Feminism | Posted by E.Locke on 10/7/2011

The Inequality of Breasts

being topless: just another double standard

being topless: just another double standard

Take a minute and think about how beautiful breasts are. They feed babies, they provide immense sexual pleasure, and look nice! And yet we see breasts as shameful and are socially and legally forced to cover them (there are actually only two states in which it is legal to expose your breasts publically). Women who do show their breasts are either shamed or sexualized. Others take it upon themselves to tell her to cover herself up or to try and sexually harass her. Is this really what we want for ourselves, our bodies and personal freedom?

I believe that women should be held to the same standards as men in all aspects of life, and breasts are no exception. Men are free to expose their chests in public without being subjected to any type of harassment or shame. Yet, if a woman was to do the same thing she would most definitely not face the same acceptance, and could even be arrested for indecent exposure. How is this not blatantly sexist?

We need to ask ourselves what we value: personal freedom and the ability to express ourselves or ignorance and hate. This isn’t just a matter of bodies, but is in fact a matter of politics. We have to remember that our constitution guarantees equal treatment and these laws definitely don’t live up to that standard. Even if you don’t agree that our bodies should be seen the same way, you have to remember that you are allowing sexism to take place from a legal standpoint.

So it’s time to ban together and demand equal treatment. If we don’t stop this madness now, who knows how far we’ll take these puritanical attitudes?

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  • Alice @ at 7:30 pm, October 7th, 2011

    This argument is extremely valid. When I was younger, I always wondered why I wasn’t allowed to walk around without a shirt on when boys were. I was on a co-ed soccer team, and even when the girls did not have breasts, because we were in kindergarten, we had to keep our shirts on. Therefore it is seen that this unfair restriction starts at a young age and all women in the western world are expected to follow it. Breasts are very important in child birth and life, so it is weird that we must hide them. In many foreign countries, women are able to walk around topless and breast feed their children in public. So why not us?

  • Brenda Nelson @ at 8:47 pm, October 7th, 2011

    Great article! Short and to the point. I loved it. Would you accept a post by a 10 yr old girl?

  • Chris @ at 7:12 am, October 9th, 2011

    There’s a reason the ‘double-standard’ exist. Personally, I think it’s a thing of superiority men have used in the past, but that’s just a wild guess.

  • Ann @ at 11:59 am, October 9th, 2011

    I agree completely! This is something I often wonder about. I mean, what’s the big deal? Guys have breasts, too! Why is there so much hullabaloo about OUR breasts and not theirs? Also, do you know which states it’s legal for women to go topless in? I think New York is one of them– a friend once told me about a parade feminists host in New York City where they exercise their right to go topless. But I’m not sure..

  • Erin Locke @ at 12:45 pm, October 9th, 2011

    @Ann The states they are legal in are New York State and Maine. Your friend is right- there is a big march every year in NYC.

  • Sophie @ at 2:25 pm, October 9th, 2011

    While I agree with you that this is a double standard, I personally would just feel weird walking around without a top on. I was raised to believe that women’s breasts were considered to be a “private area”, and needed to be covered just like a man’s “private area.” For me, I don’t mind keeping them covered in public, because the only person I would really want to see them would be my significant other.

    Although I don’t feel the need to go topless, I recognize that my inability to legally choose otherwise demonstrates an inequality between men and women.

  • Halle @ at 5:50 pm, October 9th, 2011

    I think this is strange as well and always wondered why women have to cover up. Breasts are not sexual organs, but are used to nuture babies. It is really about women vs. men than actual breasts anyway. Many overweight men have “man boobs” that look just like women’s breasts and they are allowed to go topless. What gives?

  • Erin @ at 7:29 pm, October 9th, 2011

    I agree with the concept of having women being able to express themselves by allowing them to expose their chest as the way men expose theirs. Women are subjected to being covered up by shirts or bathing suits. I agree with Chris that there is a reason that the double-standard exists. It may be because men want to feel superiority over women, even in such an issue as trivial as this. With this law they are able to reel women in and keep them in a certain picture that they wish women to be portrayed. If women are advocating this cause they may see them as going against normal society and that women are stepping out of line with this small issue which could lead to bigger problems. That is exactly what certain feminists want though. They want women to go against the norm and maybe start with something small, such as being allowed to express their breasts if they choose to, and then continue to possibly achieving greater things in the future. If men can learn to accept that some women want to go topless without being called a slut or whore, who knows the possibilities feminist name calling they can overcome in the future (ex: dike and man-hater).

    While I agree with this double standard, I would probably be one of those individuals who would not choose to walk around topless. I tend to be a more private person and do not want to expose myself to others, not that I have a problem with people that prefer to do so. When I was younger, I grew up not even second guessing what was being taught to us because it seemed as though everyone was doing it, but after reading this article it has opened my eyes to the fact that even though in the constitution every person is considered equal that it still is not the case. There are so many things that women deserve the right to choose for themselves rather than having their state government make the choice for them. If our government truly wants to uphold what is written in the United States Constitution then our state governments must allow women the same rights that it men are given. Boobs are nothing people should be afraid of seeing because both men and women have them. It is just that men are given the choice to be able to take their shirts off when it gets hot outside and women are not.

  • Erin @ at 9:44 pm, October 9th, 2011

    Great article! I’ve always thought it was weird that as a child I had to wear a shirt but my guy friends didn’t. I never thought of it more in depth as “allowing sexism to take place from a legal standpoint”. Your theory makes sense, however, I would not want to walk around without a shirt on. It goes against how basically all of us women were brought up as kids. It just wouldn’t make sense for women to be allowed to be topless. The fact that women can get a charge for merely showing their breasts almost doesn’t make sense and I could see how this argument could be brought up in court one day. Interesting thought.

  • Talia bat Pessi @ at 11:20 pm, October 9th, 2011

    I remember when I was in preschool, they took us to the butterfly exhibit at some museum, and it had to be really hot, so all of us were sweating to death. All of the boys and most of the girls did take off their shirts, but I didn’t. (My mother was always really overprotective when it came to me and public nudity, since she was really hyperaware of child molesters and perverts like that, so I knew that I shouldn’t indulge.)

  • Rachel @ at 1:37 am, October 10th, 2011

    Honestly, I don’t really see why this issue is a big deal to many people. I understand that some women would like to have this freedom, but what is the big deal walking around with, or without a shirt? Yes I understand if it is hot, but women have the chance to wear tank tops that barely cover any skin, or just wear sports bras. Bigger breasts are portrayed in the media as better and more attractive, so I don’t see why woman would want men to have more access to compare women’s breasts to each other.

    I don’t think that not allowing women go topless is something that is unequal, I think it is something that is appropriate. Obviously men and women have different bodies, so men walking around without shirts on is very different than a woman walking around without a shirt on. Some femenists may find that women covering their breasts is a social script that was simply presented and accepted by society. I do not think that it is a script, and think it is a natural thing for women to cover up their breasts.

    In some foreign countries there are topless beaches, there may even be some here in America. Personally if I were to go to one of those beaches, even if I was aloud I would not go topless, and I think a lot of people would agree and not go topless either just because it would be uncomfortable.

  • Azura @ at 10:32 am, October 10th, 2011

    I definitely think women should have the right to go topless in public if it pleases them. But personally, as a “well-endowed” chick, I can’t imagine being very comfortable (boob sweat!). Also, the usual argument “but people will stare!” nope. they won’t stare anymore than they already do. because people check out boobies whether they’re covered or not. I don’t think it’s a sexual display either–our culture does sexualize breasts, which is silly when you consider that yes, they are sexual (in that they can bring pleasure during the sexual act) but they also serve non-sexual roles (feeding babies, balancing books–or is that just me?)Men’s nipples are also an erotic center, but somehow a man’s naked chest is not sexual, even though hetero women and gay men might find it a turn-on? Oh the inequalities. I’d better shut up before I have a tantrum.

  • Matt P @ at 3:53 pm, October 10th, 2011

    I completely agree with this article. Both men and women have legs, both men and women have eyes, both men and women have almost everything similar except for a couple of exceptions. Why is it that one body part in which both male and female have must be covered on a women’s body and not a mans. I believe that this started from a mans view point upon a girl. Someone in the past must have gotten sexually aroused by a females breasts and though something about it. The men in the community were probably getting to distracted by female breasts just like some females get distracted when say a “bodybuilder” takes his shirt off. Overall i think this is more of an issue that takes place within the society then within personal rights.

  • Amber @ at 4:22 pm, October 10th, 2011

    I totally agree with the article. I think by forcing women to keep their breasts covered and allowing men to show off their “man boobs” keeps men in a superior position. Our breasts are allowed to be exposed when it’s considered acceptable by men. You don’t see men complaining about woman who show off their boobs in porn because they get something from that. You do see a man complain about “his woman” showing off too much of her boobs in public. It’s his upper hand position in the situation. He doesn’t want you showing it off to other men; also, some men would think he would need to keep his woman under control. Making her cover it up is a sense of control.
    @ Azura and Sophie, i believe many woman would feel uncomfortable exposing themselves because we have grown up in a society where we have been pressured to think that exposing our boobs is inappropriate and we should feel uncomfortable by the exposure. If we grew up in a society were boob exposure was accepted, the uncomforting feeling that we females have learned may be completely different. Men’s chest are not as sexual because women throughout generations have been the eye-candy (meaning looked at for their body, not brains). It was common to see pictures of women exposing their breasts and the rest of their body during the Renaissance time period. Our bodies have been depicted and spectated for centuries.

  • Amber @ at 4:39 pm, October 10th, 2011

    @Rachel, i felt this was needed as its own post. I do see it as an inequality. What makes it natural to be covered? There have been many civilizations that expose breasts (as well as a man’s penis). It’s the appreciation of a body. It’s deemed appropriate in our country to keep covered because society has inflicted this mindset that exposing one’s breasts is a sin and unlawful. It’s not about being hot and just wearing a sports bra. It’s about being able to walk outside and strip it all off if you want. The topless beach situation, again, why would it be uncomfortable for you? because as an assumption, we females have grown up in a society that has taught us to keep ourselves covered. We have (by society and it’s pressures) physiologically convinced ourselves that exposing boobs is appropriate and uncomfortable. Do you walk outside in shorts? Do you wear a bathing suit in the summer? Why is that not uncomfortable for women who do expose their legs and stomachs while wearing shorts or a bathing suit. Society has not pressured us into thinking that wearing a bathing is exposing way too much to society. Africa, India, and Egypt all force women to wear burqas (masks which cover their face completely and have an eye hole). They have grown up wearing these masks because society has forced them too. They have been taught to see that exposing their face is inappropriate We female Americans expose our face all the time freely. Now if they were to release that mask in public they’d feel uncomfortable as well wouldn’t they?

  • Danielle @ at 7:39 pm, October 10th, 2011

    I think this point is spot on! I cannot even begin to explain how upset I get when it is 100 degrees outside and men get to run around without shirts. Meanwhile, girls are making sure they don’t have pit stains or smell bad because HEAVEN forbid men see that girls actually sweat and think they re unattractive for it. And that is on the tip of the iceberg of how ridiculous it is that men can be topless and women can’t. They can drive cars without shirts on and sometimes even eat in certain restaurants. If I walked around with my tits hanging out I would definitely NOT get the same reaction. Some would whistle, some would be appalled, and in the end I would end up in trouble with the law. Personally, I don’t like to see moobs (man boobs), but unfortunately for us women, we don’t have a choice because it isn’t “wrong” for men to flaunt them. Moobs look the same as women’s breast so why can’t we show ours?

  • Kellie @ at 9:36 pm, October 10th, 2011

    I agree with this article. It is a very interesting standpoint on something so simple, which can go a long way.

    Like stated earlier many countries have a tolerance for going topless. People from around the world travel on vacation to beaches that allow this act. I can see how it can make people feel uncomfortable, but it’s a part of the human body. Girls walk around with tiny tank tops on flaunting their cleavage and I see it as part of expression. People judge way to much and might even call these girls “slutty”. I have been a victim of this by my own mother. But in the end just ignore this statement.

    People already stare a women’s boobs so what would be going topless be harming. It is not like they are going to make a law they everyone must go topless, but if one feels like they want to then all power to them!

    I would like to make another point that going on right now, the whole month of October in a way is dedicated to breasts. We are raising awareness of a very sad and horrible disease that many women suffer from and therefore so do their families.

    If men can show their chests why not women as well? I believe men would not be against this act and in return separate some sort of sexist act.

  • Jamie @ at 10:18 pm, October 10th, 2011

    I like the argument presented in this blog, but there are a few points that I disagree with. American society, along with other developed societies around the world, have made it known for years that women should cover their breasts in public. The argument here is valid, if men can do it, why can’t women? It’s understood that although women’s breasts are not seen as sexual organs, but they are respectively more stimulating than a man’s chest. Fine by me if women want to strut around showing their breasts, and I say that in the most respectful way. The thing is, they don’t want to. If women showed their chests as much as men, women would most likely feel out place and insecure. It’s been this way for so long, I don’t think it would be socially accepted at this point. As outrageous as this argument is, it carries some validity. Equality between men and women is the goal of feminists and morally oriented people. Saying that, women should be able to show their breasts if men are able to show theirs.

  • Olivia @ at 11:57 pm, October 10th, 2011

    This is a great article, especially when playing devil’s advocate. Women really should be allowed to show their breasts in public. However with this being said, I feel as though many women would not be comfortable with this especially with the culture we’ve grown up in. Going up in America we wear tops, bras, bikinis, and anything else that doesn’t expose ourselves. However when you travel anywhere out of the country, especially Mexico when the cultures come together you can really experience the top verse topless experience. I feel as though since we have been surrounded by covering up unless for other purposes women really don’t think of any other way.

  • Emma E @ at 5:43 pm, October 12th, 2011

    This issue has always bugged me. I mean, you can basically go topless as long as there’s just a tiny bit of material on your chest. Then it’s okay. But if there’s no material, God forbid! Tres annoying. Although personally, I wouldn’t actually want to walk around topless. But it frustrates me that I don’t have the option. That, for me, is what feminism is: having options, even if you don’t use them. (And some other stuff too.) :)

  • Ben @ at 4:21 pm, November 3rd, 2011


    This is an interesting idea and bears some discussion. However, I am surprised and frankly disappointed with the naiveté and poor logic evinced in this discussion thread.

    My viewpoint – as a guy – is this: Just as men are not the same as women in other ways, man boobs and woman boobs are NOT the same thing.

    Some things said above:

    Matt P: “I believe that this started from a man’s viewpoint upon a girl. Someone in the past must have gotten sexually aroused by a females breasts and though something about it.”

    “Someone in the past” um, it’s called EVERYONE EVER? Are you a guy or not?
    Now I cannot explain the scientific basis for this – honestly it baffles me completely – but it is pretty much an absolute truth that men enjoy boobs in a sexual way. Is this to be discouraged? I’d say no because it’s universal and not some fetish of a minority. Therefore we are really left with no choice but to write it off as a peculiarity of men. Denying this trait is about as foolish as denying that women will need different sized shirts than men.
    What does it matter whether or not breasts are technically a “sexual organ” if the male brain views them as such? This is what I mean by naiveté above. It would be nice to think that men don’t really care about breasts, that this is just some ploy by the media. Unfortunately though that’s just not true, and we have to deal with reality.

    Ann: “Guys have breasts too! Why is there so much hullabaloo about OUR breasts and not theirs?”

    Because girls don’t view men’s breasts sexually, as explained above. In that sense, having exposed breasts is pretty much the same thing as not wearing pants. Whatever stimulates you sexually, imagine an image of that taped on everyone’s shirt.

    Azura: “…the usual argument ‘but people will stare!’ Nope. They won’t stare any more than they already do. Because people check out boobies whether they’re covered or not.”

    If you are so confident then back up your assertion with data. Go somewhere it is legal to be topless. Try wearing a top and going topless, and I don’t think I have to tell you which will get you more stares.
    You are also forgetting that males play half (or more) of the role in this balance. True, society makes you cover yourself, but we don’t force you to wear parkas. You do 50% by covering some of the goods up and men do 50% by not looking at the rest. It is no less frowned upon for a man to stare at a woman’s chest than it is for a woman to wear revealing clothing, at least among civilized men.

    Amber : “Allowing men to show off their ‘man boobs’ keeps men in a superior position.”

    Does it keep us in a superior position because it allows us to display our muscles? If that’s what you mean, then women are more than welcome to display any muscles save their pectorals. On average, men are indeed more muscular than women, but this is due to genetics, not society.

    (Amber again) “You don’t see men complaining about woman who show off their boobs in porn because they get something from that.”

    First, porn is not really culturally accepted in the first place, so in that sense everyone is always “complaining” about those boobs. (Imagine a politician praising boobs on a pornstar; the fact that she does porn makes the statement worse, not better.)
    Second, are you really saying you want everyday life to become more like porn?

    Emma E: “You can basically go topless as long as there’s just a tiny bit of material on your chest. Then it’s okay. But if there’s no material, God forbid!”

    I agree completely with this statement. I guess it’s good that we have some “rules” to guide behavior – i.e. cover your nipples – but so much room is left that there really might as well not be rules in the first place.
    Of course, a lot of the push downward in clothing size comes from women themselves. It doesn’t hurt you physically to wear skimpy clothing, and it can make you more attractive, so win-win, right?
    I’m pretty sure we can all agree that objectification of women is a bad thing. And whether for sexiness or self-affirmation, more boob exposure does exactly that. It’s only nature to rate and compare the other sex in order to choose the best mate. And if everything is put on the surface, there is less and less reason for a guy to dive deeper to compare the inner characteristics of a woman. I feel like this should be self-evident to a group of feminists – if you don’t want to be evaluated superficially, then by God’s name don’t make the superficial even more apparent.

    (Emma again) “That, for me, is what feminism is: having options, even if you don’t use them.”

    There is a place for this argument but I think an argument in favor of the greater good trumps in this case. Do we really want a society where women are EVEN MORE easily judged based on their appearance, and where male sexuality plays an even greater part of daily life?
    Also, consider how this is basically the exact same argument used by gun right activists, which I’d bet money Emma doesn’t sympathize with.

    In conclusion, I think the young women here need a dose of realism. Men are far from perfect; one of our key weaknesses is boobs. It pays for both sexes to remember this and act accordingly.

  • Madi @ at 5:35 am, December 26th, 2011

    I couldn’t agree with this more and this is one issue that I am always arguing with the men in my life over. Especially when the most common excuse I hear from them to defend the inequality is that “guys can’t control themselves” -.-

  • ev @ at 10:27 am, December 30th, 2014

    Women who show their breasts are sexualized because breasts are sexual. The permanently enlarged human breast evolved soley for sexual purposes. larger breasts do not produce more milk or allow an infant to feed better. The mammary glands enlarge when needed regardless of the surrounding fat. Breasts are only big because men like big breasts.

    It’s not like male chests. Male chests are about as sexually meaningful as female stomachs, as variable health indicators that a person can change just by skipping the cake and going to the gym. Forbidding bare breasts is the equivalent of forbidding the open display of male testicles. They are both secondary sexual organs, and their size implies a person’s quality as a mate. The covering of such organs reduces sexual objectification and allows society to function on a higher level than a bunch of peacocks picking partners based on plumage.

    People who wish to function on that level are shamed because they fight against the social advances that we’ve made first, and second, for primitive sexual reasons. Breasts not big enough, balls too small, and so on. Every man and woman’s worst fear is being deemed “the lesser” for their sexual characteristics because that’s what happens in our natural state. Take off the clothes and some people just don’t get to mate!

    Keep your shirts and pants on so you can find true love instead of a more darwinian match. It seems unfair to tell women what to do with their bodies, and seems to go against current themes about female empowerment, but clothes are empowerment (and remember, men are told to cover up their nasty fluid-producing bits as well).

    Before you make a comment about the display of male muscles: They do not signify attractiveness in men. A man with an unattractive build and face will always look ridiculous, even with muscles (and balls).

    Now, to force people who are simply attractive to wear burqhas? Some people would agree with that proposition. Personally, I’d rather see a future of variable breast sizes caused by de-emphasizing them with clothes than a future of fewer overall sexy people.

  • Glen A Jacquart PH.D. @ at 8:04 pm, December 30th, 2015

    My daughter got kicked off Facebook
    for showing photos of Breasts. What
    Facebook didn’t know was they were all Man Boobs.
    She posted; Why can Putin show his Russian boobs and I can’t show mine.


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