Spoiler: This mind-meander is possibly the 4th of a series that has developed itself on the topic of Man’s and Woman’s teamed enabling of the default status quo biased against women. More than a rant – an honest look at our personal and cultural modus operandi can generate a conscious rethinking of what, of our body-mind, is ours to adjust.
Top down for cars – topless for women: In the summer of 2012, a pair of breasts, free from all support and coverings, became a minor celebrity downtown Manhattan.
Moira Johnston, a topless dancer, made her point that, if men could legally walk around specific areas of town with their chest bared, so should women as, unbeknownst to most, it was already legal for them to do so in specific urban areas.
1992 was the year when Ramona Santorelli, Mary Lou and another five women had been arrested and prosecuted for baring ‘that portion of the breast which is below the top of the areola’ in a Rochester public park.  The case the defendants put forward was that, apart from entrenched cultural thoughts that women’s breasts are primarily objects of sexual desire mostly appealing to men, there was no objective reason why the exposure of women’s breasts should be considered more offensive than the exposure of men’s chests.
Interestingly, ‘expert testimony at appellants’ trial suggested that the enforced concealment of women’s breasts reinforces cultural obsession with them, contributes toward unhealthy attitudes about breasts by both sexes and even discourages women from breastfeeding their children.  https://www.law.cornell.edu/nyctap/I92_0160.htm
So, lactating mothers, at least, should be safe ‘showing breast’ in public, as required by the process of feeding their babies. The rest of us who might be in support of Free the Nipple activism can take our chances and bravely strut downtown Manhattan – or our local seaside esplanade – bare-chested. And then, what?
How will our act of defiance bring women closer to parity in the workplace and genuine equality in their homes and their streets? There have always been, of course, Amazonian, African, Aboriginal and Islander cultures in which, traditionally, women went about their day-to-day with only rows of beads, seeds or bleached bones adorning their breasts.
One can only hope that tribal men respected the bodies and hearts of these women, and that the continuous sight and movements of naked mammaries at play and work did not send them into endless raptures – and that women, there, were at least as safe as we have been.
Are you yearning to do it? Within the context of European-inspired culture, are most women hankering to sip their latte, rollerblade, push their pram or feed their cattle, water their paddocks bare-chested on any given warm day? In this text, as in each previous one, the recurring questions return us with monotonous frequency to the essential preoccupations: how would the ‘right’ to walk within urban settings bare-breasted improve women’s lives?
Would it give them a renewed sense of purpose? Would equality in the baring of chest edge men closer to treating women with more genuine respect across the board?
Would that ‘right’ to bare breasts prompt many more young girls and women to apply their brain and themselves to areas of study so far left mainly to boys and men and, thus, do their bit towards parity by swelling the ranks of women in these critical industries?
Would that new, long-awaited visual pleasure prompt men and more men to find fulfilment through part-time work to remain focused on running the household?
If Yes is the answer given to at least half of the questions above then, the right to bare breasts would be a game-changer worth pursuing. However, if No is the most frequent answer that came up then, how about us, women, take charge of our impulse to ‘dress up’, as little girls like to do as if our quest for health, wealth and happiness rested solely on the display of our bared flesh.
Another No: While on the topic of No, might we, perhaps, decide to say a massive No More to fashion designed by either men or women for the benefit of men’s ingrained attraction to breasts and all that, in their mind, sexes them up? Yes, we all know this: for centuries, millennia, even, the act of getting dressed is a time for women [of relative means] to identify themselves to their world.
Serious question that can be answered in one word: what was – what is – ‘their world’?
Why make it short when we can make it long? Just for the sake of argument, here is a longer answer coming up:
Beyond giving a degree of pleasure to women invested in the cultural fashion standards of their time, makeup and clothing artifices intended to juice up their personality through sexual presence, today as aeons ago, are always planned [mostly by men] to attract men – the anointed master-beholders from bygone eras. They are also intended to ‘keep the guy interested’.
Please, can we come of age now? It is difficult to grasp what male equivalent behaviours might be to ‘get the girl’ and to keep her interested day in/day out.
In any case, if it is true that, in this day and age, women should no longer need the control or protection of a man, surely, they should not need, either, to make sexually-oriented artifices the focus of their wardrobe choices.
Women should be willing to rethink that their breasts, butts, thighs, calves and stomach, regardless of their shapes, define them a lot less than their aptitude to learn, to love, to be healthy, to be coherent, to be independent-minded and, above all, to be authentic to themselves – to the ‘being’ they were/are intended to become in this lifestyle.
What if it had not been a millennia-long cultural priority to appear sexy by showing breast skin, shoulder skin, stomach skin and leg skin, separately or as a combo? What if it hadn’t been an equally enduring practice to paint our lips bright red and to perch on heels?
What if, together and separately, we ‘came of age’ instead of coming into ‘rage’?
Aren’t we able to switch our focus away from pretending life is a never-ending audition for the roles of concubines or Renaissance courtesans? Or is life about posturing as the Oh so happy/so sexy insert on our social media page?
What if we, girls and women of all ages, redirected our energies towards, not just appearing, but becoming wholesome and more reasoned?
Living dolls: Anyone alien to our culture and unsure as to the degree of objectification of women in our midst needs only to tune into any local radio station. Since its inception, the music industry has relied on ‘love’ songs to thrive and reinforce the message. As a quick example, beyond the lovely tropical House effects and strummy acoustics of Ed Sheeran’s Shape of You, released in 2017, in essence, there is little difference between the lyrics of that song and those of Cliff Richard’s vintage Living Doll, a hit in 1959. As a result, it seems reasonable to be insecure, to compare ourselves to others, to find faults with our body. Presumably, then, the resulting low self-esteem in many women and girls is only par-for-the-course.
Oh well. So, what?
Paint it, Baby! Paint it! It is no wonder then that, around the age of 60, more women decide to present themselves ‘au naturel’. The thing is that when they do, they see themselves as they are perceived – drab and dull. In reality, drab and dull are the natural characteristics of most faces male and female – post toddlerhood. They are the faces we keep ‘behind closed doors’ and behind cosmetic artifices.
© 2017 Carole Claude Saint-Clair