Titties, tatas, boobies, breasts, amabele, mammaries and knockers – all names we have for the fleshier bits on our chest. Some of us have large ones, some small, and some are a little bit in between.
But breasts aren’t just breasts. They can also be used as a political statement.
Which might seem ridiculous (I mean their primary function is to feed babies), but breasts tend to be seen primarily as sexual, making them open to censorship apparently. And not just now, but for centuries.
Recently, a judge in Fort Collins, Colorado, granted an injunction against an ordinance prohibiting the public baring of female breasts according to a report on Huffpost SA.
U.S. District Judge R. Brooke Jackson ruled that the ordinance discriminates against women based on the fact that it assumes that regardless of a woman’s intent, her exposing her breasts in public is somehow a sexualised act. “Thus, it perpetuates a stereotype engrained in our society that female breasts are primarily objects of sexual desire whereas male breasts are not," says Judge Jackson.
The judge also pointed out how by making women cover themselves it was, in fact, turning breasts into something to look at.
"The naked female breast is seen as disorderly or dangerous because society, from Renaissance paintings to Victoria's Secret commercials, has conflated female breasts with genitalia and stereotyped them as such. The irony is that by forcing women to cover up their bodies, society has made naked women's breasts something to see," Judge Jackson continues.
The ordinance required females over the age of 10 to pay a $250 (nearly R3000) fine if they displayed any part of their breast below the top of the nipple, but there was an exception for mothers who were breastfeeding.
In South Africa, breasts are also still sexualised in our deeply patriarchal society. If they’re not revealed for the purpose of a traditional African ceremony (but even then it’s just polite to not look at the breasts directly), then they’re not supposed to be shown in public, and therefore, shouldn’t be seen unless they are appealing to the male gaze.
Due to this, a lot of young feminists feel that our bodies are probably our strongest tools in fighting oppression and the patriarchy.
READ MORE: Can I just dress naked in peace, please?
Back in 2016, female protestors decided to use their bare breasts as a way of getting their cause some attention. They tried flipping the impression that breasts are never meant to be seen unless they are for sex and making the public see their cause as more than just a bunch of students shouting about rape culture, but women with voices (and breasts) who want to be heard.
South African law still sees female breasts as sexual since the Criminal Law (sexual offences and related matters) amendment act lists the displaying of female breasts “whether for the sexual gratification of A or a third person or not” to persons 18 years or older as “flashing”. This means that displaying your breasts in public could still be seen as indecent exposure and you could be arrested for it.
And what about our social media? Sites like Instagram and Facebook have been in hot water before over their nudity policies (which basically say that photos of female nipples are not okay, but photos of post mastectomy scarring, breastfeeding, or nudity in photos of paintings and sculptures are allowed) and their double standard when it comes to male and female nipples. This is where the #FreeTheNipple protest started.
So the real problem seems to be the double standard between male and female nipples and how women’s breasts are still sexualised even when as mammary glands, their main function is to produce milk during lactation.
Do you think female nipples shouldn’t be seen? Do you think they should be treated the same as male nipples? Let us know.
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