Free The Nipple And The Mind Will Follow

B(.)(.)bs. Free 'em.

13/06/2016 7:18 AM AEST | Updated 15/07/2016 12:53 PM AEST
#FlashingFriday anyone?

One of my nicknames is NNP -- Nama No Pants. Before you get excited/disgusted, it does not mean I don't wear underwear -- it means that I hate covering my legs. No matter the weather, the moment I get home, I whip off my pants or stockings, whatever I'm wearing, so that my legs can breathe. It's just the way I am, and my family has always mocked me for it -- hence the nickname.

The introduction of Hamish and Andy's Pants Off Fridays was the first time in my life I felt validated and accepted for my habit. Those guys will never know how they changed my life.

I'm telling you all of this because I had an interesting encounter recently involving someone else's bare flesh and I don't want you to think I'm a prude. I am comfortable in my own skin. I have watched friends squeeze milk from their breasts directly into little bowls of rice cereal (so gross -- at least give the kids Special K). I don't believe in "age appropriate" covering up. I can handle skin.

But after this recent incident, I need to speak up about society's double standards when it comes to nudity. Innocently working away on my laptop at my kitchen bench, I cast my eye casually to the corner of the room where a tradie was fixing a loose floorboard. I did a double take when I realised that he had unzipped his jacket and I was unintentionally staring at his fully exposed chest.

Noticing my shock at this unexpected encounter, he stated casually "I'm hot". (I will respectfully refrain from making a joke about that comment.) Then he removed his jacket altogether. It was 15 degrees outside. I didn't have any heating on.

I didn't know WTF was going on. (And who wears a jacket with nothing underneath?)

I'm not going to tell you how old this man was, or whether I appreciated the opportunity to view his chest. Suffice it to say, it was not a Diet Coke ad. It was not a Manpower Australia moment. Or even a Village People one. But it would't have mattered if it had been, because it made me feel very uncomfortable that a man kneeling on my kitchen floor two metres away from me had unexpectedly and suddenly removed all the clothing from the top part of his body.

As I made an excuse to leave the room so that my discomfort was not obviously related to his state of undress, I wondered why I was so uncomfortable. Surely, I was not offended by the nudity. No. It was the tradie's nonchalant attitude to his ability to strip; because as a woman, taking my top off would have been totally unacceptable.

It was grossly unfair that I had to wear pants in my own home, as a courtesy to this man, and yet he could undress and be bare chested whilst on the job. I, too, was working. I, too, was hot from forcing myself to wear pants. Ripping my top off would have made me much cooler. Taking my bra off would be a veritable dream come true, because those things are so freaking uncomfortable.

But, no. A woman is 'indecent', and can be arrested, if she is bare-chested in public. Even in my own home, it could have been construed as sexual harassment if I'd 'exposed' myself to someone working for me. But I'd have a very weak case for arguing that this tradie had exposed himself to me. Even in 2016, a woman is a "not classy" if she shows too much cleavage, let alone a nipple. Because our bodies are viewed as sexual objects, and sadly that's the way it's always been.

Of course, there was nothing really unusual about what this tradie did. I've seen many a building site scattered with shirtless men on a hot Summer's day. I've seen semi-naked men running, at the beach, at the 7-11. And nobody thinks twice about it. But the majority of people simply accept that men are allowed to be bare-chested in public, and women are not.

For International Women's Day, I wrote a piece called "Gender Equality Needs An Outfit Change", where I explored the idea that everything about a woman's appearance is a comment on her sexuality: her hair, make-up, and attire, and yet a man's appearance is incidental to his words and actions.

A perfect example of this came this week, when Hillary Clinton wore a $12 000 Armani jacket during a speech. She was not wearing a badge with this information. She had not accidentally left the tags on. People sought this information out. But does anyone care that Donald Trump has probably spent at least that much on his wig collection? No.

It's 2016, and we are on the brink of seeing the first ever female American President. I think it's really time to stop putting so much emphasis on what women wear -- or don't wear -- and #freethenipple. We could even just start with #FlashingFridays to get everyone used to the idea.

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