It’s just a nipple, people!

by Ashley Peck

peckas@mnstate.edu

I love that I surround myself with open-minded friends. Such openness can lead to interesting conversations, especially after a few drinks. At one gathering, my friends and I made a rule that nobody could mention Bill Cosby that night, as we knew a heated, drunken debate would soon follow.

Because of these close relationships, I wasn’t surprised when a couple of my guy friends and I began talking about the “Free The Nipple” campaign one night.

“You realize that rape would increase, right?” one of the friends asked me. I’ve become used to biting my tongue (I’m surprised it’s still attached) for many reasons: It’s not worth the conversation and will most likely turn into an argument, I don’t have time to deal with every ignorant comment ever made, or I’m livid and afraid I’ll say something I regret to someone.

This time, it was the third reason.

IT’S A NIPPLE! A couple inches of skin, maybe, that nourishes LIFE. So, if women walked around topless, which is legal in all but three states by the way, men wouldn’t be able to control themselves and the rape rates would increase? In other words, what that phrase translates into is a tactic to blame or scare women away from the equality we are asking for. This outlook is simply wrong and enforces rape culture, something our society has sadly grown accustomed to.

If a photo of a female’s nipple offends you, but the images of violence we see every day don’t, you might need to reevaluate your perspective. If a photo of a female’s nipple offends you, but the fact that we live in a culture that is constantly oversexualizing women doesn’t, please reevaluate. A television can’t be turned on without seeing models trying to sell cheeseburgers, deodorant, cars or something equally ridiculous that has nothing to do with breasts.

Which leads me to another point — these advertisements and magazine spreads are showing everything BESIDES the nipple. So, if a woman’s nipple looks exactly like a male’s and society is not only comfortable, but encourages seeing the rest of her breasts, I am perplexed as to why the nipple is this big of an issue. The female breast isn’t a sex organ. It’s one of the first connections made between mother and child after a baby is born, yet it’s treated almost exclusively as erotic.

At one point in history, American men fought for the legalization and right to expose their nipples. Imagine that! Men found it absurd that they couldn’t walk around freely and comfortably, showing off parts of the body that harm no one, so they revolted.

I hope to one day live in a society where women won’t be shamed for breastfeeding in public or for wanting the same rights as men without this stigmatization. I hope to raise my children in a world where seeing women’s nipples is absolutely not a big deal, but something normalized, beautiful, and a symbol of the love that helped them grow as an infant.

If you want to judge someone for embracing themselves and standing up to frustrating double standards, it’s your freedom to do so. But, it’s my freedom to speak out against this inequality — with or without my top on.

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