Why are so many men outraged by a Free The Nipple picnic?

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Free the nipple picnic to 'raise awareness'

A group of women stage a topless picnic at West End in Brisbane on Sunday to demonstrate that taking their tops off is not "indecent".

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If you've ever wanted to gain a keen insight into the fragility of the male ego, all you need do is cast your eye over the outrage expended on women-only events. Be sure to apply a sturdy gauze first though - you'll need it to filter through the rampant misogyny inevitably spewed up alongside the hostility some men express towards women excluding them.

This form of grotesque 'payback' was on full display this weekend, when a handful of men caught wind of a small event planned for late Sunday afternoon. After word got out that two young women had invited some friends to partake in a topless picnic in a Brisbane park, all hell broke loose. What was meant to be a casual summer get-together with a twist suddenly became the online meeting point for a swag of garbage humans to gather, drop trou and collectively smear faeces all over the walls.

The brainchild of Zoe Buckley Lennox and Amanda Haworth, the Free The Nipple picnic's Facebook event page (deleted after the event's completion) invited women, non-binary and trans people to participate in the topless celebration. Primarily, it appeared that Buckley Lennox and Halworth wanted to create an environment where women's nipples could not only be desexualised but also 'set free' in a safe and welcoming space. While the original invite list seemed fairly small, the event itself was listed publicly on Facebook and had soon been shared and RSVPed to by more than 800 people. Predictably, this spike in popularity was accompanied by exactly the kinds of trolls you'd expect to find on a page asserting that women's bodies don't exist for male gratification.

Organisers of the Free the Nipple Picnic, Amanda Haworth and Zoe Buckley Lennox.

Organisers of the Free the Nipple Picnic, Amanda Haworth and Zoe Buckley Lennox. Photo: Heath Missen

I consider myself a fairly robust woman. I've weathered intense online abuse and been pestered repeatedly by the tedious insects who consider feminism a great threat to their personal safety and entitlement. But even I was shocked at the sheer magnitude of sexist aggression on display from the men both young and old who flocked to share their Very Important Opinions about women's bodies, feminism's irrelevance and which women they think are and aren't attractive enough to objectify in the most repulsive of manners. Of more concern were the numbers of women agreeing with them, eagerly vying to be seen as willing supporters of misogyny lest they suddenly be targeted by it. Women are, of course, free to wildly disagree over the politics of feminism and its aims - but there's nothing more depressing than watching them join forces with men to slut-shame other women, ridicule their bodies or, as I saw in one example, enthusiastically laugh along at a joke that implied the most intelligent part of a woman is the semen she spits out when a man ejaculates in her mouth.

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The perplexing question of the female footsoldiers of patriarchy aside, why are so many men so determined to stop women from assembling in spaces without them? What are they so afraid of? Perhaps it's the idea that there might be spaces in which their input and opinions aren't only considered unnecessary but also are not missed. Is it just sheer hostility towards women thinking they are entitled to operate for even a moment in the world without a man present to qualify their existence? Perhaps it's much simpler than that. Perhaps these men, so used to being coddled and listened to and flattered with attention, just cannot tolerate the indignation of being left out of something by the women they're so used to considering themselves better than.

I ask these questions because I cannot for the life of me figure out why anyone would find it necessary to waste their time trolling an event they claim to find ridiculous but that in reality has zero impact on their life. It's as if the mere act of exclusion (and let's be clear, we're not talking about the exclusion women have faced from positions of leadership, governance, senior management or networking opportunities) is so egregious to them that they feel the need to humiliate and bully women into backing down. So much of the world is still constructed to preference men and male power and yet women who complain about this are still frequently told to just 'get over it'. Try harder, we're told. Be more meritorious. Stop complaining about irrelevant rubbish and be more relaxed about the whole thing. You know, like men are.

And yet, I have never seen a group of people more likely to have a collective meltdown over perceived exclusion than men, especially those who are young, white and privileged to some degree. Even when it's just a humble little picnic in a park, they'll still fall over themselves to yell at women about how stupid, ugly, childish and irrelevant they are. They'll rally their troops, tag their friends and assemble giant stomping armies of toxic and often illiterate buffoonery to make sure all those disagreeable, rebellious women feel helpless and sad about the prospect of even trying to go against the grain of what these men decree to be acceptable activity for them.

And laughably, they still think these kinds of sad, pathetic threats work. Oh boo hoo! The angry faceless man on the computer screen says he doesn't want to have sex with me! WHAT WILL I DO WITH MY LIFE NOW THAT I HAVE NO PURPOSE OR MEANING?

As it turned out, the topless women of Brisbane appeared to have had a lovely time. With around 50 people in attendance, approximately zero f---s were spared for the gnashing troll babies who tried to bore everyone to death with their angry whining. Instead, merriment was had by way of laughter, sunshine, cake and the child-like fun of running joyfully through sprinklers of male tears.