slutty”, as noted by many adults and former friends. Moreover, after voicing my support for Free the Nipple, I began receiving lewd and sexually-suggestive support or undisguised confusion for my opinion.

For those of you who disagree or sexualize women’s rights to be topless, let me ask this: why are nipples sexual?

Scratch that. Why are women’s nipples sexual, since it’s perfectly fine for men to walk around without a shirt?

In a YouTube video created by Mic, these were what some men felt about the idea of women walking around topless:

“I would be like, ‘I can’t take my eyes off them.’”

“I think it would cause a lot of attention, probably distractions.”

“Women are more sexual than men.”

Excuse me? Is it sexual or distracting when men walk around with their nipples fully bare to the world when they go to the beach or run around the block? Or has that become a norm you’ve grown accustomed to?

Until 1936, it wasn’t legal for men to be half-naked, according to freethenipple.com. So 75 years ago, it actually wasn’t normal for men to be without a shirt, either. It’s only because men had fought for this right that males today have the blessed freedom to walk around without caging themselves in a shameful stigma.

Plus, breasts are not fundamentally sexual in other cultures, not for men nor women. In her book, Breasts: The Women’s Perspective on an American Obsession, Carolyn Latteier cites an interview she had with an anthropologist in Mali, an African country where women walk around without having to cover their breasts.

“[The women in Mali are] always feeding their babies,” Latteier wrote. “When she told them that in our culture men are fascinated with breasts, there was an instant of shock. The women burst out laughing. They laughed so hard, they fell on the floor. They said, ‘You mean, men act like babies?’”

Overall, I’m not just blaming the attitudes of men who oversexualize my and many other women’s choices regarding the amount of skin we show. Women also like attacking other women based on their clothing or lack thereof.

I’ve been called a slut or slutty on multiple occasions, almost exclusively by girls and women. Not on the basis of any sexual promiscuity (which is also perfectly fine, but that’s a whole other column), but because of the clothes I’ve worn in the past. Whether my shirts too sleeveless, my shorts too short, or my clothes just labeled to be overall “revealing,” I was plainly ridiculed because of layers of clothes I didn’t wear.

One of the first times I wore a mini-skirt in middle school, a girl friend of mine couldn’t see past the largeness of my thighs and teased me relentlessly about them. If I ever showed “too much cleavage”, older ladies remarked, “What kind of girl do you want boys to think you are?”

I want boys to know I’m a grown woman who has a body she’s not ashamed to show, and I want everyone else to understand there is something wrong in attempting to humiliate ladies because of whatever shame they stigmatize with a woman’s body.

People tell me to respect myself because they don’t want people to think I’m “sending the wrong message” or because I was “doing it for attention.” I respect my body, and I’m doing it for my own comfort. Why can’t my decisions for my own body be considered respectful?

Honestly, it’s not the issue of the law anymore, because there is an extent of “topless freedom” for women in Illinois, according to TIME. The unfortunate reality we’re now faced to realize is that it’s the social stigma for this sexist measure and how every one of us will judge another person’s decision regarding their own body.

Am I happy that I could go around the city of Chicago topless whenever I want? Heck yes. But will I actually be brave enough to do it? Not in the near future, because of all fat-shaming, slut-shaming and the other degradations I’ve endured.

Women’s bodies have become pornographic, shameful and mannerless in the eyes of people today. But what good does that do for anyone? It holds the image that men are uncontrollable fiends who can’t handle the image of a woman’s body in everyday life. It demonstrates a disconnect between women who will attack each other without realizing this will benefit everyone of our gender and elevate confidence among all females in the fight for equality.

Do we want to prove these degrading presumptions of humanity to be true?

It feels like people are giving up at this point and saying, “Haven’t we given women enough?”

People, there’s still so much work to be done in the fight for equality. Freeing the woman’s nipple is only a first step.