Last weekend we went to the swimming pool, the whole family. It brought home to me how alive the gender divide still is when it comes to our bodies. My husband just put his trunks in the bag and went, where as I spent half an hour de-fuzzing my armpits and legs from their winter growth.
And then as we got ready to swim, I looked at my two girls, aged two and four. Each completely themselves. One in a pink floral patterned ultra girly swim suit, with frilly parts to draw the eye to her non existent four year old bust. And the other in a pair of her brother’s old pirate monkey shorts. Topless.
“You look like a boy,” my seven year old son said to her.
“Why?” I asked.
“Because she’s only wearing shorts and I can see her nipples,” was the reply.
And yes, there she was, nipples to the wind, just the same as he was at that age.
And it felt good to me. And to her. And everyone else just got on with their lives assuming she was a boy.
Because truly, there is no shame in a girl’s nipples. It feels ridiculous to even say it.
Why do they need to learn to be “discrete” with a non-genital part of their body, when little boys can bear them in public, shamelessly? It is just learning a body shame which will get worse as they get older. Something is seriously wrong with our culture, when nipples are fine on the cover of lads’ mags, and Page 3 of the daily paper in the UK, but are considered shameful to be exposed for their biological function: feeding a baby.
I see pictures of tribes’ people around the world with longing. There are the women – from 14 to 70 with their breasts, all shapes and sizes, to the wind.
Their beautiful, normal breasts.
But the first sign of civilisation, when other cultures impinge on theirs, is the covering of a woman’s breasts. I remember hearing an Aboriginal elder, one of the lost tribes, who was “discovered” by a white explorer in the 1950s. She looked back at the photographs he took of their lifestyle, this woman who was wearing a baggy T shirt. Oh look she says, we used to go everywhere with nothing on our boobies! And laughs.
And I feel a longing to have that freedom. When the sun shines, to not be tangled in a bra for support, and a T shirt for modesty, but to join my husband and son and every builder in Ireland as we whip off our tops to feel the sun soak into our skins.
Not to make a statement, or to tittilate or shock. Just because the sun is out, my body is not shameful, and I put my nipples to the wind.
So true. We go swimming on Saturday mornings and one day one of the lads made some comment or other about bodies. It was just us in our own changing cubicle and I started on my usual reply: “Guess what? We are all………..” and I got interrupted with “yeah, we know. naked under our clothes.”
“I got pink nipples and I cannot lie.”
Love it, Gwen, you got that song in my head now!
So True! And beautifully written…Thank you.
I remember being on vacation with my grandparents when I was 7 (I’m 52) and trying to understand why my brothers could go shirtless on such a humid, hot day and I couldn’t. I still am trying to understand….
Oh Vicki, your comment tugs my heart strings. Yes, why, why, why? I was very lucky that I had two parents that let me run naked at the beach, the pool and the garden. I thought that was the norm, but looking back at photos I’m te only one! But in this day and age people can be very quick to judge and speak out, friends have been reprimanded to “put clothes on that (3 year old) child” on a beach. We live in such as strange era of body anxiety and porn flesh, there seems no room for everyday bodies doing their inoffensive body thing…
I love this! I am a new reader, and a proofreader. Discreet=modest, discrete=one of. Sorry to be a stickler.
Sarita – I never knew there was a spelling difference. Thank you for teaching me something today!(And I have been a proof reader and English teacher in my life!)