#FreeTheNipple

I sat down to interview our very own Mckenzie Raymond to chat about feminism, body positivity, activism and #freethenipple.  As seen on The Feed SBS.

When did you first become a feminist?
I was 20, so it was in 2010. I had just left an abusive relationship after 3 and a half years and was slowly rebuilding myself. I was living with my sister, Chelsea above a flower shop on the Northern Beaches and she started telling me things about feminism and sexism. I think I just slowly started seeing all the things that she saw and realising that sexism is everywhere and in everything. I stopped shaving my pit hair for a few months and we both dyed our pit hair hot pink which was pretty radical for the Northern Beaches.

I remember the pit hair was a problem with the two women that owned the café I was working at, along with the fact that I don’t wear bras (and hadn’t since I was 16!), even though I’d been working there for two years. They actually said to me, “You can start wearing bras or look for another job!” so I marched straight out of there and down to another café I was working at casually and I said, “I don’t wear bras and I’m going to work for you full time starting tomorrow!” Getting the job eased the pain of being hurt by two women I considered to be family, purely because I was a more assertive, slightly hairier version of myself. That whole experience, around pit hair and not wearing bras really cemented my identity as a feminist.

FB and Twitters policy on nipples bans users for uploading content showing nipples have you ever been banned?
I have been banned! I consider myself a professional at getting banned. I think I just had my 10th facebook ban? I’ve lost count. I don’t have Twitter or Instagram, just facebook. I’ve only been posting topless photos for 18 months but I knocked out the first 8 bans in the first year alone. The longest one was for 30 days from Boxing Day last year – that one really hurt!

A facebook “ban” means you can’t post, like, comment, share, click “going” to an event, upload photos or change your profile picture. Basically the only function is instant messaging.

How has feminism effected how you relate to your body?
It has totally challenged me and made me feel free. I was never too into body-shaming or loathing my physical self and I know that I’m really lucky to not have experienced that to any serious degree. I absorbed a lot of mainstream women’s magazines as a teen and I really could’ve grown to hate myself because of it. I definitely felt the need to shave my pubic hair and my pits. I bought into the whole tanning thing for a few years because we lived in Ballina and that tanned surfer thing was cool. I was never really into removing hair from my legs; I had a boyfriend when I was 15 and made me feel like there’s nothing wrong with leg hair on women.

It took a few years before I felt the same about my pubic hair and pit hair. Feminism makes me challenge the mainstream view of women’s bodies; I challenge fatphobia, hair-shaming and body-shaming in my friends and in myself. I never want to believe that my boobs are too small, that my stretch marks are unattractive, that my skin is too pale or that my hair is “disgusting”. I will never buy into that shit again.

What is the strangest reaction you have had to your exposed nipples?
I don’t know if it’s quite the strangest reaction but it’s one that I’m still not comfortable with. I’ve had a few people tell me I’m really brave whenever I’m topless. I’m not sure why it makes me uncomfortable.. I think it’s because it’s been a long time since I put energy into hating my body and even when I did I never put much time into it, so I don’t feel like I’m overcoming anything or achieving anything by taking my top off- I’m simply taking my top off and I rarely have to think twice about it.

How can we #freethenipple? Why is this issue important to you?
It’s pretty simple to ‘free the nipple’ for me because I am or always try to be free. I know that others don’t necessarily strive for freedom in everything they do in their lives, but it’s pretty important to me. It might help others to know that my thought process behind going topless is, “If I were a man, would I think twice about being topless right now?” and “they’re just nipples!” Not everyone wants to free their nipples and that’s totally ok, but I’ve had SO MANY people contact me on fb, via text or in person and say that I’m an “inspiration.” It kinda makes me think that maybe there are more women that want to go topless (even if it is just once) and that makes me feel really happy!
Freeing the nipple is important to me because I want everyone to feel safe, comfortable and happy in their own bodies. I know it’s not that fucking simple but I want everyone to be free.

What was it like being topless on TV?
It was pretty surreal! It was such a quick turnaround between receiving the email on the Tuesday, filming on the Wednesday and the footage going on air on the Thursday- I almost didn’t stop to think about any of it. I’ve never been on TV and don’t feel comfortable with public speaking or being in the spotlight. Sure, I’m an attention seeker (whatever) but put me in the spotlight and I usually crumble; I can be incredibly anxious. I think it was easier because it was just one on one and with a cameraman. It was actually really weird watching and hearing myself on tv- I feel like such a dag when I watch the video!

I completely lost my shit afterwards, running up and down my hallway and through my house yelling, “I WAS ON TV!! I WAS ON TV!!” for about 5 minutes. My friend filmed some of it and I’m hysterical!

What is your favorite feminist activist action that you have participated in?
I feel like that’d have to be from late 2012 when F Collective invaded a ‘Right to Life’ conference at North Ryde RSL. David Bereit was touring Australia spreading his anti-choice propaganda and the conference was one of his final events on the tour. Two F Collective members bought tickets for the dinner and sat with other attendees.

I think there were about 8 of us outside in the RSL waiting on the cue to invade. As David was about to speak, one of the members threw a glittery ballet slipper at the stage (NOT directly at him!) and took over to tell everyone why we were there, as we walked in through one of the unattended doors. A few of us walked around the dinner tables handing out pamphlets with pro-choice message as one of the members stalled security to maximise the amount of time we spent destroying their conference. Almost the second we walked in, the 100-150 attendees started praying aloud; It is actually one of the creepiest things I’ve ever experienced! And yet… so satisfying!

Who are your feminist idols?
I have so many! Most are writers, particularly for Daily Life. I look up to a lot of feminist activists but I also love my feminist friends who aren’t activists. Pretty much any intersectional feminist is an idol to me because everyone has something to offer and I am constantly growing with their words, status updates and support.

Mckenzie Raymond is one of the co-conveners of the F Collective and a fierce feminist activist.

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