What's wrong with this topless photo?

By Jenna Martin

Facebook deleted this image over the weekend. Photo / Matilda Brown
Facebook deleted this image over the weekend. Photo / Matilda Brown

My friend was having a great Saturday. A girls' night in: Good food, good wine, good company.

At some point someone snapped a photo and put it up on Facebook: Seven ladies, somewhere between 25 and 40, all smiles ... and all topless.

Not that anything was on display. She'd photoshopped little coloured hearts over everyone's nipples and the pic itself was perfectly late-night flattering: Dimly lit, hazy around the edges and effortlessly candid in a way that only happens after half a bottle of vino.

She hashtagged it #girlsnight, #matesbeforedates and #familyportrait, though it was more like a coy class photo.

By midnight it had hundreds of likes but by morning, it was gone, removed by Facebook after someone complained.

My friend was outraged, and put the photo back up again soon after, daring the site to take it down while wondering what the hell some moron found so offensive about seven pairs of bare boobs covered in hearts.

I'm guessing it was for two reasons: Because it was empowering and because it was confronting.

Empowering because these women were owning their bodies and confronting because it didn't conform to one of two tightly held notions of femininity: Sexual being or maternal figure.

These women didn't have their boobs out because they were breastfeeding. (Something that, even more ridiculously, also gets censored on social media). But they also didn't have their boobs out in any way that was sexualised. They weren't posing seductively or engaging in any sexual act.

The full photo in all its glory. Photo / Matilda Brown
The full photo in all its glory. Photo / Matilda Brown

It was far less outrageous than any number of racy club pics that also wind up on your Facebook feed on an average Saturday night. The photo would have been just as lovely if they'd all had their tops on, but it wouldn't have been as powerful.

"I don't get it," was the response of a guy in the comments. "What's it about?"

Newsflash, mate. It's not for you to "get".

What's it about? Why was it taken? I don't know - I wasn't there. But I'm willing to bet it was about girl power, friendship, feminism, knowing boobs are taboo and trying to make a point. And I'm guessing mostly it was cause sometimes it's fun to kick back on a Saturday night with your top off. (Every single woman alive knows the exquisite ecstasy of removing a bra at the end of a long day).

It was for a bunch of reasons and also for no reason at all. Essentially, why it was taken is irrelevant. Why it was taken down is much more important.

That same photo could have been a group of shirtless blokes and no one would have batted an eyelid and Facebook wouldn't have responded, an act that was rash, dumb and highly misogynistic because there is nothing, absolutely nothing, offensive about a group of topless chicks sitting politely for the camera.

I have no idea who complained. I hope it wasn't another woman because it saddens me that any female could be so uncomfortable in her own body that she couldn't be proud of other women embracing theirs.

And if it was a bloke who whinged then he needs to think about exactly what backward, dangerous ideas he has about the women in his life and who he thinks their bodies are for.

A few blokes suggested the photo was purely about sex, purely about getting male attention. Those fellas need a reality check because suggesting that women dress, or undress, purely to attract guys sounds as stupid as Donald Trump trying to explain what happens in late-term abortion in the most recent presidential debate.

Guys, look. Most of you are great. I know it's #notallmen and I'm truly not trying to compare you all with Donald Trump. But seriously: It's not about you.

We're not here to dress for you, undress for you, behave for you, respond to you, work for you, have sex for you, be sexy for you, dumb ourselves down for you or make you feel better. We're also not here for you to write laws about what we can and can't do with our bodies and mansplain our own behaviour to us and pretend that you "get" it.

You don't get it.

Women's bodies are not for men to "get" and women's sexuality is not for men to approve of.

You don't get what it's like to be sexualised from the age of 12, or younger, when you're still getting over Barbies.

You don't know what it's like to walk down the street and wonder if the way you're dressed is going to get you hired or fired or ridiculed or harassed or, even worse, raped or murdered.

And you don't know how hard it is to own the skin you're in and feel proud of how you look when all you've heard for years is it's not right, you're not good enough.

We've been branded sluts at work for necklines too low or sent home from school for hemlines too high. We've been told not walk alone after dark or to breastfeed our children in public. And we've been told we're not allowed to get together with our friends and take a photo with our tops off.

We've been told it's inappropriate, it's outrageous, it's disgusting.

Well, it's not. It's empowering. When we put a picture up on Facebook it's not for you, it's for us.

With eating disorders on the rise, #fitspiration intimidating us on Instagram and girls turning to extreme cosmetic surgery younger and younger, we desperately need to stop telling women what to do with their bodies.

We need less judgment and more positive stories of women who aren't defined by their looks or their sexuality but are damn proud of both anyway.

We need more photos like my friends' on our newsfeeds. We need to see that our mates are happy and comfortable with how they look, if only cause it'll tell us it's OK to feel proud too.

We need less filters, more belly fat ... and lots more boobies, of all shapes and sizes.

And we need more men to realise that some things, some experiences, some photos are just for us. The world isn't going to collapse into anarchy if a girl shows a nipple every now and then.

In fact, it might get a whole lot better.

Jenna Martin is freelance writer, dog lover and author of Driving Under The Influence. Follow her on Twitter @msjennamartin

- news.com.au

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