I have never really understood the fuss society makes about women’s breasts. In one instance they are displayed in lacy bras on billboards or pertly at attention in magazines where they are overly sexualised, coveted and adored, and on the other they are covered up, declared ‘lewd’ and we women are supposed to keep them in our tops.
I love having my breasts out. I think most women do. I have to have at least half the week when I don’t wear a bra because it feels so restrictive and uncomfortable. Breasts aren’t meant to be strapped to your chest. They’re meant to bounce, or flop or whatever it is that your tit likes to do.
I breast fed for more than a decade (a series of babies – not one giant child). For 10 years I had at least one breast in the mouth of a child. I loved it. I had never felt so absolutely in love with my breasts. Or so comfortable with them. The thought that they could provide nutrition for another human being totally empowered me and the way I saw my body.
Before I had children I saw my breasts as something decorative that men in the street liked to look at, comment on and occasionally some might go home with me to touch them. When I started breastfeeding, my tits were powerful with purpose and they no longer belonged to men. It was like I had reclaimed a part of my body that was always mine, but I had lost through objectification.
I once calculated that the milk I produced during that time could have filled one of my household bedrooms from floor to ceiling. I was a primary producer. These were not breasts for billboards. These were working tits. I had become so comfortable with my breasts that when the child unlatched I wouldn’t notice that my tit was actually out. Or care.
I would notice in bemusement the impact of a naked tit in a public setting… marvelling at the bloke at the other cafe table whose mouth was open so wide is astonishment that I wondered if he were going to latch on next. I could see him occupying that strange space between attraction and repulsion.
My public breastfeeding shocked people. I walked and breastfed. I could even shop and breastfeed. I have performed onstage with a baby on my breast and a microphone in my hand. Later people came and congratulated me for doing something that felt totally unremarkable.
While shopping in a department store with my tit out I was once asked to go to a feeding room. A feeding room is a room next to the toilet. I wouldn’t eat in there; why should my baby. I refused. I hate seeing women using modesty cloths when feeding in public. Women’s breasts seemed to feature in so much advertising, movies, Tv, porn, it surprised me that when confronted with a real breast just doing what it was designed to do that it was so confronting.
Then it occurred to me. Our breasts have been so sexualised there is no space for non-sexualised breasts. A naked breast in a cafe or in a department store makes people uncomfortable because to everyone, even other women who have boobs, boobs are sexual. That means that my body, that our female bodies, have been so dominated by male gaze that we lose the liberty of our breasts just being breasts.
Unsexualised breasts are powerful. You shouldn’t have to breastfeed to reclaim ownership of something that’s already yours.
Why are men’s nipples okay but women’s nipples aren’t? Why does Facebook censor our nipples but not the nipples of men? That seems to suggest there is something shameful or wrong about the nipples of women. That our tits are for being sexualised and romanticised by men, not to be powerfully owned by us.
You might think as women that we have bigger battles to fight. But isn’t this a frontline fight? For freedom in the country of your own body. Just like men have. It’s not about sexuality. It’s about nipple parity. So get your tops off and get to Belongil Beach on Saturday for Free the Nipple Byron Bay – 11am–2pm. Get your points across