Take Two #131: Are those REAL?

By Kyra-lin Hom

There’s a new rising trend spreading outward from Chicago-land, and it’s causing quite a stir. Michelle Lytle and Robyn Graves are the Chicago-based creators of a new and controversial “TaTa Top.” This fashion/social statement is a pale skin-colored bikini top (other skin tones available soon) with cartoonish pink nipples. So that when someone wears one, from a distance they look legitimately topless. I simply can’t imagine why this would be such a volatile issue – oh wait…

Lytle and Graves aren’t just making (and selling in abundance – with $5 from every sale going to benefit the Lynn Sage Cancer Research Foundation for breast cancer) this top for the laughs, though those are plenty.

They are trying to make a statement about society’s sensitivity to the female nipple. For whatever reason, this little gender-specific circle renders us aghast. Logically, it makes no sense. We aren’t offended by shirtless men. And there are all sorts of different types of coveted cleavage: under boob, side boob, inside boob and the good old standard top of the boob. But God forbid someone encroach on the infamous middle boob.
That’s not to say I think women should start baring all in a bid for freedom. Nudity does not offend me – I’ve worked in theater and costuming for goodness sake! But, well…I think Lluvia Hernandez (quoted in Chicago’s Red Eye newspaper) phrased it well when she said, “A woman’s areolas are looked at very differently in public. In our culture [covering up] is the norm, but a breast is a breast. …I don’t think it would be seen as desensitizing, I think it would be seen as sexual.”

I’m truly divided over this TaTa Top. Regardless of – no, because of the intention behind its design, the TaTa Top makes us uncomfortable. It is a socially potent garment that makes its statement in a way that society is programmed to interpret sexually.

On the one hand, it's funny. This will definitely get the looks and the gossip and the giggles same as all those things that make us vaguely uncomfortable. I can certainly appreciate the cleverness.

On the other hand, the TaTa Top attacks a vestigial blip in our social fabric. Generally speaking, I love poking holes at society’s thoughtless idiosyncrasies, those things we do and say and believe without stopping to wonder why. And as I stated above, our obsessive bashfulness about the female nipple has definitely become one of those things. We regularly see male nipples and all the different sides a boob has to offer so why?
But on the other-other hand (pretend I’m a three-armed monster), is it really appropriate for daily street wear? I mean, we have 40-ft billboards of oh-so cleverly posed topless women in downtowns across the US, but I wouldn’t say those are appropriate either. Advertisements really should not become our gauge for what's appropriate in public.

It all comes down to – as many things do – time and place. To each element its own. Would I wear this top to stroll through the mall or any bustling town square? No, but I wouldn't stroll through those places in a plain old bikini top either. Would I wear a TaTa Top to the beach or a breast cancer rally? Quite potentially, as long as I was prepared to answer the questions and face the stares that come with such a socially (and perhaps sexually) provocative garment.

Whether we wish it were so or not, the TaTa Top isn't your standard bikini top. Wearing one does come with its own slice of social responsibility. It will earn laughs and heckling, and spark discussion, and probably provoke some vile slut-shaming.

But isn't that the whole point?

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