Free the nipple and your gender politics

Free the nipple and your gender politics

In addition to pay gap, catcalling, and general gender discrimination, women-identified folks often have to deal with body policing. From the minute we step out into public, we must be conscious of our body presentation. Are we wearing too much? Are we not wearing enough? Is anything see-through? Are we asking for it? Do we even know what “it” is?

Although fashion is meant to be an extension of identity, women are far too often forced to reconcile the difference between their private and public selves, often choosing to look “presentable” instead of feeling comfortable. The remark “you look comfy” used to make me scrutinize my outfit choice and wonder if it was appropriate for public – as if style and comfort should not go hand in hand. Even though I find myself shopping more frequently in the “male” section of clothing stores, my gender expression can range from overtly feminine, in the normative sense, to androgynous. The complexities between gender, identity, and fashion have forced me to reevaluate my standards of body presentation and wonder why I care about society’s discomfort.

I rarely wear a bra; in fact, the only times that I find myself choosing to put on the cotton equivalent of boob jail is for professionalism or when I feel uncomfortable not wearing one. I’ve also not held a razor to my armpits or my legs since the summer, mainly because I can’t be bothered, somewhat because I’m trying to stick it to “the man”. These actions first resulted either accidentally or out of laziness, but now, my active rebellion and abstention from these societal mandates have resulted in me feeling more in tune with my femininity and less gendered simultaneously.

While societal pressures result in some people getting up hours early to perfect their look, I prefer to sleep until the last possible minute, get up, get ready, and get out the door. Of course, there is nothing wrong with wanting to put time into your appearance, but I wasn’t getting any satisfaction from robotically doing what I felt like I needed to in order to feel desirable according to society’s standards. The first time I went without a bra, a result of a late wake-up and me still being half asleep, I felt exhilarated. After I spent the first half of the day walking like The Hunchback of Notre Dame, I relaxed and even felt pride walking.

Through my adventures in gendered rebellion, I realized that feeling proud and being able to walk tall despite the stares was what I had been aiming for since middle school. Deciding to go razor free and braless had less to do with me wanting to appear as a wild feminist, which I am, and more with comfort I found with my body. Once I decided to make like Rage Against the Machine and take the power back, I felt pride in being an owner of cleavage (kind of), areolas, and nipples. I recognize the small-boob privilege in being able to walk without a bra and only illicit a few stares, but this is the problem with society. Breasts are arguably the single most policed body part. Society says when, how, whose, how much, and in what contexts cleavage, areolas, and nipples should be shown. As long as they are small and perky, noticeable nipples are fine but anything bigger should be covered up. Mentalities like this are rooted in shame of the female body, a form that was once highly celebrated in art, literature, and society.

This journey has been constant self-exploration and a test in pushing boundaries. I started off wearing sweaters without a bra, which quickly changed to thick shirts, and now I’ve been known to swear chiffon shirts, both opaque and translucent, without a bra. I went from hiding unshaven legs under pants to wearing a floor-length dress with a high slit and shorts with my hairy legs.

Everyone has a different body, and yet, we are given standards of maintenance that are universal among genders. I love making people uncomfortable; hopefully it allows for self-reflection as to the reason for the discomfort. I have been able to appreciate my body in its natural cisgender female-identified state, which I recognize is not the case for everyone, but I have also been able to transcend gender norms that require me to identify as one, and only one, gender.

The fluidity in gender is mirrored in my disdain for standards that require extra effort or discomfort. I can show off my pride for being an owner of breasts, but I can also wear “men’s” shirts without feeling like my body wasn’t made for them. Not shaving my legs has saved me a ton of money and time, made me feel like a badass body-positive feminist, but it has allowed me to closely align myself to the male form, if I so choose. The expectation in society is that men are to have body hair, thus, this allows me to feel like I’m a part of the boys’ club. Like at any given time, I can lift up my pants and compare my leg hair with the guy next to me.

From undergarments, hair care preferences, and clothing choices, I have decided to value my comfort and choose my own standards of presentation. I realized that I don’t have to do anything I don’t want to do and no one is going to feel the discomfort but me. Sometimes I want to wear dresses and lift my arms up on the dance floor, sometimes I want to wear bow ties and feel ruggedly hairy. But in both these situations, the most important factor is the “I want.” If I’m walking down the street and you notice my bralessness or hairy armpits/legs, try not to stare. What you’re seeing is a sometimes girl/sometimes boy/sometimes both/sometimes neither enjoying the freedom of comfort. My public self is not dictated by normative standards but by my own values of body expression. Fuck it.


The 6 God is Redefining Masculinity

The 6 God is Redefining Masculinity

This post was previously published on The Silhouette

It’s not quite clear whether our love for Drake is ironic, some sort of patriotic obligation, or if a Canadian, mixed-race, emotional, TV star-turned-rapper simply beat the odds, rose to the top of the charts and became, in his mind anyway, a legend. Regardless of what you think about his latest feat If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late, it’s hard to deny that since his first album, Drake has been subverting stereotypes about masculinity without even trying.

Drake has made himself a successful real-life meme with a loyal fan base by rapping about his feelings.He raps like he finally worked up the nerve to challenge his Forest Hill bully to a freestyle battle, but he drops bangers. Aside from the rare critic who claims that Drake is too “soft,” the hyper-masculine culture of hip-hop has welcomed his r&b/hip-hop hybridity.

While previously, rappers like DMX were saying “Pull out the machete, hack off the limbs/ Bag up the pieces, wipe off the Timbs, Drake is saying “I’m scared that every girl I care for/ Will find a better man and end up happier in the long run.” There’s something refreshing about music that appeals to everyone’s emotions in a way that seems almost brave. He may be the punch line of a lot of jokes, but album sales don’t lie. If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late sold 495,000 copies in three days and debuted at the top of Billboard 200. Drake has proven he doesn’t have to conform to what the rap game has always been. He’s proud to be himself while also showing vulnerability that prevents him from coming across as conceited as Kanye.

It’s hard to categorize Drake as r&b when he is very clearly rapping with hip-hop beats, but our previous disassociation between hip-hop and emotionality makes everyone want to classify Drake in the same genre as Boyz II Men or Usher. Although like Usher, Drake uses his songs as his diary. Hip-hop has always been emotional, but tears came from rapping about past socio-economic struggles, family members, or fallen homies. Now, Drake is rapping about broken hearts and hurt egos.

Drake either has a huge ego or a tiny one. He’s always quick to laugh at himself and is always cool with being the butt of any joke. You can always expect to see an abundance of Drake memes whenever you are on Twitter but increasingly people are using Drake screenshots and quotes to describe their current emotional state. Although a lot of these jokes are posted ironically, the truth in them is obvious. A lot of teenage boys will post jokes about crying and Drake without feeling a shame to admitting the truth in their post. Those posts are a way of acknowledging that men have emotions without making it a huge deal to say so.

It’s such as easy concept but one rarely addressed in pop culture. Men have feelings. There’s a factualness that exists in song writing; you know that Drake is writing from personal experiences, not just from made-up exaggerations that can never be as interpreted as the truth, like in film.

Drake is the one-size-fits-all-artist. He’s appropriate for pre-club turning up, for laid back nights, or for crying and binge-eating after a break up. We’ve gotten to a point where we can take Drake semi-seriously, while still acknowledging that his music gives us the feels. Some could even say that Drake is the male Taylor Swift. If you hurt him, you can be sure he’s going to put it in a song.

The vulnerability of Drake has changed the game of hip-hop and also redefined what it means to be masculine in the hyper-aggressive culture of hip-hop. Emotional storytelling used to only exist in r&b but rappers like Drake make way for a new generation of people who don’t equate masculinity with detachment from emotions.

The verdict is still out on Drake’s likeability, but he does represent something great. Drake just wants to run through the six with his woes, and we’ve come to the place where we can agree that we really do know how that shit go.