The Breast of Beginnings

Two years ago I was listening to my girlfriend relay a story to me about two couch surfers she had hosted. It went something like this:

Two girls from Amsterdam came and stayed with her, and they couldn’t wait to go swimming in a lake. This sounds strange to anyone from Chicago who is used to hearing about the frequent beach closings in the summer due to E. coli outbreaks, but they were super excited. All they had ever swam in was the Ocean. They unpacked, got dressed, and headed to the beach. They put their stuff down, took off their clothes, and ran into the lake in their swimsuits completely oblivious to the lifeguard screaming at them and waving his hands. E coli outbreak? Nope! The hysteria was due to the fact that their swimsuits consisted of only bottoms. Afterall they were from Amsterdam…where you can and often are topless at the beach. So here they stood in Lake Michigan with a lifeguard who very quickly realized they weren’t from around here. Here’s the part that gave me my own personal “ah ha” moment (Copyright Oprah). The lifeguard told them that in America, you cannot show your nipples…all while he stood there–the epitome of a double standard– topless with his nipples out loud and proud.

This is not a particularly interesting story to the average person. Not being able to be topless at a beach is just a given. It’s conditioned in us. Sure, there was a time when you got to run wild and topless with your brothers at the pool or in your backyard, but at some point in your life you were told that it was time for you to wear a shirt. You’re different. You can’t be topless. And you accepted that.

For whatever reason, at that moment, my reaction to the story was anything but acceptance. I don’t know if it was because this was the first time it had been presented to me in that way or if this came at a time when I had been on a real kick with challenging authority and societal norms…Whatever the reason it really hit me. Why not? Why can’t girls be topless? If you really think about it, what’s the difference between a man’s nipples and a woman’s? Is it really just the extra breast tissue? Is it the fact that women’s nipples are paired with a vagina? What is it that is so horrible that caused SUCH hysteria? Honestly…stop and think for a few moments. Remove the cultural normalcies that have been ingrained in you and look at this situation as if you were explaining it to an alien who newly arrived on Earth. Explain why women have to cover up their chests, but not men. What reason would you give?

Far too many of our opinions, our reasonings, our habits are due to “just because” or “that’s how it’s always been” or the “it’s the law” line of explanation which really, is no explanation at all. That’s when it hit me. That’s when I decided it may be fun to push the envelope a little, and the TaTa Top was born.

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By far I think my favorite, ABSOLUTE favorite part about the TaTa Top is this: You can wear this in a state where it is illegal for you to be topless without breaking any laws (we are speaking generally here because topless laws unfortunately aren’t the only ridiculous ordinances on the books. Just ask Truck Nutz). This bikini top gives a very convincing illusion that you are topless, and on the right person, that illusion is in effect from as close as 10 feet away. It LOOKS like you are topless…but you aren’t so you also aren’t breaking any laws. This is important to really read carefully and comprehend.

You look topless…but you aren’t, and therefore, are not breaking any laws.

It really calls to attention what is being legislated. Is it the presence of a real and true FEMALE nipple bare to the world that is so offensive, that is so horrid that it MUST be kept covered? Who is this law protecting and what are they protecting them from? What message does it send to young women about their bodies? That they should be ashamed and keep them covered?

For many people reading this, it may have no effect on you. So you can’t go topless…You probably wouldn’t even if you could, right? Again, why? Who wouldn’t want to go topless?

Let me rephrase that: If you were alone and no one could see you and no one would have photos and there would be no witnesses, who. wouldn’t. want. to. be. topless? Think about the reaction you had when you imagined walking topless to your local beach. The stares, the pointing, the judging, the cell phone picture taking. Most people avoid that kind of attention, but all of that isn’t because you are topless…it’s because it’s illegal for you to be topless.

The easiest way to get someone to look at something is to tell them not to. The easiest way to make someone interested and curious about something is to keep it hidden away. Once upon a time the sight of a woman’s ankle would have caused a man to get excited. Police patrolled the beaches using measuring tape to make sure women’s swim shorts (yes…SHORTS) were long enough and didn’t expose too much skin. If it did you were subject to a hefty fine and even an arrest. Think of the reaction a girl wearing Daisy Dukes would have caused if she walked down the street in the 1920’s. CHAOS!

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Eventually skirts were shortened, stockings done away with, and knees, thighs, arms were all exposed slowly but surely, and the world still turned. People realized the boring truth. What was under that floor length skirt? Legs! What was above that woman’s knee? More leg! A girl wearing a thong bikini today would barely get a second glance. It’s long overdue for breasts to get the same treatment. Stop hiding them away and let the world see how boring they actually are…and don’t be fooled…they are.

Listen, I have a pair of breasts, my fiancee has a pair of breasts, I’ve seen numerous pairs of breasts, and I can definitively say they are boring. The only excitement that comes from seeing breasts is that you are conditioned to think they are something special…Something to be protected and kept hidden, when in reality they are excess breast tissue growing into varying sized balls that you have to buy expensive support for and that throw you off balance when you run. Oh, and here’s the best part! When you get older they get lower, and when you have kids they decide to change size requiring you to buy a whole new set of expensive bras to support them. Oh and the BEST part about having kids, they LEAK! SO exciting right? If you’re kind of calling BS on the whole boring thing, just ask anyone who is married and has unlimited access to boobs. Ask any girl who has boobs. If breasts were even half as exciting as everyone makes them out to be, I would never leave my house. What would be the point after all? I have my very own exciting set of breasts to marvel and play with. The sooner everyone realizes this the better it is for everyone. When a pair of breasts no longer garner the desire and reaction from an interested party, they may have to find something else to be attracted to. Dare I say a woman’s personality or even her achievements?! It truly is a brave new world…

So the truth about breasts has been exposed (pun intended)…How do we get everyone to see the light? By using the same methods that every other movement has used. Exposure, exposure, and more exposure. The more breasts that are seen, the less interesting they become. I am not advocating running to your nearest beach and burning your bikini top in protest (but if you do, please send photos). Less people will actively support a cause if it means potential arrest, fine, or being verbally attacked and that’s totally understandable. Honestly…it is. We all have lives. We all have jobs. We all have responsibilities. Clicking “like” on something is sometimes as motivated as we can get but in this day in age…clicking “like” can make a big difference. Sharing images, ideas, articles…these can all have huge impacts on the way a society thinks and the way society views a certain issue. Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest…the list goes on and on. All of these platforms are in the business of connecting people and providing a forum for free thinking and expression. They are built to connect people. Share ideas. Inspire. THIS IS THE BUSINESS THEY ARE IN. Ruling one way or another on whether something is offensive or innapropriate is a position they should be very cautious about putting themselves in.

I understand trying to keep everyone happy. I understand trying to make a service safe for all ages and backgrounds, but it’s just not possible to please everyone. Warn them that the material may be age sensitive, give them the opportunity to avoid that imagery, implement a certain number of flaggings before removal (democracy!) but above all be aware of the message you are sending when YOU remove that imagery. We are all too aware that what’s offensive to one person, may not be offensive to another. What one person feels is appropriate to show THEIR boss may not be what someone else finds appropriate to show to theirs. Afterall I’m technically my own boss and I show myself inappropriate things all day! You cannot stop people from being offended, but you can warn them that they might be and give them the opportunity to look the other way. By censoring an image of a woman’s chest and not a man’s it doesn’t end with removing that image from your platform. Whether you like it or not you are confirming that YES, a woman’s nipples are indecent and are something that need to be kept covered. You are endorsing that train of thought. You take yourself out of the business of providing a forum for free thinking and place yourself in the position of deciding what is immoral and what isn’t.

I’m not trying to launch into an attack on any of these companies for what they are or aren’t censoring. They are trying to keep as many people happy as possible because, at the end of the day, these ARE businesses, and that’s the reality. All I ask is that you consider this: If social media was around 40 years ago, at a time when the image of a man kissing a man may very well have been offensive to the majority of people…Imagine if those images were flagged and removed, what impact would that have had on the equality movement? What message would that have sent? How many people would have missed out on having fun gays in their life? I mean seriously…no one group of people is more fun than the gay community. Period.

Exposure is the key. People need to see something to become desensitized to it which brings us back to how a simple action can have a profound effect. Don’t want to go topless? Then don’t. The TaTa Top provides an opportunity to support a cause, give back ($5 from each Top benefits a charity or organization), and MAKE PEOPLE LAUGH. It’s a victimless response to the absurdity of a world where people will pass over an image of a beheading, but will stop and manually report a photo of CARTOON nipples on a bikini.

Life is for laughing. Instead of having an impulse to react based on the same old tired line of thought, ask why. Ask why not? See everything. Do everything. Read everything. Find your own truth. Don’t accept things as they always have been and always, always question.

The overstatement of the year is that there are way more important things going on in the world than worrying over whether the girl next to you at the beach will have a top on or not. Get over it. Read CNN and find something real to cry about. But if this issue is too important to you, if the sight of uncovered nipples makes you shudder in fear or pop off in anger, then game on and may the breast girl win.

by Michelle