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Tuesday, May 11, 2021

Students free the nipple for female empowerment

Creator of Nipple Unveiling event Mischelle Johnson shows off her cape covered in silicone nipple buttons in Red Square on Friday, March 4. // Photo by Anna Kerr
Creator of Nipple Unveiling event Mischelle Johnson shows off her cape covered in silicone nipple buttons in Red Square on Friday, March 4. // Photo by Anna Kerr

“We like nipples, yes we do. We like nipples, how ‘bout you?” and “Free the nipple!” were just some of the chants by topless, body-painted women hoping to desensitize the female nipple in Red Square on Friday, March 4.

They bore through the rain and strong winds without shirts to share their goal of accepting the female body and making women feel comfortable in their own skin.

“We are not sexual objects,” said Mischelle Johnson, the creator of the event. “And if [men] can run around with their nipples out, so can we– especially since ours are life-giving nipples.”

The group of female students got together after talking in a seminar class. They distributed nipple stickers and had papers and paint so people walking by could create their own nipple stamps and art.

Six women stood topless in Red Square to raise awareness to gender equality issues on Friday, March 4. // Photo by Christina Becker
Six women stood topless in Red Square to raise awareness to gender equality issues on Friday, March 4. // Photo by Christina Becker

“We have boobs, and just because we’re women doesn’t mean that they should be objectified and sexualized,” said Molly Lorfeld, one of Johnson’s seminar classmates who helped in creating the event. “They’re there for a purpose… We’re trying to desensitize people to them.”

Johnson is a studio art major with a concentration in ceramics. One of Johnson’s coworkers was pregnant and created a body cast of her belly and chest. Her coworker asked for her nipples be taped down and not apart of the cast, so the final piece would not be sexualized by her nipples being present, Johnson said.

“I thought, if anything, that’s the most important and beautiful point in your life. To be able to share and give and make life– that’s such a beautiful thing that your body can do,” Johnson said.  “It frustrated me that during such a beautiful point in her life, she couldn’t share herself.”

For her senior art seminar class, Johnson began casting nipples of all varieties to try to desensitize them. She sent out a call for volunteers to get their nipples cast, and was overwhelmed with the responses. She wasn’t able to cast even half of the people who responded.

Since her project was getting such positive feedback, her seminar class encouraged her to take the project further. Lorfeld mentioned how Western is a clothing-optional school, so they began planning the event from there.

“I’ve been working on this project all quarter, and the first thing I learned was body acceptance,” Johnson said. “With meeting so many females with the same belief, it became about standing together and supporting an equal dream of ours.”

Johnson said she has felt sexually harassed in relationships and just walking down the street. Women have to feel empowered to speak up for themselves and what they deserve, Johnson said.
Johnson plans to continue casting nipples, and plans on hosting another event in the spring, something along the lines of a “VIP topless party” on campus, she said.

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