A YouTube commenter on my M Street walk video wrote to me this morning, “Thanks for the free boobs. I hope you succeed at your quest for the ‘normalization of female bare-chestedness’, cause then we will get free nudes all the time. Seriously, thank you, lady. You’re a hero for all the men who just wanted to see some girl’s boobs. Again, thank you.”
I would like to post my reply as an article.
Thank you for taking the time to watch my video and consider gender equality and body pride. I think your language opens up a much bigger conversation and points to the effects of the modern hypersexualization of the female body, as exists particularly in Internet imagery.
So let’s break this down a bit. You say, “We will get free nudes all the time.” You define the subject of your sentence, “we,” in your next sentence as “all the men who just wanted to see some girl’s boobs.” I appreciate that you don’t presume to speak for all men, just those men looking for free boobs, because the men I have around me want women treated with respect and treated equally under the law. They also enjoy looking at the female body, of course, but they are mature enough to appreciate a woman for more than just her body.
So, “free nudes all the time.” My first reaction is that a bare-chested woman is no more nude than a bare-chested man. We don’t call a man wearing pants but no shirt nude. We shouldn’t call a woman dressed that way nude either. But more importantly, the term “free nudes,” is pretty profound. This implies that we have created a whole industry around selling images of female bodies, specifically female breasts, for commercial gain that would not be possible if women were allowed to simply walk around bare-chested in the first place. The qualifier “free” points to a normal state of boobs as “for sale.” Images of female breasts would not make anyone money if people saw breasts in non-sexual contexts with any regularity.
“Free nudes” makes it sound like the only real justification for a woman going bare-chested is for gratifying a man or for making money, and that seeing breasts for free is some type of bargain or hack. It’s also emphasizing what the man gets out of it, again. A further disturbing association that arises out of the term “free nudes,” in this pay-per-view dynamic, is that we have made a commodity out of a basic human interaction, out of what in many cultures is the simple, healthy, free exchange of visual information about ourselves.
In Tokyo, Japan, they have made a commodity out of all of the male-female interactions, and a man can for a fee have a woman hold his hand, chat with him about work, comb his hair, fix his tie, stare into his eyes, etc. A man can literally choose on a menu the things that he would like a woman to do, and the fee for those services is based on what he wants and for how long. This is apparently very popular there, but it sounds desolate and bleak to me. An associated survey of young Japanese men and women shows the majority of both genders see no reason to have an actual relationship or family. It’s worth pointing out that the population of Japan is also decreasing at a significant rate. A majority of young women say they prefer to work and use their money to buy themselves things. A majority of young men say they prefer to play video games. As a result, one form of women’s “work” now is to sell men the human interactions that used to be given freely.
One of my goals in working to normalize female bare-chestedness is in fact to undermine the phenomenon that makes women’s bodies commodities, in the minds of men and women both. Maybe it’s too late. Maybe we are headed for the Tokyo model, but I think the entire conversation matures if we find our way out from the economy of prohibiting women from appearing bare-chested, shame us for being born into female bodies, require us to cover up, which creates an obsession with the very bodies we have to cover up against our wills, creating a whole population of men willing to buy and women willing to sell the very bodies they are artificially forbidden to show, which creates an industry with so much wealth that it creates actual power over all of us.
The entire interaction has started to give me heebies, like a hand has reached into the middle of all these natural healthy human interactions, engineered them to be considered dysfunctional, only to sell them back to us after they become obsessive needs. Why? You may not have meant it this way, but undermining the breasts-for-pay industry would be a beautiful legacy of the topfreedom movement, I think. Thank you again for your time.
(While I have you, the New York Times put out a great video and story about topfreedom in New York today. The journalism is responsible and best yet, the images are uncensored! That’s huge for a mainstream media outlet. New York Times, “Free the Nipple.”)