No Fear for Freedom

A student’s take on embracing nippular biology

By Meredith Kestel 

Men have them. Women have them. We all have them. Some have less, some might have more, but they biologically belong on all bodies. Nipples. If we all have them, then why is there just a stigma around them being visible on women and for the women that embraced them, what do they do to overcome the stigma?

 

Ellie Menz*, is a Senior at Iowa State. This past summer she decided to throw out all of her bras, and embrace the “Free the Nipple Movement”. Menz is now a huge supporter of women who also have no fear in nipple freedom.

“At first I couldn’t do the whole ‘no bra’ thing, when I would go out without a bra on I felt as if everyone was staring at me. So I spent the first week or two using bandaids to cover my nipples.”

 

Nipples in the media and in public have been noticed for decades. In the ‘90s and early 2000’s Jennifer Aniston was both praised and criticized for having her nipples being seen through her shirt in many of her appearances in the hit sitcom Friends.

“I would actually say Rachel Green was kind of empowering for me to watch,” Menz states, while adding a little eye roll, “which is funny because most people hate her character, but her embracing it and not trying to hide the fact she has these biological things attached to her chest made me think twice about why my worries with embracing the nipple, and ditching the bandaids.”

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Meredith Kestel/Hannah Olson – Ethos Magazine

So why do women’s nipples make people uncomfortable?

Starting from when we are young our society teaches us that nipples, especially on the female body, are to be bared and only shown sexual instances and because of this we are taught nipples shown without the allure of sex should make us feel ashamed.

In Sex and the City, Samantha dones faux nipples to attract men, and Samantha even peeps her teats to manipulate men. Pop culture moments like these also feed into the idea that nipples are to be shown for sexual advancement.

We are taught that female nipples are another way for women to use their sexuality to get what she wants from a man. We are taught to treat our nipples as sexual tools instead of respect them for what they are: Normal, functioning parts of our bodies.

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Meredith Kestel/Hannah Olson – Ethos Magazine 

Eric Henderson is a faculty member of the Genetics, Development, and Cell Biology department at Iowa State.

“[In fetuses] nipples develop before the Y gene is expressed in males, and the Y gene goes on to suppress breast development in males. That part of the anatomy is designated early in embryogenesis and the Y-chromosome based differentiation of the embryo into the male form (for homo sapiens) just occurs later in the developmental pathway,” Henderson says.

 

Basically what this means is that fetuses all start off as females, hence why both males and females have nipples. It isn’t until later in the gestation period, after the nipples have been developed, that the Y gene (the gene that makes fetuses male) appears. So even though male and female nipples are the same, one is acceptable, while the other is sexual.

 

Instagram has a “no nipples” policy, for women. Every rule however has its loopholes. Women can show their nipples when sharing photos of breastfeeding and post mastectomy surgery. Kim Kardashian’s ass can break the internet, but her nipple cannot be shown, whereas Vladimir Putin’s nipples are okay to be shown in full.

 

The “Free the Nipple” campaign has taken social media platforms by storm. Celebrities such as Miley Cyrus, Chelsea Handler and Rihanna has received backlash and praise for sharing photos of their exposed chests. Girls star, Lena Dunham, has also pushed the envelope by posting photos of her exposed chest with the help of some handy-dandy pasties.

Others take a more head on approach, Menz speaks of nipples and social media as a student artist.

“I created a ‘Finsta’ this last summer to share some photos I have taken that may be deemed as inappropriate.”

A Finsta is a fake instagram account that allows people to post photos they would normally not want to share on their personal account.

“I’ve been feeling very inspired lately by a lot of raw and film photographers. Nipples are a beautiful part of the human body and I want to show that. I created the Finsta so I could share my art with followers who I know would appreciate the rawness and emotion that the photographs could evoke.

“In the last few months I have ditched the band-aids,” says Menz. “I usually don’t even realize anymore that it is weird for some people, it has just become such a natural thing for me I don’t think I could ever go back to wearing bras everyday.”

There are also added health benefits to not wearing a bra. In a study done by Roullion, it was found that not wearing a bra actually makes women’s breasts stronger. The long term effects of not wearing a bra showed that more muscle tissue grew to provide natural support. Which means you can skip chest day at the gym if you so please. Going sans bra even helps circulation in your chest and allows your skin to be more firm!

Menz says she has gotten a lot of positive thoughts from people when she talks to them about it.

“You would think I would get more negative things said to me. There was only one time where I had a male notice and he called me a whore, but he was drunk and I didn’t think anything of it. I don’t go braless to please other people or to draw attention to myself. I go braless because it’s comfortable, it’s simpler and I don’t believe there should be a stigma attached to either male or female nipples.”

When it comes to starting off and making the switch, Menz has a little advice.

“Just own it. I mean sometimes I think about how I realize people might be uncomfortable with it, but then I just say ‘to hell with that’ and I leave my home braless. If you’re really scared, take steps like I did to build confidence, start with bandaids, layer up, or avoid white. I don’t want to put my girls in a cage all day because someone might get offended by seeing my biology. I’m going to live my life and if someone is uncomfortable with it, they don’t have to look at it. It’s all about confidence.”