So You Want To Free the Nipple 2020
Quite a few years have passed since 2016’s So You Want To Free the Nipple and it was apparent it needed some major updating. So it was decided, a new decade, a new article. Since August also coincides with International GoTopless Day, it seemed the right month to publish.
This will be a little different than the first version, being more in line with last year’s 20 Things That Could Change If Topless Equality Was Normalized for easier reading. Without further ado, here are 15 ways to help achieve body equality for the 2020s:
1. Support Public Breastfeeding.
What better way to help normalize breasts than to support their primary non-sexual function?
People often get caught up in emotion and their own cultural upbringing to rationally process facts. Such as breasts being ultimately harmless, even essential to daily life through feeding babies. Articles like the aforementioned 20 Things can help with this, as well as just normal civilized discussion with those who disagree. It’s also important to remind those who may be uncomfortable that nobody is forcing anybody to go topless. It will always remain a choice, as it is for men today.
3. Support the Trans Community.
Few things showcase the ridiculousness of anti-topless attitudes as those who have undergone gender reassignment surgery. Nipples that were once illegal/obscene are now perfectly fine simply due to removal of internal tissue along with some skin and visa versa. The empowerment and acceptance of those who are trans may inadvertently bring issues such as toplessness to the forefront. Something that shouldn’t be an issue no matter what gender you identify with or what body you have.
4. Support Women.
It’s important to support women who are actively involved with campaigns for equality, whatever they may be. Even if you yourself are not comfortable partaking you can still get involved in other ways, even just calling out slut-shaming when you see it. Women need other women, as well as men, at their backs if they are going to make any real change, whether it is topfreedom or otherwise. If you’re a man, don’t be a #ShirtlessShamer, or any shamer for that matter.
5. Support Yourself.
If you are not comfortable in participating look within yourself to find out why that may be. Is it because you fear what others may think of you and/or because you are not comfortable with your own body? No matter what the reason is all can be overcome if you really put your mind to it. A good way is to surround yourself with people with less insecurities, with the right emotional support boosting your confidence is much easier. This includes men who are worried about being perceived as perverted for supporting such things yet really do care about equality. It’s important to recognize they do exist and are just as important to achieve these goals.
6. Make Your Own Uncensored Content.
It’s true that many media companies enforce standards that have greater restrictions on females, though not all do. It’s important to know what platforms allow topfreedom and use them to your advantage to help with normalization. Self-censorship on Twitter is usually unnecessary, it is one of the most popular platforms where almost anything goes, for better or worse. While Youtube’s age-restriction policy does give creators more freedom, it is not absolute and they can be a bit arbitrary in what they decide to take down. While videos on topfreedom do exist on the platform without censorship, perhaps having a more strategically edited version may be wise, just in case. Unless the platform explicitly forbids it, self-censorship is important to avoid as it just feeds into the taboo making normalization more difficult.
7. Push Media Companies Towards Equality.
Media is perhaps the most effective means to challenge social taboos. Shows like Star Trek pushing boundaries for civil rights, or Will & Grace, Glee, and Modern Family helping to shift opinion on gay rights. The more people continue to speak up against unfair media censorship on this issue — especially people with influence — the more opinions are likely to change. This may take more time and effort but it’s likely to be the most effective.
8. Push TV/Movies For Better Topless Representation.
It’s not just censorship that is the problem. It is also how topless women are represented when they are featured in movies and television, usually fleeting background characters with one body-type. Typically strippers, escorts, or other sex workers who have no personality and only seem to be there so producers can get most of R/TVMA ratings. Toplessness is usually always represented in connection to sex, which propagates the erroneous idea breasts are exclusively sexual. This can be improved by having more non-sexual depictions of toplessness by primary — or even secondary — female characters. Making breasts appear as just another part of the body, as the male chest is usually portrayed, will help normalize them.
9. Don’t Use Taboo of Breasts for Profit.
This is more specific to sex workers and those who profit from the sex industry. It may be tempting to promote your OnlyFans or other paywalled site by accentuating and/or hiding breasts but it’s important to know you are only contributing to their hyper-sexualization and, ultimately, their taboo. If you want to make breasts more acceptable in society in general then that acceptability has to translate to the sex industry too, even if it means a potential loss in revenue. Who knows, there may even be more to gain financially, at least until there is wide-spread desensitization. This doesn’t mean breasts won’t be usable for attraction (that’s a biological certainty), just not to the point of obsession.
10. Use Your Rights If You Have Them.
One of the most important strategies to normalize anything locally is to partake in whatever it is you want to normalize. Always check local laws before you take your top off in public, including city, State/Province, or any federal prohibitions. Look for any language that is explicitly female-exclusionary, you can also consult with legal experts (ie lawyers) if you want to be doubly careful. A good place to start is here, if you’re in North America, or here if you aren’t.
11. Elect More Progressive Politicians
If you don’t have these rights, get more people in power who stand for equality and will support greater freedom of expression. That means being politically active and maybe even volunteering for progressive campaigns.
The conventional wisdom is to organize large marches and clog up sidewalks/streets with signs/slogans. This may not be the most effective strategy as these have been the most common yet have resulted in little change. Perhaps a less disruptive approach may be better, something that shows how topfreedom can work in normal everyday settings. Such as events at the beach, or at public parks. A great example of this is The Outdoor Co-ed Topless Pulp Fiction Appreciation Society, which operates primarily in New York. Perhaps if similar things were organized in cities around the world we could start to see changing attitudes. Frequency is important, people won’t ever get used to something if they only see it once per year.
NOTE: Events not advisable during global pandemic (duh).
13. Braless Isn’t Lawless (Usually).
While going braless won’t have the same effect as total topfreedom, getting people used to the fact females have nipples too, without really seeing them, helps in its own way. Since it is legal in more areas than being full on topless it may be a better approach for many, also for those who aren’t quite comfortable going all the way. Or for those who just really hate bras. It may take time to get used to people’s reactions but if enough women do it they’ll be less and less as society grows more accustomed to it. Same goes for topless equality but this is perhaps an even easier transition. If you need more justification, some research suggests wearing bras, in most cases, may in fact be harmful. So unless you really do need the support — this is okay—there’s more than one reason to make said transition.
14. Get Laws Changed.
If you are unlucky enough to live in a jurisdiction where topfreedom is not legal for everyone this may be necessary. It is also the most difficult and possibly riskiest option, which is why it is near the end. Only try this if you have a good legal council or if you have sway in government. That being said, there have been numerous successful legal cases — as well as unsuccessful ones — on topfreedom. The biggest was perhaps 2019’s victory effectively legalizing female toplessness in six US states, joining several others. In that case it took three years from initial filing to the final ruling so do not attempt if you do not have time on your hands, or money.
A) That being said, a good class action in areas with significant national/international influence — such as California — would go a long way. Indeed, while the State has no prohibition many cities do. Removing female-specific language in Los Angeles ordinances such as 17.12.360 and 17.04.480, would mean topfreedom would be legal in Hollywood’s backyard. This could have a ripple effect on the media, as many influential businesses and people are based there. Other States/Nations are important too but California has the global influence, climate for easier normalization, and crucially, the political makeup to make success more likely. It is also worth noting California ratified the Equal Rights Amendment in 1972. If finally adopted, it would mean all such ordinances throughout the USA would be clearly unconstitutional. Though as mentioned, its absence hasn’t stopped legal success in the country. As most developed nations already have equal rights enshrined in their constitutions, it makes taking on any topfree prohibition that much easier.
B) It is also worth noting lawsuits may not even be necessary if there is political will in government to make this change legislatively. As apparently is the case in Minneapolis after an embarrassing incident with a drone. Back in 2015, Venice Beach’s Neighborhood Council voted to allow it, but being a suburb of Los Angeles the aforementioned ordinances remained. Before pursuing a judicial approach it may be worth first attempting to educate city councillors and push them towards a more democratic process.
15. Support GoTopless Day.
Whether you are out in a (socially distant) recreational excursion or safe in the confines of your own home there are always ways to celebrate, many of which have already been mentioned. But as said earlier, if you really want to make change, one day a year isn’t going to cut it. We all know the stories of how topless men were once arrested or how women were arrested for bathing gowns that insufficiently covered their knees. It was frequent commitment to change that made it happen.
All one has to do is put their minds to it and bring enough people onboard to make a new reality. The end result in this case is a better world for women, where they can do things like breastfeed, cool down, and be as comfortable in their skin as men without any fuss. A small victory in the grand scheme of things but far from an insignificant one. If all goes well we’ll look back at the present like we look back at the following image:
EDIT: Now there is a free version of this article to share outside Medium.