Amaral, seasoned Spanish songstress, made some small headlines in the last week, by taking her top off, and revealing her chest to the audience.
Referencing other Spanish singers, who had also revealed their breasts on stage she said:
“This is for Rocío, for Rigoberta, for Zahara, for Miren, for Bebe, for all of us. Because no one can take away the dignity of our nakedness. The dignity of our fragility, of our strength. Because there are too many of us.”
In some ways this is not such a big deal. And that’s the point in some ways, that it shouldn’t be.
But Amaral is part of a movement, mainly of women I suppose, who are raising the question – why should women be forbidden from going topless when men can do it freely? Good question right? After all people in the White Western world might criticise Islamic cultures from expecting men to cover up their heads or hair (though this is also a Christian tradition, which is still practiced today in churches on a Sunday, all over the white Western world). But really, heads, chests, what’s the difference?
But some people do consider there to be a difference. Rocío Saiz had her concert stopped by police at a concert in June 2023 after she took off her top. There’s a video of someone, I think a police official, insisting that Rocio covers up her upper half, ironically, with a pride flag – which is, I think, the ultimate in public humiliation, not just of Rocio, but of all the women in the audience, and then who get to see it online. It smacks of oppression. The person doing the insisting appeared to be a woman too.
Thing is is that the covering of breasts, boobs, tits – whatever you want to call them – have long been an expectation of patriarchal tradition – to make women ashamed of their body and humble them, in relation to male authority.
The covering is also for the sexual gratification and pleasure of men.
Boobs are, for many men, attractive. But the sexual pleasure of boobs is something to do with the fact that they are treated as forbidden fruit. It is the unveiling of them which is as much a sexual turn on, as what they look like. If you get rid of women’s obligation to hide their boobs away, you reduce the sexual turn on that men get by unveiling them. I mean, its incredible really, but there is absolutely no reaction whatsoever, generally speaking by the right wing press, to the endless titillation in the newspapers, in the endless number of photographs of women’s bodies seen through their clothes or seen slipping out of their clothes – the result of a cheeky snap from a male photographer with an erection – but when it comes to a woman wanting to take her breasts out on her own terms, but without wanting to impress, seduce or what have you – then its seen as a sign of moral breakdown.
Weirdly, and this is a bit of a digression, but I think the tradition of requiring women to hide their face is also for the sexual gratification and pleasure of men. Its probably quite a turn on to be able to unveil a woman’s face. I remember during covid, I was allowed to remove my mask when trying some glasses on, but during a time and in a shop where everyone else was wearing theirs, I felt quite naked.
Fact is anyway, that if you’ve ever been on a beach where there are some very pretty women bearing their chests, the first few minutes can be quite titillating – but it soon wares off – and gets almost boring to see.
So, anyway, in Spain there is quite a movement, politically, culturally, towards women’s liberation and equality between the sexes.
Amaral’s unveiling was dedicated, in part, to Rigoberta Bandini, who had also taken her top off, during one of her concerts.
Bandini did it singing her song ‘Ay Mama’ a song about mothers, and in particular, during this lyric:
(I don’t know why people get so scared about our tits) No sé por qué dan tanto miedo nuestras tetas
(Without them there wouldn’t be humanity or beauty) Sin ellas no habría humanidad ni habría belleza
The question hangs in the air, but it doesn’t stop people from banning Rigoberta’s tits. In videos of the concert and in articles on the issue, the parts showing Rigoberta’s chests have been edited out. Even the Guardian, who were progressive enough to feature an article about Amaral’s display, and featured a photo of Amaral’s naked chest on the article, didn’t lead with the photo on the front page of the Guardian. The Guardian article references Bebe, who in 2011 was ridiculed for displaying one of her breasts in a concert in Logroño, and Zahara, a singer whose poster for a new album was censored in Toledo, after Catholic groups had described it as an offence to the Virgin Mary.
Thing is though, the unveiling of breasts on stage, feeds in, in some way, to the titillation frame. Some men were, understandably, wowing at the video of Rigoberta Bandini revealing her breasts, momentarily. He quipped that it would be great if there could be more of what Rigoberta was showing in the Eurovision Song contest. Rigoberta’s moment wasn’t intended to be (I don’t think) but could quite easily be translated as the insertion of a semi strip-show moment into a pop concert. What might have been more of a statement, is walking on to the stage topless, and performing the whole concert without top, with a certain degree of nonchalance or sang-froid, which might help to normalise.
But you know, we’re a long way off women feeling free and comfortable to walk down the street without being arrested, molested, wolf-whistled and feeling comfortable with it. But maybe these are the first few steps torwards it. In other places around the world, if my memories serve me right, women can walk around with no top on, without it being an issue. Where we are right now, is arguably, the result of thousands of years of cultural regression and patriarchy, are we on the cusp of reversing this perversion? (probably not, I don’t know)