I think it’s awesome that the Free the Nipple campaign has brought attention to gender equality and body image, but I do worry that images of demonstrators will create the association that every woman who appears bare-chested in public is an angry protester. Not me! I don’t go bare-chested because I feel angry. I go bare-chested because I wish to feel light and happy and free.
I don’t begrudge the protesters at all. Without them the message would be forgotten. Protesters have changed the laws to protect gender equality. But in order for female bare-chestedness to be accepted socially as opposed to legally, which is a far more subtle and difficult challenge, bare breasts must stop being the focus of attention. Waving signs that basically say, “Don’t look at my breasts!” can confuse observers.
I have instead chosen to simply appear bare-chested in public behaving normally, doing normal things. No signs. No chants. No slogans. No arguments, ideally. I just want to go for a walk on a nice day feeling free. I suspect a lot of women feel the same.
So with that said, here is the first piece of advice I can offer.
I say this as if it’s easy. It isn’t. Not at first. So maybe this is actually the first piece of advice… understand why you are doing this. The more you understand your own body image, confidence, anger, anxieties, the paradoxically more normal you will appear to your observers. Because let’s be clear, people are going to look at you. You are doing something new and different and unusual and in some places, radical.
Your observers are going to associate your demeanor with your actions and form an instant opinion. You will see the entire range of human emotion reacting to your breasts. People will be moved to tears by your courage. Others will ignore you completely. Others will show contempt, fear and anger.
I have chosen to respond to all of them the same way, simply by showing them what I look like when I’m happy. We don’t very often see happy people anymore. I know people will look at my breasts first. That’s a given. But when they do look up at my face, I want them to see me at peace.