2014 is shaping up to be the year of the nipple.
First Scout Willis pranced around New York City topless. Willis was — justifiably — outraged by Instagram’s asinine community standards, which state that female nipples cannot be posted but extreme scenes of graphic violence are acceptable. Then, Rihanna got booted from Instagram for posting photos of a French magazine cover on which she appeared bearing her nipples. Meanwhile, actress-turned-filmmaker Lina Esco launched the hashtag #FreetheNipple and held a topless event in New York’s Washington Square Park.
“It's not about sitting at the cafe with a glass of wine and no shirt on — it's about the fact that a woman cannot sunbathe without her shirt on next to a man that has every right to do so,” Esco, who is making a film about the movement featuring Janeane Garofalo, told the Huffington Post in April. Since then, the #FreetheNipple movement has grown in popularity, bolstered by the celebrity support of Willis and Rihanna.
Nipples, it seems, are having a moment.
Just this week, the Internet collectively cocked its head to the side when posts began popping up about the Ta Ta Top, a bikini top featuring anatomically correct nipples in the proper place. For women of a certain skin tone, it would be a very believable representation of what their own nipples look like. Wearing this top is not quite the same as baring it all, but it’s a pretty good proxy.
I totally get where these strong, powerful, vocal women are coming from. In the ’90s, female punk bands featured riot grrrls writing “slut” or “bitch” on their stomachs in lipstick. In 2014, Rihanna posts pictures of her nipples. It all comes from the same place of women wanting to reclaim ownership of our bodies, our minds and ourselves. The motivation is inherently good for individuals and good for women as a whole
What I don’t get is why anybody — male or female — would want to show off their nipples. Of all the amazing, fascinating and glorious parts of a woman’s body to become a feminist zeitgeist, we’re focusing on the nipple? Really?
I feel about visible nipples the same way I feel about asymmetrical haircuts and high-heeled sneakers: If someone wants to rock that look, power to ’em, but it’s not for everyone.
But anatomically, nipples are, unquestionably, about function over fashion. They exist so that women can feed their children — assuming they decide to have children and they choose to forego formula for breast milk.
Breastfeeding mothers have to make calls about where they want to do that. I’ll never understand why anyone would want to do it in the pasta aisle of Whole Foods or on a bench in Rittenhouse Square, but I also don’t understand why men are born with nipples at all.
There are things in this world that I just can’t wrap my brain around — and the nipple as a symbol of female empowerment is one of them.
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