Advocates for the female nipple argue that the double standard vis-à-vis men is absurd, pointless, and unfair. I agree on all three points.
In my view, the most meaningful aspect of the debate around showing the female breast is that it reveals how inept our society is at achieving mutual understanding and compassion.
It also provides ample evidence of our high anxiety about the human body. This anxiety points out a sort of madness that afflicts us. Working through madness is an essential task in our violent and conflicted world. We are afflicted by many forms of madness, and this particular one around human anatomy is probably as good a place as any to begin our work of learning to be peaceful.
Given the violence of the human race we would do well to take notice of how stuck we are on something as incidental as nipples. We can’t even get the small issues resolved.
There are some excellent campaigns to honor the female breast. One of them is Liora K.’s Expose Project. The point she wants to make is that we should find beauty in every body regardless of its size or shape. I applaud her for creating that message. I applaud the ladies who posed for her, several of whom I have photographed. Their pictures are on the web for all to see. That is courageous, and I admire them for doing that.
Another wonderful campaign is Jade Beall’s project that publishes pictures of women in all their natural glory in books. She aspires to travel to other countries for the next edition in what could become a series.
superstition —any belief or attitude that is inconsistent with the known laws of science or with what is generally considered in the particular society as true and rational; especially such a belief in charms, omens, the supernatural, et cetera.
We have hall monitors. Facebook forbids the female nipple even in photos of babies while they are nursing. There are reports on the web claiming that police often harass topless women in places where it is legal to be topless.
We do not have agreement on what is true and rational, so our attitudes toward female nipples may be based on superstition. I believe that is the case.
There is a lesson in this for all of us.