The Worst Anti-Free The Nipple Op-Ed Says Female Breasts “Developed To Attract Men”
Local New Hampshire newspaper The Laconia Sun published an interesting back-and-forth of letters to the editor last week, which all started when one Chelsea Davis published an op-ed literally headlined, “Free The Nipple Movement Wants It All; They Are Selfish & Greedy,” last Monday. (Because, as always, women wanting the same things men have — in this case, the right to make a peaceful lifestyle choice without being reduced to sex objects — are asking for the fucking world.) This prompted an eloquent response from Free the Nipple supporter Kia Sinclair on Wednesday, which, in turn, led to the publication of probably the most tone-deaf, sexist anti-Free the Nipple tirade I have seen to this day (and I’ve seen a lot).
Opponents to the Free the Nipple movement typically draw their arguments from one of two perspectives. One is that female nipples are just sexual body parts, that’s the way it is, and women who want equality just need to get over it. The other is that the movement is a waste of feminists’ time because so much more overt sexism, from the wage gap to abortion rights, still exists, and despite how Free the Nipple draws on the critical issues of choice, respect, sexual consent, and victim-blaming, it isn’t worth our energy.
Davis’ writing draws arguments from both.
In her first letter to the editor, Davis non-ironically thanks her very sexist mother for persistently raising her to be a “respectful and modest young lady,” because the most important thing any woman should be is modest. She then suggests there is no excuse for women only wanting to clothe half of their bodies because everyone should be able to afford clothes, even if only “from Salvation Army,” and claims that just as she is able to assemble with fellow Christians, “nudist” Free the Nipple supporters can gather with their fellow nudists. The very simple act of wanting to do what men do without getting arrested or having your posts deleted from social media is apparently so radical that it requires you to join some atypical lifestyle group, folks.
Sinclair, in response, wrote that women who want to expose their nipples shouldn’t be classified as nudists, while we only classify men who expose their genitalia as nudists, as this altogether perpetuates the double standard that female nipples are perverted and inherently sexual while male nipples aren’t. She added:
“Christians may have places they can meet, but they still have equal rights. They are still able to wear a cross in public and even openly talk about Christianity in public. I do not want to go to a ‘designated spot’ for nudity because I am not a nudist.”
Additionally, Sinclair wrote that while Davis’ very adamant refusal to “expose” the “private parts” of her body in Davis’ first op-ed is A-OK — not all women consider their breasts private parts, and in most states, have the legal right to own this:
“It wasn’t until last year that I started exercising my legal right to go without a shirt. Your breasts may be private parts to you, which is fine, but not all women think of their breasts as a private part. … The very fact of not allowing me to do something men are allowed to do is inequality.”
All very good points rooted in common sense, which is probably exactly why Davis, at this point, decided to turn the tables and produce a response with literally not one grain of it with her Thursday response. “The female breast evolutionarily developed, according to many an anthropologist,” she wrote, without identifying a single one of these anthropologists, “to attract men.”
Now, whether or not there are legitimate studies that corroborate this, none of which were cited, is irrelevant. In the same vein, the evolutionary purpose of sexual intercourse is reproducing, so why not police casual sex? Oh, right — because that would require us to police men and hold them to sexist, excessive standards, instead of just women, and as we all know, that’s not how the patriarchy rolls.
The idea that the sole purpose of female nipples is to arouse men might just be responsible for the confinement of female nipples solely to scenarios like pornography meant to pander to the male gaze, restricting them from contexts where a woman is just trying to be a good mother or make a peaceful lifestyle choice. After all, for all the angry, mostly male lawmakers who find watching a mother breastfeed uncomfortable (because what on earth would a mother know about discomfort, right?), I have yet to see one argue against adult entertainment.
Davis’ Thursday response presents the evolutionary argument, and then basically hinges on the tried and true “this is just how it is, get over it” argument thrown at every activist since the beginning of time. She wrote, “Wishing it weren’t so won’t equalize this for you,” as if the whole point of activism isn’t calling out a norm and fighting for change.
“[J]ust because you wish female breasts were not sexual, does not make them not so, and just because the chest of a man is not sexual, does not mean your breasts should not be sexual either,” Davis wrote. So, essentially, just because men’s bodies aren’t reduced to sex objects, don’t think you’re entitled to the same respect. (Male privilege? What’s that?)
“[W]hile both sexes need to be treated the same in terms of opportunity and representation, women and men are biologically different, and wishing it weren’t so won’t equalize this for you.”
So, she wants the sexes “to be treated the same in terms of opportunity,” yet she also wants society to subject the genders to different treatment for doing the exact same thing (bearing their nipples in public), and Free the Nipple supporters are the ones who “want it all”?
“There is an inherent blindness and denial going on here, like claiming racism is dead, or white privilege doesn’t exist. … Many double standards for both men and women persist to this day, and will continue to persist … Whether a police officer considers himself racist or not,” Davis wrote. “Many studies show they are much quicker to shoot a black assailant than a white one, just as though you wish your breasts were not sexual, they are, perceptually, biologically.”
So, basically, different kinds of people are going to be treated differently, which is OK because it’s always been like that and it’s always going to be like that. Great!
No Free the Nipple supporter is saying men and women don’t have different bodies. However, the whole point is that, to them, treating “both sexes … the same in terms of opportunity and representation” doesn’t include reducing the female, but not male body, to a sex object.
Supporters of the movement in most cases aren’t merely “wishing” for equality — by staging protests or writing about and promoting the movement on social media, they’re actively fighting for the change they want to see in society. Davis writes multiple times that Free the Nipple isn’t going to “create equality” for women, but simultaneously, I fail to see how the passive acceptance of inequality will create it, either.