My bikini tops cover more of my boobs than the bras I don’t own.
When a wave smacks my top to the side, a dozen men on their surfboards point out, politely, hesitantly, “Umm, your top…” As if it’s wrong to let it out. As if I should be terribly embarrassed. I’m more concerned that another wave is about to pummel and half murder me than if you can see a nipple that probably looks similar to yours.
We freak out if a woman’s nipple is exposed.
I was in my favorite local coffeehouse last week, watching a new mother breastfeed her baby smack dab in the middle. But I wasn’t just watching–I was staring, enthralled. I loved that she was just putting it out there. She was feeding her child, nourishing his little body. But at the same time I couldn’t help but wonder what everyone else was thinking. Were they okay with it? Did anyone notice? Was anyone disgusted? Should she have her boobs out so loudly?
While brainstorming for this article, a guy told me, “Women breastfeeding are more discriminated by other women than men.” I sat back, thought about his statement, and realized maybe women discriminate just as they do toward other women’s appearances.
I know a woman who comments about every single person’s outfit:
“Ugh, did you see that dress? Why would she wear that!”
“That’s cute but I don’t like the color.”
“That is the ugliest shirt I’ve ever seen.”
She judges everything.
So do we as women do the same to those breastfeeding? Is it gender-specific?
(Maybe it’s even linked to the judgment mothers experience when they’ve breastfed their children “for too long.”)
I’ve seen enough YouTube videos of men angrily screaming at women breastfeeding in public to know this guy’s perspective isn’t entirely true. I remember watching a video of a woman breastfeeding her baby on the same bench another woman was sitting with her boobs popping out of her tank top. Pedestrians, both men and women, were yelling at the mother, while ogling over the other woman, not saying a word of criticism. One was wrong, one was right.
We’re all products of years and years of conditioning. We’re taught as a Western society that we need to cover up, hide, act this way and that way. Anything outside the lines is reason for criticism.
In most US cities, it’s illegal for women to be topless while men are allowed to prance around, nipples saying hello to the world. However, even when it’s legal for women, like in Austin, Texas, you’re that girl if you choose to let them hang out.
In a time where gender is becoming less black and white, it seems appropriate we open our minds to the reality that nipples are nipples and boobs have a purpose. Of course, boobs can be sexy as hell! But their practicality and ubiquity make the issue of sexualizing them–especially when a mother is feeding her child–outdated.
When it comes down to it, they’re used for feeding. Criticizing in what way and where a woman is allowed to feed her child should be illegal.
My dad has bigger boobs than I. Should he have to cover them up? (He would say yes.)
Woman should feel as free to be naked as men are allowed.
I see women naked all the time in locker rooms, and yea, even if I’m straight and love men, when I see a nice set of boobs, my attention is piqued. They’re right in your face. It’s hard not to look. The human body is phenomenal and an unbelievable creation. So I understand the attraction many feel toward them.
But attraction and potential discomfort around the sight of boobs should never be the reason women are limited in how and where they show their breasts.
The first time I was topless in public (like public public, not a locker room) was in Prague at the local recreation center. I scanned the pool deck to see hundreds of sets of nipples glistening in the July sun. I felt scared, a sense of discomfort foreign to my usual naked self. But I went for it. I slowly removed my top and laid down on the hot concrete, boobs at attention, sweat dripping down my navel. I laid in my little cocoon, trying not to take up too much space, trying to keep my body “in”, just test the waters.
After weeks of visiting the pool, I finally got conditioned that “suns out boobs out” was normal, and I embraced it. I didn’t have to constantly readjust my top to make sure it was covering what it was supposed to be covering.
Who made it wrong? Who allowed these rules and regulations and judgments to infiltrate our culture and morals? The Church? Temple? God? People who were insecure with their own bodies and therefore projected their rules and regulations on others? How can we normalize breastfeeding in the same way many non-Western cultures do?
If breastfeeding, or even going topless in public, is something which makes you uncomfortable, do you have license to judge?
You come into this world because your parents fucked. Every single person is a product of sex, but sex is wrong. We’re born nude, but we must cover up. Children are nourished with breasts, but women can’t show them.
If a woman in a bikini walks into a restaurant, everyone stares and thinks, What’s she doing? What’s wrong with her? Take that same woman and place her on a beach—just because there’s water close by, it’s okay. Suddenly because the environment/venue is “appropriate” for such attire and behavior, she is no longer ostracized. It has to be in the right place at the right time—just like breastfeeding. There are so many rules.
So maybe it comes down to not feeling comfortable in your body, and if you were confident and comfortable, you wouldn’t give a shit if a woman’s boob is hanging out at the table next to you while you enjoy your sandwich because you realize her baby is just as hungry as you. So bon appetit!