Is it time to Free the Nipple?

“Free the Nipple” is a growing movement throughout the country. With more and more supporters joining each day, the movement has gained a large number of traction in terms of following. Women across the country are going topless in high traffic areas and are generating a lot of buzz about why they should have the right to walk around topless in the same sense that men do. I was able to attend the event and talked with supporters about why they believe in the cause.

After doing some research on the legalities of showing your breasts in public, I found that there is no law in New Hampshire that states a woman cannot be topless in public. Once the founders Kia Sinclair and Hiedi Lilley found this out, the event was a “go”.

I remember hearing about the Free the Nipple movement a month ago while listening to morning radio on my way to work. One of New Hampshires largest radio stations were scoffing the idea and trying to throw it under the rug stating “These women are just looking for attention” which is typical morning radio bullshit. Along with other New Hampshire news agencies not giving the campaign a lot of attention or credit, I decided to head there myself and check out what was going on. I wanted to see first hand what these women were saying and campaigning for.

As I drove into the first $5 parking lot at Hampton Beach, one of New Hampshire’s premier hot spots and host of “Free The Nipple”, I was greeted with moderately cold weather and rain. As I paid the attendant the five dollars he lightheartedly asked:

“Are you here for the show?” Inquiring that this was more of a spectacle and not something to be taken seriousely.

My response was a hasty “uuuh yeah” as I moved my way out of the car and instantly felt the heavy rain pelt me in the face.

On my way to the stage, I walked past a couple of water slides that nobody was using due to the aforementioned rain and made my way to the center stage where a number of people congregated. There were a mix of different people, everyone was from a different place and some had traveled long distances to attend. Some standing in front of the stage with curious eyes, but most on stage participating in the event. As I walked up to the stage, I was greeted by a man named Matt who told me he was in a relationship with Sage, one of the women participating.

How do you feel the turnout is today?

Matt: Its actually pretty nice! There are a lot of people here and a lot more will show up. Its just a good cause to have women’s rights to be the same as our rights. I mean, we get to walk around with our shirts off so why cant they?

As I walked onto the stage, countless shirtless women were talking with each other and having their pictures taken. It was exciting to see the amount of dedication and support especially on such a miserable day at the beach. Most of the people perticipating were more or less someone you would see walking down the street. Some, you could guess to be involved in one way or another, but most were, to my surprise absolutely normal people calmly standing by what they believed in.

The first group of women that I saw were all standing together having their pictures taken. Some had writing on their chest.

My first interview was with Sage:

What is the message that you are trying to deliver today?

Sage: To gain equality for everyone. You are a man and you can walk around without your shirt off and I, as a women, cannot because, why? I have bigger breasts than you? Thats not right in any kind of way. And then, as a mother, who breast fed her children and having people come up to me and tell me that its disgusting that I feed my child when I go to the store or walk around, thats just wrong. I shouldn’t have to feel degraded because I am feeding my child. Its not right in any sense of the way.

That strong opinion echoed throughout the rest of the day. As I walked around I also noticed a lack of petition against the cause. With  such a hot spot as Hampton Beach, you would think there would be some opposition. Even that Jesus guy with the sign that says “If you died tomorrow, where will you go?” implying it might not be Heaven, wasn’t there. It was great.

“We think everyones got them so its okay”
Seacoast residents Nick and Jim Rodgers

I then spoke with Rayne who is a nudist and does shows throughout the state.

How are you doing today?
Rayne: Im good! Grrrreat!

So what brings you out the Free the Nipple Movement today?

Rayne: Because I am a nudist and I think that you should be able to express yourself and to show that being nude and topless is not sexualized. I think its awesome. I think for me personally it takes away my masks and lets me be who I am.

After walking around looking for others to interview, I noticed the audience at the foot of the stage was gathering. Not at once did I notice any negative or anti supporters. The atmosphere in the crowd was of interest and curiosity.

As I made my way back into the interviewing process, I saw a woman named Lex with the female symbol painted around her left nipple.

Lex: Im really glad that so many people support recognizing that a woman’s breasts are a part of our bodies and not just sexualized and objectified. I think that its really more important for breastfeeding mothers and its more comfortable to exist with breasts in a world that doesn’t single me out for that.

After speaking with Lex, I noticed a group of supporters who looked pretty cold due to the rain.

You ladies look freezing! This weather doesn’t seem to be helping.

Not at all.

Where are you from and why did you decide to support the event?

Jacquelin: We drove up from Dartmouth Mass. Really Im a feminist artist so this is something that I have always wanted to do especially after watching the “Free the Nipple” movie. I was like “I just want to live their life!” So yeah, we came to the beach, jumped in the water and it was a good day!

Mandy: We wish the weather was better but we still had a fun day. Im happy to see a lot of people coming here and a lot of people showing up despite the rain. It really shows how supportive people are and despite the weather, we are powering through it.

After thanking the group of women, I took a break and got food from one of the various pizza places along the Hampton Beach Strip. I asked the person at the counter what they thought of the event and they told me they didn’t want to have an interview. After I got my food, I noticed a lot of people talking about it. More specifically, a group of elderly women.

I asked them what they thought.

Hello ladies, would you have time for a quick interview on your thoughts of the event?

Time is not something we have. One woman said jokingly.

So no?

Yes. We will.

Great! How do you feel about seeing something like this at Hampton Beach?

We believe in the cause, we’re just unsure of how this event will lead to something.

Another woman interjected:

We lived through the 60’s and witnessed women burning their bras and we supported it, of course. We have just seen causes like this go unnoticed too often. These events get shrugged off too often. Its something we would like to see continue, but especially in New Hampshire, we feel it is too small to make an impact.

So you feel the impact on New Hampshire wont make a difference?

Another elderly woman shrugged.

We’ll see.

Quickly after that interview, my cohort Amanda ran into and old friend, Nick St. Croix. As we conversed he told us that his girlfriend, Rachel, was one of the supporters and was walking around. We quickly found her and she was able to tell us why she was participating.

Rachel: I wanted to come and support my females. I think its ridiculous how the male nipple is so acceptable but the female nipple isn’t.  Its the same thing. Theres nothing different about it. They have smaller tits we have bigger tits. We have bigger tits we have smaller tits. Whats the difference?

As I thanked them for their time, I walked back to the stage and noticed a male and woman both covering their nipples. The woman had black strips covering her nipples with “Censored” written on them and the man had a skull and cross bone covering his. I asked the man, who’s name was Bob why he was here.

What are your thoughts about women being able to show their breasts in public?

Bob: About 80 years ago, in Atlantic City, one hundred men showed up to the beach without their shirts on because it was illegal for men to go topless back then and they were all arrested. Then, each saturday in Atlantic City, more and more men showed up. By the end of the summer, there were thousands and thousands of men showing up with their shirts off and there weren’t enough police cells to arrest them. So you would think that 80 years later, women would have the right to go topless on a beach too.

What do you think the issue has been for women for the past 80 years?

Bob: It basically comes down to marketing. A lot of “Madison Avenue” types use the breast to sell things like beer and football. So if you take the taboo away from the breast you cant use it to sell these things. It becomes the norm and more socially acceptable.

What is your opinion on breasts?

If you think about it, breasts are that halfway point between sexuality and maternity, but its not a genital. It should be considered alongside a mans nipples. We have to like all breasts. Big, small, old, and young. You know, one of the biggest problems with this “Madison Avenue” concept is that they’re convincing people that they have to have these huge, silicone breasts to be what is deemed as attractive, and the truth is that ALL breasts are attractive and you sort of have to de-sexualize them. Then everything is fine. Thats basically why Im here.

When I finished interviewing Bob about his opinions on the matter, my attentions turned to a woman sitting quietly on the floor of the stage. This woman would be one of the founders of the movement here in NH, Heidi Lilley and she spoke with me about her beliefs about starting what hopefully would be more events like this in the state.

Heidi: Free The Nipple started a couple years ago, and Kia Sinclair got turned on by the movement. And the buzz had reached my daughter and she turned to me and asked “Mom, what do you think?” and I turned to her and said “Absolutely”. I was all for it. Ive been someone who has fought for equality all of my life. Kia came into the equality movement through breastfeeding, primarily. She was a breastfeeding mom who had struggled with the stigma of breastfeeding in public. People not really harassing her, but giving her weird or odd looks from breastfeeding in public and making her feel uncomfortable. I breastfed thirty years ago and I got that same look thirty years ago and Im thinking “Thirty years later, that should be all done with. That should be ALL done with. We should have grown up a lot in thirty years, and we havn’t.” The stigma is still there. And these breasts were MADE, they were created. Im a christian and God created these so that we can feed our children. 

In the utero, your breasts and my breasts are identical. Zero difference.  It isn’t until puberty that our hormones kick in and they become different. I talked to a mother who had twins, one boy and one girl, who went to a state park, and they were told they had to cover the little girl. Not the boy, even though you could not tell the difference. Three years old, they couldn’t have a topless child on the beach, crazy.

I have every right to be topless as you do. That is why I am here. It is exciting to have as many people as we do today being supportive of everyone else and Im impressed with the amount of people who are here through the bad weather willing to give that support.

Have you encountered any negative feedback today?

Heidi: We were expected to have negativity today and I have not heard or seen one person who has voiced themselves negatively. It has all been inquiring. “Who are you? what are you doing? Why? And we tell them and the reaction has been “Oh! Well, cool! I agree with that.”

With the overall participation of the event being known throughout the state, and countless people showing up to show support and inquire, The Free the Nipple campaign did not need as much publicity as we would think. The idea took off and showed the state that the opinions of these women are a common feeling and a peaking interest of what todays standards should be. With the lack of resistance against the event, it also shows that many “Granite Staters” are more in favor and supportive than maybe we would believe. This lack of anti support is a key to the success of these countless women who were not afraid to reveal themselves even on a cold rainy day here in New Hampshire. This event has shown that there might be a changing point in todays times and New Hampshire could very well be one of the first states to take action on this topic.