Pure double standards: Why are women's nipples still taboo?

Pure double standards: Why are women’s nipples still taboo?

Who would have thought that a sheer pink dress worn by an award-winning actress on the red carpet of a runway show could have the power to send the internet into such a frenzy?

But it was never really about the dress, was it? It was about what is under the dress and more specifically what exists just below the surface of society. The sheer fabric of a Valentino dress not only revealed Florence Pugh’s breasts, but also highlighted the thinly veiled misogyny that’s still rife in 2022.

Last Friday, midsummer Star Florence Pugh walked the red carpet at Valentino’s haute couture show in Rome wearing a fuchsia tulle gown designed by the brand’s artistic director Pierpaolo Piccioli. In a nod to the burgeoning Barbie core trend, the ensemble was an all-pink ensemble and featured a sheer halterneck bodice that exposed the actress’ breasts and oh-so-controversial nipples.

“Technically they are covered?” Pugh wrote on Instagram, a platform known for its censorship of the female form. After posting these beautiful pictures to her 7.6 million followers, it didn’t take long for the trolls to crawl out of the wood.

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From comments about the size and shape of her boobs to criticism that the actress “leaves nothing to the imagination” — an overused, inherently sexist expression — people felt compelled to let her tuppence value take Pugh’s post and go with it pointing the finger in what was supposedly an apparent act of female empowerment.

Justified The beginning, Piccioli muses that his Fall 2022 collection is both deeply personal and a commentary on the world around us. “I believe it’s my responsibility as a fashion designer to be a witness to the times we live in,” he said. “I think beauty has the power to assert itself, to touch people and their conscience… I believe fashion can be political.”

“Fashion differs from art in that art only serves itself, while fashion has to deal with the body; therefore, fashion can have a strong say in societal issues such as accepting diversity or advocating for human rights,” he said.

A model walks the runway at Valentino Haute Couture 2022

Despite the fact that a number of models walked the Valentino catwalk in sheer designs proudly showing off their breasts, the conversation turns to Florence Pugh and, as she puts it, “two cute little nipples”.

In response to the backlash she received from her first post, Pugh returned to Instagram to express her frustration and refusal to conform to the standards of beauty set by a patriarchal society.

“Listen I knew when I wore this amazing Valentino dress there was no way that there would be any comment on it,” she wrote. “Whether negative or positive, we all knew what we were doing.”

Pugh assures us there was no semblance of nervousness before, during or after wearing the dress, noting, “It was interesting to watch and witness how easy it is for men to show off a woman’s body publicly and proudly.” to completely destroy all to see.”

Florence Pugh attends the 92nd 2020 Oscar Nominees Luncheon

As a woman who lives her life in the public eye, a side effect of fame that makes anonymity seem like a blessing, Pugh is well acquainted with the dangers of being noticed: “It’s not the first time and it certainly won’t be The last time a woman hears what’s going on with her body from a crowd of strangers.”

“Fortunately, I’ve come to terms with the intricacies of my body that make me who I am. I’m happy with all the ‘mistakes’ I couldn’t take when I was 14. So many of you wanted to be aggressive in letting me know how disappointed you were with my “small tits” or how embarrassed I should be for being so “flat chested”. I’ve lived in my body for a long time. I am fully aware of my breast size and not afraid of it.”

Raised in a household of strong women who taught her to “find power in the folds [her] body,” Pugh railed against a world that punishes women for being “loud because they’re comfortable.”

“It’s always been my mission in this industry to say ‘fuck it and fuck that’ whenever someone expects my body to morph into an opinion about what’s hot or sexually attractive… Grow up. respect people respect body. Respect all women. respect people. Life will be a lot easier, I promise.”

Young women slogan demanding to go topless
Women chanting “Free the Nippel” at the Pride Parade in San Diego to go topless

#FreetheNipple has become such a ubiquitous expression that it’s taken on the same vibe of the long-fought battles of days gone by. The difference is that this one is still up for grabs. Over a decade since the campaign launched to stop Instagram from tracking women’s bodies, the platform’s community guidelines still ban “photographs of female nipples.”

There are certain exceptions, including images related to breastfeeding, birth and postpartum moments, health-related situations, or protest actions. The social media platform also assures us that “nudity in photos of paintings and sculptures is okay, too.”

What exactly is an act of protest? Surely, more than 10 years after the app started banning breasts, any post showing a bare breast could be categorized as a protest.

Conversations about women’s breasts often revolve around either sacred motherhood or lewd sexuality. They exist to either feed a baby or entertain a man. Totally permissible when locked in the walls of a museum or cinema, when a pair of nipples are seen through a shirt on the street, or when we scroll through our news feeds, they’re instantly X-rated.

Zendaya attends the 25th Annual Critics' Choice Awards
Zendaya attends the 25th Annual Critics’ Choice Awards

Breasts and fashion go hand in hand and have done so for centuries. From Pauline Bonaparte, Napoleon’s sister, who reportedly commissioned a gold goblet in the shape of her breast in the 18th century, to Zendaya’s custom Tom Ford breastplate, which was molded to her exact measurements just last year, nipples are an integral part the female form. They don’t just fall off when they hurt someone’s sensitivity.

From Cher’s iconic Bob Mackie dress worn to the Met Gala in the ’70s, to Kate Moss’ countless sheer dresses worn on red carpets in the ’90s, the connection between fashion and femininity is unmistakable Don’t pick up shapes so easily.

What did Rihanna say in 2014 when she went to the carpet at the Council of Fashion Designers of America Awards? “Do you mind my tits? They’re covered in Swarovski crystals!”

Rihanna attends the 2014 CFDA Fashion Awards
Rihanna attends the 2014 CFDA Fashion Awards

Whether they’re proudly displayed at a Hollywood event or hidden behind layers of clothing in the daily paper, the world will always find a way to sexualize a pair of female breasts.

Think teenage Billie Eilish draped in a vest top instead of the typically baggy hoodies she was once known for, and the internet went nuts.

Large or small, front and center or concealed, a woman’s breasts are not meant for prying eyes to scrutinize.

The views expressed here are those of the author and do not represent or reflect the views of RTÉ.

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