Politics & Policy

Beyond #FreeTheNipple

Feminist-designed bikini top simulates breasts because equality.

Some women really seem to hate wearing shirts. Celebrity daughter Scout Willis heads up the #freethenipple campaign because she is angry at the social-media site Instagram for deleting sexually explicit pictures from her feed. 

But the movement has taken on a new form in the TaTa Top. In case you can’t guess from the name, the new prototype is a bikini top with nipples painted on a (white) flesh-background. From the right distance and with the right skin tone, the wearer appears to be topless. The bathing suit is busting out all over on social media and has been featured by 20 news outlets including BuzzFeed, Jezebel, and Cosmopolitan. Designers Robyn Graves and Michelle Lytle tell National Review Online they created the top to destigmatize women’s naked breasts. As the fashion visionaries write at TheTaTaTop.com, “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?”

Lytle tells NRO she designed the top because she was “really inspired about the possibility of making a difference . . . Even though this is just a bikini with nipples on it, it’s going to be popular because it’s making people laugh and it’s addressing the issue with humor.”

Does the issue need to be addressed? According to GoTopless.org, an organization dedicated to undressing the clothed, most states — 33 to be exact — specifically affirm the right of women to walk the streets topless. Only three states — Utah, Indiana, and Tennessee — consider bare breasts illegal.

TheTaTaTop.com features a section of photos of customers wearing the bikini top, often in public, sometimes posing with their children. A common trend appears to be women wearing the top under a shirt, which is lifted to expose the bathing suit, seemingly to simulate the pioneering Girls Gone Wild franchise. If the point of wearing this particular bikini is to desexualize female breasts, pretending to flash them may or may not be helping the cause.

Lytle says she has worn the top “everywhere,” adding that her next stop is North Avenue Beach in Chicago, where it is illegal for women to appear sans bra, according to city law.

The #freethenipple hashtag adorns many photos of the bikini on @TheTaTaTop’s Twitter page, but Lytle says the prototype was imagined before Scout Willis bared her breasts for the cause. She praises Lina Esco, the actress directing a documentary entitled “Free The Nipple,” for doing work that is “so much more important than people realize.”

To sum up the message of the TaTa Top, Lytle tells NRO, “A customer actually wrote this to me yesterday and I thought it summed it up so perfectly: ‘It is not my hope that our daughters can roam topless one day, but that our sons will truly see women as equals.’”

Until recently the TaTa Top was only available in Caucasian-colored flesh tones, which seems a bit close-minded for a website that proudly features the rainbow flag of the LGBT movement. As Jezebel said, correctly for once, “Like many aspects of modern-day feminism, right now, this one’s only available to women with light skin and disposable income.”

The idea that nudity, even feigned nudity, will create gender equality is not supported by any evidence from history or science. If Michelle Lytle and Robyn Graves’s logic held water, every female in the entertainment industry would be respected. When Jennifer Lopez wore her now-famous green Versace dress (it has its own Wikipedia page), did men see her and think she might be a worthy adversary in a game of chess?

And to those women who purchase the TaTa Top, if you truly feel like you are being disenfranchised by wearing a bra, just visit a nudist beach

— Christine Sisto is an editorial associate at National Review Online.


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