Episode 9: Sassy Souls with Bx Sassy & Free The Nipple Brighton
'Free The Nipple Brighton' is a feminist protest movement founded by Bee and Mickey. As a community, they protest against the compulsory sexualisation of women and femme bodies. In this conversation, we hear how they subvert the power of sexist double standards through their nipple freeing annual march and continuous activism.
Tune into this bonus episode of Sassy Souls with Bee and Mickey, recorded as part of International Women's Day Celebration hosted by Brighton Womens Centre. Interviewed by the founder of our platform, Bethany Burgoyne, these conversations unpick the enforced sexualisation of breasts and welcome a fresh perspective on fostering agency over your own body.
Free The Nipple Brighton started in 2018 off the back of Bee's previous involvement protesting against female nipple censorship. Seeing the potential in such a gathering, and learning how the organiser had stepped down, Bee took the reigns and began rallying more people into becoming involved. With the help of Mickey and many more, FTN took to the seafront, banners in hand and nipples in the air. The result was a joyful protest that embodied a friendly, welcoming, and unashamed topfree celebration. Since then, Bee and Mickey have continued to protest against the sexualisation and censorship of breasts. Be it on a daily basis in private, or talking on podcasts, FTN Brighton is spreading the much-needed message to destigmatize the boob.
It's wild to show your body to other people and just hang up that shame for the day. The act of doing it is so exhilarating
With a mission to destabilise the male gaze, Free The Nipple Brighton explains how "breasts are used to sell perfume and cars. So when those images are saturating our environment, we come to see women's bodies and breasts as an object to consume." Within this are toxic, beauty standards, which Bee explains means "when people see breasts they're reminded of sex. And it's not all breasts. It's a very specific perky, young, often white body that we're talking about. So women and people with femme bodies grow up feeling their bodies are fundamentally wrong if they don't live up to that standard." FTNB plays an important role in breaking away from this narrative and challenging such outdated, sexist ideas.
When looking at the law around female nipples, Bee explains how it's not illegal in the UK to show your nipples, it's just considered socially inappropriate. However, in public venues, you require a nudity license to be able to show female nipples. When it comes to television, similarly female nipples are hidden and censored until after the watershed hour. reinforcing an idea of them being inappropriate. Whereas flashing is illegal so if someone perceives you to be flashing them then you could get in legal trouble.
With breasts, there's this compulsory sexualisation... if they're on show then you're a sex object and people will ridicule you and shame you
Bee points out that if you're breastfeeding or sunbathing, you may not necessarily get a legal ramification you still "get socially punished. The subtle social punishments, when you do something that jars with the status quo or people's conditioning. They'll see a breast and see it as inherently pornographic or indecent." Digging into this further, she expands how "Anything can be sexual but with breasts, there's this compulsory sexualisation... if you're showing too much of your breasts or they're on show [at all] then you're a sex object and people will ridicule you and shame you." Mickey seconds this by emphasizing how "if you are getting your breasts out and it's your choice, you might be called a slag or experience slut shaming". This sad reality is what can lead to self-deprecating thoughts and fear of nudity as a form of protection from sexual harassment.
The process to shedding learned behaviour and negative narratives is something both Bee and Mickey discuss as requiring self-compassion and patience. "Rather than force yourself into feeling positive...be kind on yourself. We are all living in a society that is quite brutal when it comes to being marginalised in any way. There is a universal ideal within our culture of the straight white male and any degree of separation from that ideal will face some kind of challenge so it is difficult and you can't shed that in a day or a year." In a bid to provide more agency amongst people with breasts, Free The Nipple offers an active solution in the form of resistance.
However, with many women still feeling uncomfortable showing or seeing boobs, there comes a parallel mission. Free The Nipple is about enhancing confidence in people and ridding the fear of scrutiny. This is something that's come from Bee and Mickey's own experiences of being judged or humiliated in their own bodies. For Mickey "One of the first things I remember at 11 years old was being on holiday [without a top on]...and a group of kids asking me why I didn't have my breasts covered up. I was really embarrassed. And that was it. Until we started doing Free The Nipple, I would never have my breasts out." This social shaming is something that has a hugely negative impact on the self-censorship of young girls and women across the world.
There is a universal ideal within our culture of the straight white male and any degree of separation from that ideal will face some kind of challenge
By facilitating a space for women to be topfree, Free The Nipple provides a refreshing debut of breasts in all shapes and sizes. Discussing the reactions of participants, Bee explains how people coming to FTN see other bodies and see "that everyone is different and it's ok not to measure up to this impossible and ever-changing beauty and body ideal." By breaking the myth over so-called "perfection", FTN is offering women and people with breasts the chance to feel good in their skin. Harnessing an attitude of neutrality, FTN has become a joyful celebration of people reclaiming their sense of agency. This is something that both Bee and Mickey have seen to create a hugely positive ripple effect both online and during the marches.
Ending the conversation, Bee and MIckey remind us that"If you want to come to the marches they are open to everyone. They're super-inclusive, and we welcome all genders so if you're interested in Free The Nipple, you can come and you don't have to take your clothes off!" This sums up the accepting, and nurturing nature Bee and Mickey embody on their journey to fighting patriarchal oppression, one nipple at a time.