Stop discrimination: let women go topless

The more I talk about feminism, the more I find that many people don’t understand the point of feminism. I mean, women can vote right? We can own land and we aren’t considered property so what more do we want?

Many people—men and women—fail to see that women are still denied some basic rights that men have. In particular, women are denied the right to show their nipples. Yes, you read that correctly. I believe it should be legal for women to go topless in public.

If you haven’t heard of the Free the Nipple campaign, I wouldn’t be surprised – we go to college within the Bible Belt. According to their website, Free the Nipple “Stand[s] against female oppression and censorship.” Through their campaign they hope to decriminalize the act of women going topless in public.

When I mentioned this to people at JBU, as you can imagine, I got a variety of saucy responses. Normally the first and most common response happens when people are just so horrified by the idea that they try to shame me into taking back what I said. “So you would go to class topless?” they ask. No. I would not go to class topless and neither would one of my male counterparts. There is an appropriate time and place for guys to take off their shirts as there would be for girls too.

I got my second wave of responses right around the time people started having scarring visions of a naked society. Then I got one of many responses, such as, “Well, then, where does it end?!” or “I don’t want to see that when I’m walking around,” or the ever popular, “But what about the children?” First of all, nipples (female and male) are a secondary sex characteristic, like hips on a woman or facial hair and deep voices in men or lips on both sexes. The boundary, as it is in every other country, is by covering the primary sex characteristic, that which is necessary for reproduction. Secondly, saying that something should be illegal just because you don’t want to see it isn’t a very good argument. I’m glad I live in a country that won’t make something illegal just because someone else doesn’t want to see it. I’m also glad I live in a country where I have freedom of speech even though someone else might not want to hear it. Lastly, what could be worse than children seeing what fed them for the first part of their life? I don’t know. Certainly not the violent T.V. shows they watch. A nipple is certainly more obscene than murder.

This brings me to one of my most important points. In today’s society, breasts have been so strongly associated with sex that we forget their primary purpose: feeding children. Women are made to feel ashamed of doing something in public that is perfectly natural, because breasts are over-sexualized. Many times, when this topic comes up, girls will express to me that they like the fact that their breasts are sexually attractive to men. There’s nothing wrong with that.

However, the real problem here is that women are afraid that, if we decriminalize showing our nipples, men will be less sexually attracted to breasts in general. Well, I certainly hope so. A hundred years ago it was obscene for women to show their ankles. I’m glad that we have moved past this point as a society, and I don’t have to keep my ankles covered all the time. I’m glad that, for the most part, people are more interested in me as a person than in what parts of my body are showing.

The one last thing that people say to me when they’re scraping the bottom of the barrel is that “It’s just not the same.” Well, actually, it is. The male and female nipples are anatomically the same. The only difference being the milk glands in the female nipple, which lie below the skin. In fact, it was illegal for men to show their nipples in public until a group of four men protested it in 1936 during the Great Depression. This is why you see old pictures of men on the beach wearing swimsuits that cover their chests resembling modern day wrestling uniforms.

Also, if you think our society is not ready for this kind of change yet, think again. It is already legal in thirteen states for women to be topless in public. I know this is a new idea to many of you at JBU, but I would like you to consider joining the movement and fighting to put an end to sexism.

Dodson is a junior majoring in marketing. She can be reached at dodsonl@jbu.edu.