Check out any magazine or television commercial, and odds are you are bound to find some scantily dressed woman with huge oiled breasts in an advertisement to sell ice cold beers, or a cheeseburger, or maybe some axe body spray. But if a woman just wants to feed her baby in public and exposes her nipple, it’s against the law, it’s public indecency, oh the horror.
We can use breasts to sell fast food but not to feed an infant, which is what they are meant for… perfect logic.
Why is it that men are allowed to go topless and show their nipples but women are not, when all that separates them is just a little bit of fat? But fret not ladies, now you too can have the freedom of going topless without the fear of getting arrested, thanks to the inventors of the Tata Top. Invented by Robyn and Michelle Lytle, the Tata Top is quite plainly a flesh colored bikini with a pair of nipples. It comes in a variety of different skin tones and sizes, and is a step in the right direction for gender equality. unknownlist had the opportunity ask one of the founders, Michelle, a few questions about the Tata Top.
unknownlist: Was the Tata top an immediate stroke of genius? Or was it bred from more time and consideration of the law not allowing women to show their nipples in America?
Michelle: First of all, it is so crazy to hear this referred to as a “stroke of genius”. I talked about this idea so much in the two years leading up to it and was never REALLY sure how it would be received so to hear people say it’s “genius” or even that I’m the “inventor” just continues to blow my mind and is very humbling.
This idea came to me when Robyn (my fiancee and partner) had two girls staying with her from Amsterdam. They went to Lake Michigan to go swimming and didn’t have tops on which was normal in Amsterdam. The lifeguard freaked out and ran up to them and told them they had to cover up and that “nipples had to be covered up in this country”. All while he stood there topless with his nipples out. I think up until that point, I never really thought about the double standard.
When you go swimming, you put on a bikini top. It was just normal for us. Looking at it from an outside perspective and seeing how panicked it caused everyone to be, I really realized that there isn’t much of a justification behind it at all, and it’s completely out dated. The whole situation just gave me this hilarious (in my opinion) idea to make a flesh colored bikini with a cartoon representation of a man’s nipple on it. From a distance, you would appear to be topless but would quickly realize you had been duped. I just loved that idea about it, pushing the boundaries of what’s legal and causing these strong reactions in people whether it be shock, double takes, or even disapproval before they ultimately see that it’s not really a topless woman.
I think it really makes people think about the current laws in a way they didn’t previously because although this person isn’t technically topless, they appear to be from as close as 10 feet. In my opinion that makes the censorship seem even more foolish.
u: How do you think the female nipple or female nudity has come to be so offensive in our society and culture?
M: I’m not entirely sure. I’ve learned more and more about this since the launch of TaTa Tops and I learned a lot that I previously wasn’t aware of. Obviously over the course of our culture we’ve become more and more open minded about certain things. It wasn’t until 80 years ago that men were able to go shirtless at the beach and up until that point, they had to keep their chests covered.
If you look at “swimming costumes” from the turn of the century, people pretty much were fully clothed when they went swimming. Eventually, that changed and less and less clothing became acceptable but if you put a woman in a modern swimsuit back on the beach in the 1920s she would cause a riot! A lot has changed, but there is still more than needs to happen. And I think the wheels are finally set in motion.
u: What does the Tata top signify to you?
M: Prior to the TaTa Top being created and being able to actually have one to put on, this was an idea that I would always share with family and friends and that I loved. I thought it was so funny, and I genuinely thought that if all I got out of this was a TaTa Top for Robyn and I, it would have all been worth it. I just thought it made people laugh, and it would cause a lot of double takes. I didn’t completely know how popular it would be or what kind of reception it would get.
When we finally had them live on the site and for sale, it was only a couple days until it went viral and they sold out. During that time we were both still working full time and trying to juggle all of the orders and all of the emails we were getting. At this point we were shipping everything by hand and had 3 days to get out 700 orders…it was beyond crazy. I have never been so busy in my entire life.
On the flip side, TaTa Top was everywhere. It was in all my friends news feeds and online in BuzzFeed, Perez Hilton, Cosmo. It was huge, but we never had a second to really let that sink in or to really experience what that was like because all of our time was spent glued to our desks printing shipping labels and packing poly mailers. It wasn’t until recently, when I was scrolling through our Instagram page, that I had a second to really reflect on everything.
Here was this idea that we had and we worked at, and now here are. All of these amazing awesome women having so much FUN with it. I look through those photos, and I’m just so blown away. They vote in it, they ride horses in it, they wear it to Vegas. I’ll never get used to seeing all these people get so much enjoyment out of an idea we had. I think looking through all those images I really saw the TaTa Top how other people see it.
I think this bikini top is the ultimate rebellion. It’s empowering. One article described us as “the bikini that gives the finger to censorship”, and looking through our customer photos it’s SO true. That’s what I love about it and that’s what it signifies to me. It’s the ultimate last word.
u: What were your goals for the tata top when you created it?
M: Honestly, when I first created it, I really was just wanting a TaTa Top for Robyn and I! Like I said, I didn’t know how it would be received or if people would think it was funny but I knew I would wear it and love it. I had family members straight up tell me it was the worst idea they had ever heard and that was ok by me haha.
There was something about it that I just felt was right and that might find an audience, but ultimately, if it didn’t take off, I felt like no matter how many years it took, I would be able to eventually sell that initial order of 700. Might take me 10 years, but EVENTUALLY it would happen. Never in my wildest dreams did I think it would happen in two weeks.
u: Did you think the tata top would grow to be as successful and impacting as it is now?
M: I never imagined it would go viral like it did. I think we really were in the right place at the right time with that one and in a time in our culture where people were open to change. If we had introduced this 5 years ago, I don’t think we would have done as well. This product would have been seen as something you would buy only at a sex shop or something like that–which is not to say anything negative about sex shops. I just think people would expect to see it for sale next to sex toys or leather outfits as it would be seen as risque.
To see it embraced by everyday women, mothers, daughters, breast cancer survivors, that is absolutely amazing. I always said that if these sold only on Jersey Shore or to some college drinking crowd for the humor of it, then that’s totally ok!
We always had the built-in charity aspect, so either way, we would be raising money for important causes and the more people who wore them, the more people would see them, and the more people would become desensitized to the site of a naked woman. That was always kind of my plan and was 100% ok with me. After all, we want people to have fun with this. We want them to use the humor of it to shed light on the serious issues. Not everyone had to wear this for the equality aspect of it, so to see that people have purchased it FOR that aspect, for the breast cancer angle and for the equal rights angle, I think that’s the coolest thing ever.
u: What are your goals for the tata top in the future? How do you plan to continue promoting change and discussion of women’s rights?
M: Right now we are actively looking for people or businesses to partner with for Mardi Gras. I think that that’s a great market for it and a great way to keep up these donations for our organizations throughout the winter. Beyond that we are planning on having a Pride float in Chicago in June 2015 and continue to push the product as summer rolls back around. More and more celebrities are beginning to get involved in the fight (just recently with Chelsea Handler) and I think that kind of press will keep inspiring more and more women (and men) to push back against these inequalities.
As that grows, I think that the TaTa Top will continue to be a great way to do good and promote good in this fight. We both believe that we are on the edge of real change. Already a case has been appealed in Chicago where a woman was ticketed for being topless this past summer. We both expect that to be ruled for in the woman’s favor, and that right there is a HUGE step to changing the legislation. Once it becomes legal, I think it’s just a matter of time from there, and I think the cultural effect that could inspire would be limitless.
u: Will we be seeing more products like the tata top coming from your company?
M: Right now we are working on a couple new items and will be hoping to have those ready to launch in time for Summer of 2015. Our first priority is a men’s square short which we will partner with a men’s charity for. It’s not going to have genitals on it (which is most people’s reaction), but instead will make the wearer appear to be sporting a thong bikini.
I think a lot of guys will get a good laugh out of that and have fun wearing it. and I think it’s important for them to have a way to directly support us. Right now we sell to quite a lot of guys who buy it for their wives or girlfriends etc. I think that’s been another one of the really cool things to take out of this. There are a ton of men out there who fully support these changes and fully support equality. Aside from the men’s option, we are going to be expanding into one pieces and tankinis as well.
u: Have you gotten any negative comments or reactions? If so, how do you respond?
M: Hahahah – oh, yes.
More so during the few days we went viral. We had people tell us that a woman’s place is in the kitchen, a lot of that kind of nonsense. One person who said it’s promoting rape.
The majority of the negative comments are so completely insane that they are easy to dismiss, but we did share a few of them on our Facebook page at the time. I think a lot of people don’t have an issue with women being topless. It’s not going to offend them; it’s not going to make the world self implode, etc. If you asked them and it was up to them, I think the majority would say they didn’t care. When those people see how strongly OTHER people may react to the issue, it inspires them to be more vocal about it and get engaged in the discussion, which is what we need. More reasonable voices calling for equality instead of just the far left or the far right.
u: You already partner with The Keep a Breast Foundation and Free the Nipple, how did you narrow it down to these two organizations out of countless others?
M: In the beginning, before we hit the scene, it was impossible to get someone to partner with us. No one would answer our emails. As a result we ultimately chose to donate to a local charity without an official partnership.
We reached out to them twice before but never got a response. Once we went viral they contacted us because they had such an increase in their site traffic. To be honest, they weren’t thrilled, so we decided to reach out to some other possibilities now that we had a more established name. Keep A Breast was referred to us by a potential men’s charity we had been talking with and Free the Nipple was a no brainer. We knew we wanted to support two things, women’s health and women’s rights, so it was a good place to start.
u: Do you hope to partner with more organizations in the future?
M: Absolutely! One of the things that is most important to us is rotating out our organizations, so we can help a number of charities and not just limit it to the same two forever, especially smaller organizations who could really benefit from the donations.
There was a charity we were supposed to meet with prior to launching. They were very small and very local, but they helped Chicago area women. We were really excited to partner with them, but there was a mixup on their end with the appointment. They never showed or rescheduled with us. At that point, we were launching, and had to make a decision. So we ended up going with a larger (still local) organization.
Had that meeting been able to happen, that local organization would have received donations of $11,000 which would have made a significant difference in their work. Ultimately, the money went to the other organization, which of course is still awesome and good. But that kind of money can really make a difference to a smaller organization. That’s what we really want to shoot for in our partners. We want to be able to make a difference within smaller organizations as well as the larger ones. Know more.