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A double standard many accept without question.
The world is full of examples of double standards, and many of these are based on gender. Men are often called distinguished as they age, yet the same is not said of women. Men are said to be assertive, but strong women are called bossy (or worse).
The gender pay gap, despite some improvements, still has some way to go. In many industries, women are still paid less than their male colleagues for the same work.
I like to think that most of us are aware of double standards in society, and given the chance would choose not to blindly accept or promote such inconsistencies. I like to believe that most of us will call out these double standards when we are confronted by them.
There is one double standard that is so ingrained in many of our communities, that we accept it often without a second thought.
We don’t even notice if a man, on a hot day, walks down a public street or appears in a public park without a shirt on. Contrast that with the outrage and offence claimed if a female behaved in the same way. The hypocrisy is remarkable.
The right to be topless in public is something that men are free to do in many societies and yet women are not, except for a few beaches. This double standard between the offensiveness of female nipples compared to the indifference towards male nipples is highlighted at the local swimming pool, river or swimming beach. Men are expected to go topless, and some public pools ban wearing additional clothing such as t-shirts, should the swimmer be weighed down or restricted by excessive clothing. On the other hand, women are specifically excluded from topless bathing, as exposing their chests appears to be too much for society to accept.
I do have some concerns as a man writing to highlight this inequality and I am not immune to the criticism that I just want to see more breasts. As a clothing-optional practitioner and advocate for body freedom, I don’t see the criticism as valid, but I understand that others may well draw that conclusion. This is symbolic of the general attitude in society that allowed this imbalance in the first place. Society has a pervasive attitude that women's breasts are rude, naughty, sexual or indecent, and should be kept covered at all times, even if it may be uncomfortable for the woman. Society also believes that men are rendered helpless at the sight of female breasts, and need to be protected from exposure at all costs. Women’s breasts are considered either functional or sexual, and there appears to be an attitude that they must be hidden from everyone for the good of society.
Some groups have tried to address this imbalance, and the Free the Nipple movement is probably the most well known of the top-freedom groups.
The top-freedom movement advocates for women to be allowed to go topless in public. They work to repeal laws restricting women from baring their chests, specifically in places where men are allowed to take their shirts off and support the right of mothers to openly breastfeed in public.
It seems that men’s breasts are inoffensive and women’s breasts are sexual or indecent. This is even though some men have larger breasts than some women, so the issue is not about size. As a function of feeding infants, female breasts are utilitarian and not the least bit sexual, so the issue isn’t about function.
Interestingly, female breasts or the hint of the female breast in the form of cleavage or scarcely covered breasts are considered appropriate to help sell products. Feminine curves have been used in advertising to sell all sorts of products, many unrelated to the female form, and yet they are considered too offensive to be openly displayed in public.
Social media companies are struggling with algorithms designed to try and identify offensive material, and artificial intelligence has proved itself as not very smart, when it comes to making judgement calls about approved and non-approved nudity. Distinguishing between art and pornography is more than being able to detect the presence of a nipple or genitals. The upshot is that everything gets lumped in as offensive and is banned, resulting in cries of discrimination from artists, breastfeeding parents and followers of a naturist philosophy.
Facebook, YouTube and Instagram all have policies around decency that re-enforce the message that female breasts are indecent.
People like Cleo from Topless Topics have found out first-hand how easily their voice is shut down when they have highlighted the hypocrisy and asked valid questions about the rules employed by social media platforms. You can check out her content and a history of her struggles here: https://allmylinks.com/toptopics
True gender equality is not yet a realisation and this is just one of the discrepancies that should be resolved before we can say that women are equal in society.
We all need to be aware of how we accept double standards, our behaviour around them and how we need to call them out when we see them. Saying and doing nothing simply allows them to continue unchallenged and become the norm.
Thank you for reading, have a comfortable day.