Sun’s oot, taps aff!  Some thoughts from #FreeTheNipple on Edinburgh’s Royal Mile

This August has moved past at an alarmingly rapid rate, and as I’ve had one of the fullest Fringe Festival months, I’ve felt almost like I blinked and it’s nearly over.

Yesterday I did, as the old adage goes, something that I found both exhilarating and terrifying in equal measure. When I was a fresh faced uni student, spending my summers back home in Toronto, I’d been to a few equal rights rallies. I must admit that though I’d been to a topless protest before, I’d never stripped down past a bra and jeans.

I was super nervous when my friends and I arrived at St Giles Cathedral, wearing my bright red top hat stop my freshly dyed pink hair. Some people use humour to mask social unease, but I’m that rare breed that uses distractingly eye catching sartorial choices to distract from my own nerves. I tend to wear conspicuously bright leggings on first dates, you see.

Weirdly what put me at ease was a tap on my shoulder and turning around to see the face of the mum of a lovely lad I’d shared a flat eight years ago. This lady is one of the most amazing people I know, and the sight of her washed away my waves of nervousness.

I’ve had a few friends ask how the issue of toplessness and the “Free the Nipple” movement aligned with equal rights, and I’ve heard myself explain many times that the issue is not that women wish to specifically change laws that prevent us from walking around bare-chested in public. In fact, I’m not aware of any existing laws in Scotland that forbid this.

The concept that women’s nipples are sexualised in the media and in RL is the concept that is flawed. A lovely lad and lassie I met at the rally yesterday and I had a discussion afterwards about the dangers of hyper-sexualising any part of a woman’s anatomy, and one of the points that came up was the sexualisation of the ankle and lower leg by the Victorians. To us living in modern-day Scotland, the idea of associating sexual thoughts and feelings with what is just a natural part of every human’s body seems ridiculous, but because the onus was placed on sexuality, the same can be said of the censorship of the nipple.

Women are subjected to sexism just by the very ideal that being bare-chested is somehow associated with something inappropriate or pornographic, whilst men can happily walk around topless without anyone blinking an eye. As long as society unequally sexualises women in a way that men are not, rape culture is sadly alive and well. In the interest of giving a balanced narrative, I’ve experienced what I consider inappropriate comments in the past from both men and women when wearing a low-cut top; men who consider it an open invitation to make comments on or at my cleavage, and women who have implied I’m “trashy” for showing any. Let me be very clear here. Unless I am actually having sex with you, regardless of your gender, it is not ok to make a comment on my boobs.  


It was altogether one of the most liberating events I’ve had the opportunity to take part in, and as a side note it also did wonders for my own body positivity issues.  I’ve made some lovely new friends, and come away from it with the realisation when you’re sitting in a group of 50+ topless people on a sunny day on the busiest thoroughfare in possibly the busiest city in the country in August, how anybody could fathom the concept we are not all equal as humans is pretty preposterous.

Oh, and I now have a more even tan…

One thought on “Sun’s oot, taps aff!  Some thoughts from #FreeTheNipple on Edinburgh’s Royal Mile

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