There is a worrying new trend in feminism: topless activism. Not men being topless. Women being topless because of course. Even more worrying is the number of women falling for it. The trendy #freethenipple campaign has gained ground when, in fact, it does nothing but mock the real struggle for equality. Amanda Foreman wrote an amazing piece on this for The Sunday Times. She starts off:
“New York last week was awash with nipples. Actually, it was a tiny corner of downtown Manhattan. And it wasn’t so much a sea of breasts, as a handful (or an eyeful) of women who went topless in support of a campaign to “free the nipple”. For the uninitiated, #FreeTheNipple, was the brainchild of 29-year-old Lina Esco, who felt it was unfair that men can show their nipples in public in all 50 states, whereas for women it’s a mere 13. Esco struggled in comparative obscurity until her protest was annexed recently by Scout Willis, daughter of Bruce Willis and Demi Moore. She is locked in an ongoing struggle with Instragram over the freedom to post naked selfies. The internet company maintains a blanket policy against nude photos as a way of deterring pornographers and paedophiles.”
She then goes on to point out that the previous week in Washington another struggle for women’s rights was happening, Senator Claire McCaskill of Missouri and others were part of a task force to confront the increase in violence against female students on US Campuses. Up a shocking 20% this year. The White House is holding hearings and using Title IX, a 1972 civil rights law, to force universities to provide better protection for female students.
Foreman also goes on to say that “one does not necessarily fuel the other” and makes the good point that countries in which women are covered up are worse for violence against women and sexism but she has a problem with ‘the American tendency to confuse life and death struggles for personal freedom with exhibitionist demonstrations of myopic self-regard’. I think this is well said but I don’t think it is just an American thing.
When it comes to the nipple there is nothing to free. It is everywhere, in television shows, films, magazines, Page Three, online porn, even women’s magazines for god’s sake. I mean, why do fashion spreads in women’s magazines nearly always have a topless women in? It is just weird.
Thing is, I am not against nudity. Neither is Amanda. She posed nude for Tatler at one point. (no nipples though). I am not a prude. I wouldn’t go topless on a beach but I love Helmut Newton’s fashion photography. The women in those pictures are all sexy, strong and in charge. Nudity, as with most things in life, is about context.
Femen, the Ukrainian political group, is run by a man and all of the women are slim and gorgeous. When it was Femen member Inna Shevchenko’s birthday, Femen wrote: “Femen congratulates its most famous leader, real revolutionary, wunderkind of feminism and beauty Inna Shevchenko with her birthday!” The most important word there is ‘beauty’. Femen calls itself a feminist group but is just another organisation that has become famous through the exploitation of women and their bodies.
They may be put in the paper, but no one is listening to what they are saying. The most interesting thing about Femen’s coverage is how big the pictures are of near-naked beautiful women, compared to how small the print of whatever they are protesting against is. Anyone can get in the paper for getting their breasts out. It does not take talent or skill, women have been doing it for years and men have been exploiting them and selling magazines and newspapers off the back of that exploitation. When Vladimir Putin was protested against by a topless activist, his leering, pervy facial expression said it all.
They are called private parts for a reason. People may call me a prude and think I am a killjoy but, actually, it’s rude to try and make someone else live by your rules. Breasts may be ‘functional’ but so is my vagina. I don’t whip that out either.
Some women think that a women going topless is the same thing as a man going topless. Or at least should be. Unfortunately, that cannot happen now. Breasts have been too sexualised for too long. It isn’t fair but the world isn’t fair. Breasts are sexual. They always will be. A topless man is not the same as a topless women. It’s not fair, but it is a fact.
If you don’t believe me, do an experiment. Flash your breasts at a man and then ask him what you said after. If he knows what you said, let everyone know his name; he deserves a medal or something.
Topless activism gets publicity but that doesn’t mean it works. Sex sells and the world is full of perverts. People love boobs and will use any excuse to print them, as long as they are attached to an attractive women.
Even the daughter of Demi Moore and Bruce Willis, Scout, has gotten in on the act. ‘Protesting’ against Instagram not letting her post topless pictures of herself on Instagram. She then said she was going to ‘move to Europe’. She seems sweetly unaware that in ‘Europe’ we all wear clothes and that walking around topless is called indecent exposure.
I’m moving to Europe, people’s victorian sensibilities need to calm the fuck down
Scout Willis walked around the streets of New York topless to make her point, but she could have chosen something more pressing to use her celebrity for. Like the fact women are stoned to death by their own families or teenagers being raped and then hung from trees in India.