On Saturday 7 July, several hundred women, men, gender non-binary and trans folk joined the Free the Nipple movement and marched on Brighton seafront. The march has been designed to highlight the sexist double standards that exist in our everyday lives and challenge perceptions of bodies, breasts, nipples and gender.
The Free the Nipple Brighton team, headed up by volunteers Mickey F and Bee Nicholls, is comprised of creatives, writers, photographers, party planners, videographers, body painters, social media coordinators and strategists. They organised a detailed stewarding plan to ensure the safety and comfort of participants, with a clear and easy to follow code of conduct for participants and on-lookers. Two Sussex Police officers had a presence on the day to provide support.
Participants met on Old Steine Gardens at 2pm and spent an hour getting ready, making signs and getting decorated. At 3pm Bee Nicholls said a few words before leading the group in some call and response protest chants, to prepare for setting off. Those with disabilities and difficulty walking were invited to come to the front so as to set the pace of the march. The route was wheelchair accessible from start to finish.
The procession made its way along Brighton seafront, chanting in unison:
“My body – my choice – my life – my voice.”
“Smash the patriarchy.”
“Free the nipple.”
“Re-claim – de-shame – validate – empower.”
“What do we want? Equality! When do we want it? Now!”
Football fans, families and members of the public cheered and applauded in their hundreds as the march passed by.
The march ended at the Pop Up Brighton gallery space, where DJ Rebel Girl played music, Calcutta Kiss served vegan and vegetarian food and participants were able to enjoy the Free the Nipple artwork adorning the gallery. Dancing, networking, hugging, selfies and a swim in the sea followed. An after party, hosted by Traumfrau, kicked off in the evening. Feminist DJs and performers provided entertainment, with a guerrilla life drawing session featuring three nude life models.
Participants said of the day:
“What an absolute pleasure… Marching for gender equality. Men, gender non-binary and women marching covered in glitter and bare-chested to make a stand.”
“Thank you for letting me get a glimpse of what utopia could feel like.”
“Such a colourful scene, such unrestrained joy – it brings tears to my eyes.”
“Today was amazing! So thankful to have been a part of it all as a male support!”
“Spending time with this group of humans has empowered every single cell of my body – I feel so strong.”
“Thank you Free the Nipple Brighton for creating such a safe space, I can’t remember the last time I felt this liberated. It was beautiful.”
Why free the nipple?
Although called Free the Nipple, the message is about much more. ‘Female’ nipples are seldom seen in public, banned from social media and sexualised to the point of censorship. Not only that, but breastfeeding is viewed by many as unsightly and mothers would often prefer to be locked in a public toilet to feed than risk harassment. Trans bodies – with or without top surgery – are very rarely seen for fear of ridicule or worse.
Yet sexualised images of women’s bodies are everywhere – on TV, online, in films, in magazines, in advertising – used to sell everything from burgers to cars. This double standard has a huge impact. These kinds of cultural norms have deeply sexist undertones and they are a symptom a very real and serious problem.
To find out more, get involved and stay up to date with when the next march will be, head to: https://www.facebook.com/freethenipbrighton