Folks saying the Skims nipple bra over-sexualizes women’s bodies aren’t considering how many people it could help — and that other peoples’ bodies are none of their business.
The world is overheating, the ice caps are melting and Kim Kardashian is launching a push-up bra with built-in nipples. And while the rest of the internet was double-checking it wasn’t April Fool’s Day when her brand announced the Skims Ultimate Nipple Bra last week, I knew it had to be true. Of course it is. And also, take all my money, please.
Available for purchase on October 31, the new variation of the popular Skims Ultimate Bra features nipple-like fixtures on the front of cups, giving the illusion of braless and perfectly perky, yet natural, breasts. “No matter how hot it is, you’ll always look cold,” Kardashian promises in the witty skit, written by comedian Michelle Wolf.
I’ve considered many “why now?” theories for this unique product launch, including distracting from the massive Kardashian karbon footprint or poking fun at rumours that Kim had her breast implants removed. Regardless, the satirical PSA calls attention to global warming, and not for nothing. The business mogul is actually backing it up with a one-time donation of 10 per cent of sales of the Ultimate Nipple Bra to One Percent for the Planet, a global network that encourages businesses to donate to planet-conscious causes. In true Kardashian style, there are always layers to every product launch — along with the ever-present goal of getting people talking by being divisive and controversial. And divided people were.
Some were genuinely confused with the concept of a faux nipple bra, since they personally use bras to hide their nipples, with one X (formerly known as Twitter) user writing: “I’m always trying to hide a cold nip, why is this a thing?” Another commented on Instagram: “What’s next? Built-in cameltoe bottoms?” I mean, I wouldn’t put it past Kim.
Plenty were in favour of the product, too, most notably those who’ve battled breast cancer and had mastectomies, or whose nipples no longer get hard because of surgeries like breast reductions.
The most shocking responses to the product, though, were ones claiming it over-sexualizes women’s bodies, calling it classless, vulgar and just another way for women to compete for sexual attention (this, by an X account that claims to uphold traditional standards of “feminine beauty”). Others felt it implied that the natural breasts aren’t attractive enough as they are — sometimes uneven, often different sizes and, in my case, pointing in opposite directions.
Before we get ahead of ourselves, let’s just acknowledge the fact that Skims is not reinventing the wheel here. Victoria’s Secret used to sell the exact same, since-discontinued product, the Nipple Pokies Bra. A similar bra promising the same “at attention” effect was sold in the 1970s, coinciding with early counterculture and feminist movements that aimed to challenge the status quo expectation that women cover up and pretend they don’t have anatomy at all. Well, Kimberly is here to remind us we have nipples and if we don’t, we can buy them without going under the knife.
Samantha Jones is PR for Skims pic.twitter.com/szZqrS090K
— mizge (@mihailo____) October 27, 2023
It’s important to acknowledge the fact that women needn’t show off their nipples (or any parts of their bodies, for that matter) to be sexualized by society. I’ve been catcalled walking down the street in a baggy sweatsuit and obnoxiously large puffer jacket, nary a nipple or sliver of skin in sight. Claiming that showing off a nipple or two leads to the over-sexualization of our bodies is just confirming the harmful belief that it’s our fault when we receive unwanted attention, and the onus is on us to avoid it. And, sorry, but what if I want to be sexualized? We’re allowed to be seen the way we want to be, and not only in the contexts the world deems appropriate (read: in privacy, in the bedroom, controlled).
Critics of the Skims Ultimate Nipple Bra perhaps haven’t considered the power, intentional or not, of a product like this. For those who’ve had mastectomies and lost their nipples entirely, this might be a way for them to feel like their pre-surgery selves. This could be a life-saving, gender-affirming product for trans folks, at a price much lower than a surgery they may not even want. For people who desire the illusion of evenness and fullness, or for those with large breasts who need to wear a bra but want the free-the-nipple look, there’s now a product for that. And at the end of the day, this could also just be a campy item to have in your repertoire and experiment with. Because isn’t that the fun of fashion, anyways?
At this point, you probably think I’m a Kardashian sympathizer. I’m not. I agree that they’ve played a massive role in shaping and upholding what we think a beautiful woman looks like and I know that I, a woman with a belly and big arms and an almost rectangular hip-to-waist ratio, don’t fit into that standard. But let’s not kid ourselves into thinking she and her family ever claimed to be something they’re not.
While on the surface many might think Karadashian panders to the male gaze, I’d argue her approach is much more meta. She knows sex sells, so she sells it. But she also knows that she can flip the script by poking fun at her biggest haters — the ones who hate her for how she got famous (partly because of a sex tape) and how she makes her billions (partly by selling sexy things) — by launching a body-altering product and luring them into an obvious trap. The trap? Falsely assuming she’s ever been an advocate for natural bodies at all.
But in all of this conversation, we seem to be forgetting the simple idea of bodily autonomy — the ability we have to demonstrate power and agency over choices concerning our own bodies. Many critique shapewear for being fatphobic and misogynist, something I used to believe with my full chest, too, until I realized there are many reasons people choose to wear shapewear — and none of them are any of my business. Whether it’s her viral lounge dress, boxer briefs for women or industry-changing shapewear, the people (including the girlies, the gender-neutral folks, and now men, too) want what she’s making.
Speaking of, some dudes are waiting for the “d—ck boxers” to come out, with an option to choose the size. May I suggest the Ultimate Balls Boxers? My inbox is open, Kim.