There’s an event happening today at Hampton Beach, NH. It’s called the Free the Nipple event and it celebrates International Go Topless Day, a holiday that coincides with Women’s Equality Day on Aug 26. I was unaware either existed.
When I first caught wind of the event, I giggled assuming it was just some silly local stunt, or media thing; but, then I read about the cause. The Facebook page states it’s a day where women take their tops off (and men cover themselves) to expose and try to change the double standard that allows a man to go topless but not a woman.” It goes on to protest, “Both men and women’s nipples are anatomically the same. By criminalizing and sexualizing women’s nipples not only does that take away ownership of her own body, but it can cause her to feel insecure, embarrassed, and ashamed of something all humans have.” Kia Sinclair the founder of Nh’s event goes on to explain, “This shame can negatively affect and make breastfeeding, the actual purpose of a woman’s breasts, even harder and in many cases can cause the women to be isolated and fear being shamed by the general public if she was to breastfeed in public.”
Wow! I thought to myself, what a great cause! Imagine not feeling ashamed about my breasts! I have so many mixed feelings about my own boobs because of the way society responds to them. I found myself fantasizing about a world that this ‘Free the Nipple’ movement could create. A world without shame or embarrassment or sexualization associated with my boobs.
When I was 12 yrs old, it had seemed like overnight that my 10 yr old nipples blossomed into a full C cup. There were dark purple marks all over my breasts that frightened me, until my doctor explained that they were from developing too fast. I wasn’t sure how to feel about what had happened. Part of me was amazed, in awe of my new body, and part of me felt like a freak. I felt awkward and like something was wrong with me. Especially the way my peers reacted to me. My boobs got me a lot of attention (mostly negative). They were both a gift and a curse. I learned my boobs had a power. The kind of power that caused girls and women to hate me and boys and men to chase me. Literally chase me. My 12 yr old mind couldn’t process what my 16 yr old looking body was experiencing. I was hated, violated, laughed at and envied, all because of my boobs.
In my early twenties, I began a career as an exotic dancer. What else was a girl supposed to do? At least I was putting myself in a position of power and self reliance. So, I thought.
I developed a lump in my right breast and had to get it removed. I was terrified of breast cancer and wondered if one can develop breast cancer from hating their breasts. The lump was benign and life went on. We had a few good years, my breasts and I, making money and being free.
In my mid-twenties, my boobs fell and drooped. I guess they were tired. After over hearing a man refer to them as, ‘pancake tits’, I did what I had to do. I got a boob job. I simply told the surgeon to fill them back up. I went to Massachusetts General Hospital for my surgery; because they were 1/2 priced on the count of the class of wanna-be surgeons sat in on the consultation and operation. It was a bit of a tough recovery; but, my boobs were filled back up and soon I went back to work.
Unfortunately, my new found confidence was fleeting, there were complications. My implants were too high and never fell into the pockets they were supposed to. They were placed under the muscle making the process more difficult. I went back to the hospital and they told me I had to wait a year before corrective surgery. So, a year later I went back and this time they placed my implants over the muscle and they fell into place nicely.
Five years later I safely breastfed my beautiful daughter. This gave me a new appreciation for my breasts and I saw them miraculous. Up until then, I only appreciated my poor boobs at work or during lovemaking. Before I had my daughter, I saw them as a nuisance that I had made the best of.
I’ve spent years of dressing carefully to conceal my breasts, so that women don’t give me dirty looks, or so men won’t gawk at me. Every now and then a summer dress or low cut blouse falls on me perfectly, making me feel pretty, or dare I say, sexy…but I change what I’m wearing because I tell myself it’s not appropriate.
Today, my boobs don’t sit as high on the shelf as they used to. My lump has grown back and one day I hope to get a breast reduction, but, this event started me thinking about my poor boobs and their story. I may not be ready to free the nipple; but I’m working on the self love and freeing the shame. Personally, I have way too many triggers and issues to go topless at Free the Nipple Movement. I have too much anxiety; but, maybe next year, maybe someday.
I wholeheartedly support this cause and slightly envy those who are going, (over 1000 are expected). Being topless at the beach, what freedom! I imagine it feeling similar to spiritual awakening. Freeing my breasts from shame and a lifetime of darkness.
I wonder if my life or the story of my boobs would have been different if this event had been taking place years ago. I thank all of you women and men who are participating and protesting the unfair treatment of women’s nipples!