This week saw International Women’s Day fall within its boundaries. I took a photo of myself topless, and posted it on Facebook with the following just-woke-up rant:
“For my contribution to International Women’s Day, I would like to publicly free my woman nipples. I find it super unfair that my heart pounds hectically at the thought of walking around topless in public in hot weather like all the boys get to do just because society has, for a long time, considered female nipples to be rude and/or sexual only. It is absolutely ridiculous that photos of female nipples get taken off Facebook while men’s do not. It’s not like I’m scared of my body or anything; I have done plenty of nude modeling, I don’t mind getting my kit off in situations where it’s totally acceptable around people I know I can trust to not be disrespectful, but publicly, it is not possible, for many reasons, while for men, it generally is.
(and on that note, some extremely talented artists have to censor their work on social media if it features a female nipple, but not if it features a male nipple, which totally changes the image they are sharing with the world, changing their work and the way it’s read by people, reinforcing the weirdness around the female nipple and instantly highlighting the fact that some nipples are considered more acceptable to be viewed than others…)
mostly, I want the simple freedom of not having to gross-up a t-shirt or singlet when I’m sweating and the simple freedom of an equal every-day-built tan across my tits, and I don’t have that freedom, and it pisses me off, because not only does it mean extra washing and an uneven aesthetic, but it’s just plain stupid to be so fucking obviously and shamefully unequal about such a simple thing, a really, really fucking simple thing.
to me it is a simple thing that is actually a huge thing that proves how many simple inequalities are everywhere between the way women have been and are treated in comparison to men, how we are expected to behave compared to men, how mass society still has a lot of work to do in terms of getting rid of destructive, obsolete ideas about the way humans function, how they interact, including not only gender and racial issues, but fucking economic and political ones too.
we are at a critical stage in human history- a massive, massive amount of people on this earth, so many people who cannot eat while a few others are far richer than any of us could ever imagine, more money around the world spent on updating military technology than ensuring citizens are fed and sheltered, and mediums with which humans communicate publicly to share ideas and have discussions are not only monitored but also must bow-down to stupid old-idea pressure about how distasteful it is to see a woman’s nipple, one click of a button and it’s taken down, when it can take weeks and hundreds of people to successfully take down overtly racist and hateful images, FUCK THAT SHIT, FUCK ALL OF THAT INEQUALITY, IT’S FUCKING SICKENING AND TIRING, free the fucking female nipple from shame, fuck the white supremacist patriarchy, justice for all the oppressed.
phew, is it hot in here or is it just my fucking frustration?
love to all.”
After a few hours and much applaud from ladies and men alike, it was taken down. My nipples, but not the nipples of my male friends, were a violation of community guidelines, so the post was taken down.
A part of the problem I have with it is, as I mentioned in my rant, is that other things, which are far more offensive than my nipples, such as grossly racist content/pages, or grossly sexist content/pages, can take a lot longer to get rid of. I recently reported a page that was anti-feminist, making fun of a well-known Australian feminist writer whilst being obviously sexist, and Facebook told me it didn’t violate community guidelines, presumably because it can get away with satire. A friend commented that she reported The United Patriots Front Facebook page for hate speech, as they are overtly Islamaphobic: “Shut down all Mosques until this ISIS shit is over”, “They’re ruining our way of life” etc, but because they’ve stopped using straight up derogatory language and just dog-whistle
instead, they have avoided breaching community guidelines and still remain, with tens of thousands of followers, spreading misinformation, fear-mongering, and extremist right-wing circle-jerking.
But that gender inequality thing still feels weird. I was enraged when my posts were taken down, enraged though vaguely amused, and I fantasised about launching a campaign to change the community guidelines so that there was gender equality in topless hot weather photos. I imagined creating a Facebook page in which photos of men and women, trans included, in the exact same, non-sexual poses are posted, including breast feeding photos, as a challenge to the wider community to recognise the absurdity of creating a situation in which women are not allowed to display the same parts of their body as men. No one likes to be shamed for their bodies, and this particular community guideline is perpetuating the distorted notion that breasts can only be seen as sexual objects. Women cannot post photos of themselves breastfeeding their babies without them being taken down. If you are comfortable with your body and you want to take your shirt off in hot weather and post of a photo of it online so people can see you enjoying the beach with your pals or your dog or whatever, you can only do this if you are a man. “ON INTERNATIONAL WOMEN’S DAY?? THIS IS FUCKED!” is what I screamed in to the void.
Later, I read articles about #freethenipple, and I realised that not only had I missed the boat on this topic, but that boat made no real waves in rectifying the inequality of men and women’s torsos on social media, as was evidenced anyway by the deletion of my photo. The movement seemed to have made a few women feel stronger, which is good, but straight afterwards I read an article about a 10 year old girl who killed herself in a Northern Australian Aboriginal Community the other day and now the chances of her friends and family doing the same thing are statistically higher than they already were, and she was only 10 and she experienced the worst kind of suffering as a result of institutionalised racism that manifested itself through social issues experienced in places where citizens are left to rot in their mental health problems and cultural disconnection… I am not sure if trying to create a situation of nipple-showing equality on social media is the most important thing to be focusing on. It made me sad again; frustrated again.
I started my day feeling empowered to show my tits because fuck it, gender inequality with body photos is stupid, boosted throughout the day by friends and acquaintances appreciating the gesture, and ended my day with another heart-break, kicking myself for not being able to make a similar gesture to highlight the gross racial inequality existing in Australia concerning First Nations people: mental health, education, opportunity, cultural sensitivity.
I feel at a loss, especially since my boobies got far more “likes” than anything I have ever posted about social injustice in the real world, which I suppose shows why these problems continue to exist despite the work many people have done over the years to rectify them: it is easier to see boobs and say “yeah, don’t take them off my facebook feed!” than to see a headline about the suicide or death in custody of an Aboriginal person and critically engage with the reality of white supremacist paternalistic economic management + untreated intergenerational trauma cycles in this country.
Massive, massive sigh.
For good reads by writers much more informed and clever than I, about issues much more important than my breasts, please take yourself here:
Let’s stop neglecting the unique struggles of Aboriginal women, by Celeste Liddle
Self determination will reduce the suicides, by Dameyon Bonson