courage strength thriving

My Daughter and Her Nipples

Photography by: Matt Livingston

This is my daughter; and those are her nipples.

In fairness, let me give you a minute to process that.

Yup. My daughter.

Yup. Her nipples.

I’ll just wait here quietly while you rant, drool, hurl, or whatever other judging and/or inappropriate response you wish to express.

Still holding.

Okay. Finished now? Because time’s up. Let’s get real.

First of all, you like nipples. I know you do. You may have suckled them when you were a baby. You’ve probably seen them in porn or been exposed to the occasional brave mom breastfeeding in public. You have probably been to strip joints. Or Hooters. I’ve even seen you looking at mine.

Yup. Mine are nice, too.

Men’s nipples? Everywhere! All over the beach. Walking down the street at the summer carnival. In Abercrombie ads. Billboards. Propped handily on top of oversized, middle-aged bellies on Main Street being jostled about while they ride the John Deere. You know, the works.

It’s only women’s nipples that we shame.  That’s right. More gender asymmetry meant to keep women…covered…silent…less than. A 21st Century burka of sorts right here in the U.S. of A. Less fabric. Same idea.

But I digress because this photo has nothing to do with any of that.

In fact, my daughter says FUCK THAT! And, oh by the way, she doesn’t say FUCK THAT for you. In fact, she couldn’t care less what you think of her nipples one way or the other.

This photograph of my daughter is not a political statement. It is not a sexual statement. It isn’t even about you…for you…or related to you in any way [GASP]. You egomaniacal moron.

Her boyfriend (photographer and graphic designer, Matt Livingston) didn’t take this photo to make a point. Or to parade her around like a trinket. Or to give you a hard on. Or to piss you off even. He took it because she owns the space she occupies; even that relatively small space where her nipples live alongside her strong arms, her muscular build, her pink hair, her firm chin, her piercing blue eyes and the rest.

In that moment he captured her entire being. And THAT is breathtaking.

And now I will say it again because it bears repeating.

It isn’t about you…for you…or related to you in any way.

y-o-u   e-g-o-m-a-n-i-a-c-a-l   m-o-r-o-n.

When I look at this photo I see a young woman who appreciates her body for all of its complexities more than you or I possibly could. She had a stroke and lost her ability to use her left side, to process language, or to speak and move as she wished. She worked hard for endless hours in physical and occupational therapy to gain it back. And endured unspeakable surgeries and procedures to heal. She earned this body. She appreciates this body. She occupies this body with wisdom and with strength.

When I look at this photo I see a young woman who has survived physical assault at the hands of a selfish predator who tried to dominate her. She is saying ‘no more’ and ‘I am not afraid’.

When I look at this photo I see a young woman who has recovered from an eating disorder that caused that strong frame to wither to nothing in an effort to be invisible. Another hard-earned victory. She is solid. And toned. And present. And just-right-as-she-is. And, most importantly, finally comfortable in her own body again.

When I look at this photo I see a young woman who lives on the West Coast; where braless is the norm rather than the exception and where some feel that breast constriction inhibits healthy breast care. A young woman who is making a conscious and informed decision about her own body.

When I look at this photo I see a young woman who refuses to let those who have tried to diminish or contain her win for one more second.

When you look at this photo you see only…nipples?

Pardon my candor but you seem to have issues.

Or maybe, just maybe, you do see her ferocity too. And it terrifies you.

The winds of change are stirring things in a counterclockwise direction. Undoing the damage done. Undoing the iniquity. Undoing the imbalance. Undoing the machismo, and the stronghold, and the bullshit.

Simply put, the name of this particular storm is Mack. And she’s about to carve a path comfortably wide enough to saunter through, nipples and all, so I suggest you not stand in her way.

 

Footnote updated for clarity: My daughter encouraged me to post this piece and it was shared with her complete permission and review.  It is written in generality and not directed at any one individual. It is also written in the generic ‘second person’ and intended for anyone who looks at this photo and sees only nipples. (If you are on that list, so be it. If you are not, even better.)  I was inspired to finally put my pen to paper on this important topic because a man repeatedly told my daughter that this beautiful photo is inappropriate. To all, but particularly to him, Namaste. 

 My Daughter and Her Nipples

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  • Lesanne Etienne

    this post brought tears to my eyes. she is a shining example of strength and beauty. please let her know that i so inspired by her. and… that i also overcame physical adversity (and i know we each walked our own and i can not nor would i assume to feel that i know what she went through) and the strength that i found has continued into my mid forties. my body shows signs of carrying two babies (miracles), deep seated laugh lines (a beautiful reminder that i love to laugh and i laugh often)…. i love my body, all of curves, my large gorgeous breasts, i love to be naked as much as i can (also a west coaster) and i do not give a hoot how other people see me – not at all. i am so happy that you were able to claim your beauty both inside and out and at a such a young age. may you continue to shine your light, even through life’s twists and turns, and celebrate who you ARE!

  • Lesanne Etienne

    i also just noticed that all of those who have liked your post thus are connected to me in some way. i love this world of like-minded beautiful souls. <3

  • trudat2

    i don’t know you, or your blog, or your daughter, or her story, and so I don’t hold any of that information as I first look at this photo. what i know is that this photo of this young woman standing at the edge of a sunlit sea shows a kind of beauty that makes me stop, makes me look and look again, at what beauty is or can be in all of its particulars. the suggestion of her nipples (it is only a suggestion, after all ie they are not seen) are a part of that beauty, but only that much, they are certainly not the focus, either for the photographer or for me as one viewer. I would certainly not reduce my discussion of this photo to any one point of focus, for any reason at all, though others might choose to do so.

    how wonderful that this young woman carries some of the beauty of the race in her, and that she joins and is joined by the rest of nature’s beauty in this photo. together, something good has been made, something beautiful. beyond all of the rancor one might feel in response to the treatment of women, young and old alike, the fact of this beauty still shines. we need this. we need it more than we need most things. how wonderful that this young woman will always be a part of that gift to those who see this photograph.

  • Awesome! And sadly, a most needed statement of fact and intentional purpose. Let’s hope that the morons figure out these truths!

  • Mary S.

    I saw the expression of strength on her face. I had to look at it again to see that her nipples were apparent.

  • Anna

    This photo… inappropriate? I see this photo as many things but inappropriate is not one of them.

    I see strength, i see beauty, i see someone who can take on the world and i hear the story behind this photo and i feel inspiration.

  • Dawn Petersen

    Brava! All of it. Her image; your words. What power. What candid, no-bullshit grace.
    I am in awe and inspired.
    Thank you.

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