OPINION | Women’s nipples don’t need to be covered, your patriarchy needs checking if they offend you

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Illustration photo by Getty Images
Illustration photo by Getty Images

What is it about women's nipples that makes them so "offensive" that they require censorship? I'm yet to see a man being forced to hide or conceal any part of his body for any reason. However, women are often criticised for exercising even a modicum of freedom when it comes to the way they dress.

The latest case is Instagram's censorship of a picture of Madonna because it revealed a tiny part of her nipple. 

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This begs the question: Who makes the rules around what is acceptable or not when it comes to women's bodies and clothing style? We all know the answer - misogynistic men whose discomfort with the way women look determines what we can and cannot do with our bodies. 

Before writing this op-ed, I asked several women if they found anything offensive or sexual about a woman's nipples and breasts. And the answer was a resounding "no" - and this applies to seeing nipples or breasts in public or privately.

Therefore, if women are not averse to seeing their own or each other's breasts and nipples, it is clearly patriarchy that dictates how women should exist in the world - and this has no place in society.

In some African cultures, traditional regalia exposes breasts and nipples. And there is nothing sexual about this. It is an expression of cultural pride and femininity. 

Why is it then that women's breasts - nipples in particular - are viewed as something that must be hidden in most settings? This is made-up discourse created for the comfort of men who choose to see women's nipples in a sexual or perverted manner.

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On the contrary, women are bombarded with images of men's chests regularly and choose to see nothing offensive or sexual about those images. 

In fact, one of the first images of a naked man that many women see is some or other recreation of Michelangelo's David, cited as the world's most beautiful and chiselled man (and undoubtedly one of the world's most recognisable sculptures).

As we all know, this statue shows David's nipples, penis, and pubic hair. Yet, not many women are campaigning for it to be banned or censored in any way - it doesn't offend us because being offended by someone else's body - naked or not - is a matter of choice. 

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And if you believe - as patriarchal societies do - that women have to bend over for your comfort, you're the problem. If seeing a woman's nipple makes you feel any different than you do when seeing a man's, you should ask yourself why this is so and why your views matter so much that women's freedom of expression should be taken away to cater to your lack of restraint. It's not the bare women's nipples that need dealing with or censoring - it's misogynistic views of the world and patriarchal mindsets that need fixing.

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Until the world understands that women's bodies belong to them and no one else, there will always be some form of discrimination and suppression of women's freedom of authentic expression. A nipple is a nipple, and a breast is a breast - nothing more. There is nothing sexual or offensive about it. The problem is that men come up with suggestive connotations that make it so. Women should be able to free their nipples if they choose to, and men should choose to fix their minds. 

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