America has a lot of wonderful things to offer; a melting pot of cultures and the inevitable resort to burgers when international cuisine just doesn't sound that good; Super Bowl commercials and the incessant noise of capitalism; redundant Hollywood films made by old white guys starring more white guys. But there's one thing no American will ever forget about the great US of A – FREEDOM!
The infamous, “‘Murica! Land o’ the free!” is used far too often without a single trace of irony. The only time it's acceptable to say these words is on the Fourth of July, a lukewarm Bud Light in hand, and the sun blazing down hot enough to make you forget how stupid you sound. But seriously, why are we still stuck on this? Are we holding a 240-year-old grudge against England? Or do some people fail to realize we were not the first and definitely not the last to be free from colonial rule?
Let’s face it; nothing is free in America.
A favor comes with a debt; a drink comes with expectations; a sample from Sephora only comes after accidentally spending your life savings. A free nip always comes with the word ‘slip’ because heaven forbid we treat our bodies as things of nature instead of sexualized objects existing solely to please others. Women should have every right to bare their nipples in areas deemed appropriate for men to do so. The problem is a matter of inequality; it’s about demanding legal acceptance and recognition, as well as ridding the cultural stigma around female nudity and the female body, in general.
The #FreetheNipple movement gained attention after the documentary film was released in 2012. Today, there are only three states with explicit laws banning female toplessness. However, numerous other states have blurred the lines of nip laws, neither accepting nor denying the right to free nipples. Even states like New York and California, where toplessness is legal, have continued to struggle to accept this new reality on a more cultural level. Topless women have been arrested in legal states under the guise of ‘public indecency’ or ‘disorderly conduct’. In NYC, police officers had to be repeatedly told that a woman could not be arrested for being topless in public. And while some of you (myself included) are thinking, I’m really not interested in freeing my nipples to the outside world, I ask that you consider the seemingly otherworldly possibilities of this movement. It’s about more than walking naked in the streets or avoiding tan lines on the beach.
The cultural perception of the female body in America is a puzzle that needs to be sorted out. Societal expectations and opinions have forced us into boundaries that constantly contradict. We are hyper-sexualized, encouraged to show more skin or otherwise seem prude. Rape victims are slut shamed in court, through social media, or on the street for not covering up. A push-up bra is alluring while breastfeeding in public is indecent. Notice the trend?
We must first ensure equal laws for both men and women, and, hopefully, the cultural changes will follow. If they don’t, then screw that asshole on the beach telling you to put a shirt on and revel in topless bliss.
Once we get the stubborn tectonic plates of American conservative politics to shift, the volcanic lava of feminism will erupt with what has felt like eons of waiting. We will soon be moving on from the petty national drama of #FreetheNipple, focusing our efforts instead on melting the stigma against breastfeeding in public, keeping Planned Parenthood alive, fighting for pro-choice, and getting rid of that damn tampon tax because that shit is adding up!
What it all comes down to is women taking back control of their bodies, and it starts with freeing the nipple.