My Tits Are More Feminist Than Your Tits

What could #FreeTheNipple and International Go Topless Day do to be more inclusive and representative? Well, a lot actually..

Feature by Kate Pasola | 03 Aug 2017
  • My Tits Are More Feminist Than Your Tits

I’ve been topless in public twice. Once, when trying out nudist swimming in Glasgow, and a second time at a boob-friendly beach in Barcelona. Neither were without secondary agendas; one gave me a banging story for an article, the other, an even tan. Plus, I’ve always been fascinated by the idea of semi-nudist beaches and the sandy, nipple-positive microcosms they provide.

But apart from those brief forays into taps aff territories, my rack has barely seen the light of day. My nipples are not yet ‘free’ by western standards. And, unless you’re a cisgender man, chances are yours aren’t either. Instagram’s censorship rules still outlaw female nipples unless they’re mid-breastfeed (see: Useful Nipples), post-mastectomy (see: Inspiring Nipples) or tastefully obscured by mesh or coloured pigment (see: Artful Nipples).

The situation’s just as bad IRL, too. Though it technically isn’t illegal for a person to be naked in public in the UK, the legality of the situation is on the condition that their stripping off wasn’t intended to 'shock or upset' onlookers. That, if you ask me, is pretty subjective. Plus, arrest or no arrest, all sorts of social stigma and judgements tend to keep bras firmly locked to the ribcages of female-identifying people.

Safe to say, there’s a hell of a way to go, boob-wise. If you’re unconvinced, I’d like to suggest you take a short hiatus from this article to go and listen to Salena Godden’s poem My Tits Are More Feminist Than Your Tits, a riotous performance piece with such nuggets of lyrical ingenuity as “Walk a mile in my bra, see how you like them tits” “Would you talk to your mother’s tits like that?” and, my personal favourite “Can everyone stop being such a dick about tits?”

And while I agree that freeing the nipple is kind of low on the list of feminist priorities, (waaay below preventing Trump the terracotta tyrant from tearing the globe into pieces) equal nip exhibition rights would be truly convenient and pretty symbolic.

That said, the chances of me attending Edinburgh’s annual Free The Nipple rally, taking place on 26 August at St Giles’ Cathedral are little-to-none. The demonstration is an annual invitation for people of all genders “to stand up for women's rights to go topless in public,” and this year marks the 10th anniversary of International Go Topless Day. But, as tit-liberation as I am, I don’t really see the point.

Here’s the thing. In a way, I get it – an army of boob-hosts proudly marching through the streets during high Fringe-tide definitely raises awareness for the cause. And sure, these bra-discarders are pretty brave people. But designating just one day of the year to encourage the normalisation of fully naked boobs seems counter-productive. Do you know what else happens only once a year? Christmas – one of the least normal, most sensationalised creations of the modern age. You can see where I’m going with this, can’t you? Despite good intentions, we’ve basically created nipple-Christmas, and I don’t think it’s even close to bridging the gap to knocker-equality. Sorry.

But beyond that, there’s another obstacle between me and my participation in nipple-liberation movements. My own boobs. For context, they’re quite fucking massive (yes, hilarious, they’re both a literal and figurative obstacle). Their very existence – which, if you’re au fait with boob alphabetisation, lies somewhere between H and J – hurts my back and shoulders, and often makes it difficult to sleep and exercise.

But also, more inconveniently, they’re shrouded in shame, they’re sexualised without my input and politicised to within an inch of their lives. I’ve spent the last decade feeling freakish because of them. There was the the adolescent policing from other girls, (“Like, certain things just look sluttier on you! It’s so funny!”). There were the leering men who failed to realise I was just an abundantly-endowed 15 year-old and not an acceptable target for their advances. There was the dreaded bikini shopping with my mother that, without exception, would leave me sobbing in a Debenhams changing cubicle. I’m only just on board with my mammary lot as it is. They’re not the sort of wondrously perky, perfectly-sized boobs normally associated with nude feminism. And, while I’m not particularly eager to be publically topless any time soon, I’m pretty sure lots of women like me are, but don’t feel represented or invited.

#Freethenipple is stuck in a feedback loop of white, slim, acceptably-boobed women. Out of the millions of types of breasts in the world, theirs are the closest to being publicly approved and the most wilfully received by the public. This means that slim, white women continue to feel able to turn up, and consequently inspire others like them to take part. But introduce weight, race, culture, ability, gender and most other intersections within feminism and things get more complicated. It becomes a little scarier to take off your top. It’s riskier. It is, to an extent, more radical.

What’s more, the movement as it exists seems to be suffering from tunnel vision. Sure, the outlawing of lady-nipples in particular is a pervasive and easily identified problem. But taking off a top and unclasping a bra means so much more than just ‘freeing’ one’s nipples. It means showing a whole torso that might not feel acceptable to the world. It’s revealing the indentations from years of underwiring, it’s the scars, the stretchmarks and everything else that comes owning a pair of breasts. It means facing shame and troubled backstories and repressed memories.

Acknowledging this wouldn’t dilute the #freethenipple movement – it would truly enrich it. Bodily liberation doesn’t begin and end at asking people to turn up topless. We need year-round discussion and representation; body positivity movements like @NonAirbrushedMe; specific provisions to tailor the campaign and its events to the diverse range of people interested in it. We need the erasure of rape culture, victim blaming and slut shaming. We need better sex education that teaches girls how to have a comfortable attitude toward their newly changing bodies. Nipple freedom will not be earned without intersectionality, thoughtful discourse and legislative changes.

After all, to quote queen of tit-chat Salena Godden herself, “all tits are equal, but some tits are more equal than others.”

http://theskinny.co.uk/deviance