Ahh, censorship. A word that makes my skin crawl and my nipples want to turn around and invert back into my body because they’re sick of the bullshit. Censorship, an issue that has continued to affect how women ‘should’ behave legally, publically and on social media.
In many ways, censorship showcases who is sitting behind the desk and who is controlling the show. No woman should be denied her right to express how she represents the skin she’s in. The censorious double standards protected and upheld in today’s society leave women marginalised and over-sexualised.
CENSORSHIP AND THE LAW
When it comes to Women’s Rights, Australia has seemingly continued to arrive late to the party. Until the late 1920’s, it was illegal for both men and women to be topless in public (remember vintage male V swimsuits? Yeah, not just a fashion trend) until the law was lifted for men, while still remaining illegal for women.
During the 60s and 70s, during the second wave of feminism, women were continuously arrested for ‘indecency’ without even taking their clothes off. Men, however, are permitted to be topless wherever they want, and have done so without any threat of harassment since the 1930s.
A similar incident occurred in Alice Springs in 2004, when police arrested a group of Aboriginal women as they danced in a topless park. This caused outrage within the Aboriginal community, as the chairman of the Aboriginal body of the Central Land Council, Kunmaner Breaden explained, “topless dancing [is] a part of Aboriginal culture”.
In 2018, women across Australia are generally permitted to tan topless on beaches. While you won’t get arrested for being topless, depending on council by-laws, you may get asked to cover up as it is deemed offensive. If you refuse, you may be asked to move on and leave the beach. However, public nudity, which legally includes the female nipple, is still against the law. In New South Wales, the law explicitly states “a person shall not, in or within view from a public place or school, wilfully and obscenely expose his or her person”.
The question I have is, what does “wilfully and obscenely” even mean? Surprise, surprise…the law doesn’t define it. If a woman is found topless in New South Wales she can be incarcerated for up to six months. The crazy part is, police don’t need evidence that someone saw you, just that there was the potential for someone to see you.
CENSORSHIP AND THE MEDIA
Women’s nipples remain extremely sexualised body parts that apparently serve the exclusive purpose of pleasing the male gaze. Social media has played a huge role in the attitudes engrained in society on what is deemed ‘acceptable’ and what is not.
Instagram’s censorship policy states that “we don’t allow nudity on Instagram. This includes photos, videos, and some digitally-created content that show sexual intercourse, genitals, and close-ups of fully nude buttocks. That also includes some photos of female nipples”.
It is time to re-educate the social media administrators that continuously reinforce a society which blames females for male arousal. As the inter-web rapidly continues to expand, it creates new systems of socially engrained power. The harmful and degrading removal of the reality of women’s bodies is harmful and degrading, fuelling the tools of misogynistic and societal oppression.
Female censorship is based on what constitutes the contemporary standards of society of that day. It’s a sad reality that people don’t have the power to censor messages broadcast by the dominant voices of our mainstream culture. No one is censoring the most powerful voices with their toxic points of view. While they oppress and censor minorities, stripping women of the right to their own body, these attitudes continue to become engrained deeply.
Words and illustration by Jamie Bucirde