Yes, this is a feminist article. No, I won’t tell you that I hate straight men.
As a self-proclaimed feminist, one of the most frustrating things is when someone preaches feminism so hard and so fast that it goes from “women deserve more than 77 cents to the dollar” to “down with straight cis men.”
Contrary to (semi-)popular belief, hating men is not practicing the foundations of feminism, and I will not be preaching that to you today.
I do, however, love to talk about double standards between the sexes.
Nipples. Most of us have ‘em, some of us might have three, my dog has like eight. Nipples have been the poster children for gender-based double standards since the first t-shirt was invented.
As most of us know, in a majority of the United States, it’s illegal for women to be topless in public, but the same standards are not in place for men. On some social media platforms, it’s no different.
Recently, a friend of mine posted an extremely tasteful, yet artistic photo on Instagram. Cheekbones highlighted by an angel and red lips painted like the devil, at first glance my mouth gaped and a “wow” slipped from it. As any good friend would do I hit the like button, left a fire emoji, and continued scrolling. Her left nipple was visible, yet it had gone completely unnoticed.
Days later, the same photo resurfaced in my Instagram feed with and without various edits such as: a Ted Cruz collage over her nipple, a male nipple covering the original, and the final edit which reads “this is a man’s nipple” alongside another picture of a male nipple covering her own.
Why? The photo had been reported to and deleted by Instagram–nine times.
Larissa Clawson, owner of the photo and two Grade A nipples, said that even after her attempts to prove a point by reposting the picture every time it got deleted, “People have failed to learn that my female nipple is not a weapon of sex. My nipples are natural and not that different from male nipples. […] It’s frustrating that we can’t be mature adults and have a conversation about how my body in itself is not inherently sexual.”
Ah, yes, the female nipple. A nipple that, in comparison to a man’s, looks…too feminine, too….sexual to be seen in public. Here lies the double standard.
According to Instagram’s Community Guidelines: “We know that there are times when people might want to share nude images that are artistic or creative in nature, but for a variety of reasons, we don’t allow nudity on Instagram. […] It also includes some photos of female nipples, but photos of post-mastectomy scarring and women actively breastfeeding are allowed. Nudity in photos of paintings and sculptures is OK, too.”
Although women’s nipples are inherently and biologically intended for breastfeeding, somewhere along the line they went from a nourishment-providing organ to a sexualized one. Perpetuated by societal views alongside the mass media, women are overwhelmingly objectified and this behavior has been normalized. As feminism has began to hit the mainstream, the way people view the objectification of women has changed for the better, but there’s still a lot of work to do.
Even in U.S. cities where it’s legal for a woman to be topless, many women avoid this “luxury” due to various catcalls and sexually explicit comments they receive from strangers. Obviously, if someone was staring at you like they’ve been starved out for three weeks and you’re a huge ass hamburger (or veggie burger, whatever your preference), it would probably make you feel uncomfortable. Uncomfortable enough to, oh, I don’t know, make you never want to be seen in public while topless again.
In order to make the “great boob dispute” equal among genders, we have to desexualize female breasts. Some people have nipples with the ability to feed a child, some have nipples for…well for nothing, really. However neither are sexual. Although this notion probably requires some progressive parenting and shifts in ideals, it’s a necessary step towards true gender equality. While Instagram is just one of many social media platforms that considers the female nipple intrinsically sexual and therefore inappropriate, it alludes to a much bigger issue rampant in our society that clearly needs some reform.
Your favorite (rational) feminist is now stepping down from her soapbox.