The Organization for Women of Ethnicity kicked off the semester with a meeting promoting their “Free the Nipple” campaign. They met Tuesday, Sept. 12 in the Angell College Center and invited those interested in joining in on the conversation.
The campaign dates back to a 2012 feature film. “Free the Nipple” followed activist Lina Esco and a small group of women who felt they needed to raise awareness on the issue of wearing a bra or not. The film sparked an international movement whose main mission is to seek equality, empowerment and freedom to all human beings, according to the official Free the Nipple website.
The meeting started out with showing a video explaining what the campaign was exactly. Once students became aware of the goals of the campaign ,O.W.E Event planner Madelyn Villanueva led a game of “Guess Who”, where she presented a powerpoint presentation showing closeups of nipples asking if they belonged to men or women to reiterate the idea of equality.
During the game , she showed the popular Buzzfeed group the “Try Guys” wearing bras as a part of the game. Ironically, the Try Guys, who consist of four men, all did an experiment where they wore bras with weights for the day. They were asked to do yard work and do other daily activities while wearing one. All expressed how difficult it was to wear one for a day, as well as pain in their backs.
“It’s a whole matter of not being sexualized. If women wants to casually go to the beach and be topless, sometimes it’s hot and you don’t want to wear a top or shirt,” Villanueva said. “It’s all about empowerment.”
After playing the game, Villanueva went into the history of how men won the right to show their nipples in public.
In the book, Making Waves: Swimsuits and the Undressing of America, it is described how by the late 1910s, many public swimming pools mandated men not wear suits that conformed too closely to their physique. By the 1920s, the swimsuits styles evolved into two tighter pieces and by 1937, a judge overturned New York state’s male shirtless bans because of the protests that men started.
It didn’t stop there though.
Even after New York state lifted its male nipple ban, publicly shirtless men still risked arrest if they were perceived as gay. In 1947, for instance, Harvey Milk was among a group of shirtless men arrested for indecent exposure in Central Park. Yet, the barechested married men in the park weren’t harassed at all, according to the novel.
As Villanueva explained the history, she started delving into why she personally thinks wearing a bra can be annoying.
“For me personally, I’m a 32 triple D. So people do look at me a lot. People do sexualize me a lot. People do say inappropriate comments because breasts are so sexualized,” she said. “That’s why Free the Nipple is a campaign. We want to make it so that in the future, I can go jogging around and people don’t go, ‘oh my god, look at her chest.’”
She also said that the reason why breasts have been sexualized is because of the way the media perceives it. A Huffington Post research study showed that women shown on-screen, are often portrayed in a hypersexualized way. Researchers found that 31.6 percent of female characters were shown wearing stereotypically “sexy” clothing, compared to seven percent of male characters, and 31 percent of these women were shown partially nude, compared to 9.4 percent of the men.
After explaining the history, Villanueva opened the conversation for everyone attending the meeting.
O.W.E Social Chair Shatorra Joyner went into the double standards of having larger breasts.
“Me and this girl had the same exact shirt on but in different colors. It was a V-neck. I got written up and I flipped out,” Joyner said. “She’s like a B, and I was a bit bigger at the time because I was a little heavier at the time. And I was like OK, we have the same shirt.”
Others agreed that there can be double standards with dress codes even though they can’t help it.
O.W.E meet every Tuesday at 8 p.m. in Meeting Room 7 in the ACC.
“Make sure you don’t sexualize it, It’s a matter of being comfortable and just being equal,” Villanueva said.
Email Kavita Singh at firstname.lastname@example.org