The freedom to show your breasts: Why does Spanish singer Amaral’s gesture matter?

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Several Spanish artists are bringing to the stage a “revolution” for women’s freedom in the face of constant sexist attacks and censorship.

“No one can take away the dignity of our nakedness, the dignity of our fragility, of our strength,” said Eva Amaral before removing part of her dress, leaving her breasts exposed.

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Her performance at Sonorama Ribera 2023 marked the 25-year celebration of a musical career in the Burgos town of Aranda de Duero, thrilling the audience with songs from her new album and legendary tunes from her career.

It was “one of the most beautiful moments in the history of the band”, said the Spanish artist, partly due to this gesture that has once again reignited the issue of machismo present in many spheres of society.

“Because there are too many of us and they won’t be able to pass over the life we want to inherit, where I’m not afraid to say what I think”, she continued, reciting the lyrics of one of her most recognisable songs: ‘Revolución’ (‘Pájaros en la cabeza’, 2005 – ” Porque somos demasiadas y no podrán pasar por encima de la vida que queremos heredar, donde no tenga miedo a decir lo que pienso “).

Even today, women’s bodies still make people uncomfortable. They are censored and objectified, which is why many artists choose to use them as a weapon of protest.

The singer Rocío Saiz has been engaged in this struggle for more than a decade and is “fed up with receiving threats and insults” through social networks.

“There is a very serious problem in this society,” laments Saiz. “They have always resented the things we do. That we have jobs, that we think for ourselves, that we vote… And now it bothers them that we do whatever we want on stage.”

“They don’t let us be, they want to control us.”

For Rocío, for Rigoberta…

As well as a feminist vindication, Amaral’s topless performance was an act of solidarity with fellow artists Rocío Saiz, Rigoberta Bandini and Zahara at a time when these artists are in the spotlight.

“This is for Rocío, for Rigoberta, for Zahara, for Miren, for Bebe, for all of us”, said Amaral before removing the top of her dress.

“From a privileged position that doesn’t need any kind of marketing, Amaral has empathised with the compañeras who are fighting below”, celebrates Saiz, aware of the risk that artists face because of their activism. She says that it has even earned her some hostility from members of her family.

Her concert during the LGTBI Pride festivities in Murcia was censored. When she took off her t-shirt, revealing her chest – something she has been doing for ten years now – the police stopped the performance and forced her to get dressed.

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But the worst censorship, she says, is unseen kind. 

“There are many female colleagues who have taken a stand and have been penalised. Your name is on the list and you are directly discarded”.

As for Rigoberta Bandini, she usually shows her breasts on stage when she performs the song ‘Ay mamá’ – her entry for Benidorm Fest 2022. It is a clear feminist plea which honours motherhood and breastfeeding, and even if she didn’t manage to take it to Eurovision, the song became a hit.

The song features the following lyrics: “I don’t know why our tits are so scary. Without them there would be no humanity and there would be no beauty. “ (“ No sé por qué dan tanto miedo nuestras tetas / Sin ellas no habría humanidad ni habría belleza… ”)

Time has proven her right, evidenced by the wave of criticism and sexist comments that artists suffer every time they show their bodies.

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Singer Zahara was criticised by a conservative sector of society for the cover of her album ‘Puta’ (2021), in which she appears dressed as the Virgin Mary. She was accused of religious offence and the poster for her concert in Toledo was censored after a petition by the ultra-right-wing Vox party.

However, her image was a denunciation “of how we are expected to be perfect, of the pressure we feel to be mothers, of how we are expected to be saints, and of every time we have been called a whore”, Zahara explained during her performance.

The body as a political weapon

The video of Amaral, which has been shared and commented on countless times, has reopened the debate on the need in the 21st century for a feminism that shows itself and acts.

Some reactions explain why.

Although it was applauded by Spanish social and political figures such as the Minister for Equality Irene Montero and the Vice-President of the Government and Minister for Employment Yolanda Díaz, Amaral’s show also sparked controversy, with hundreds of sexist comments flooding the social networks.

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Rocío Saiz sees a radical involution of the rights of minorities in Spain and a growing hatred of women, racially profiled people, people who challenge heteronormative standards, and immigrants… 

“I think that 21st century men are afraid of losing privileges, of women leaving home, of certain behaviours no longer being allowed”, says the singer and activist. That’s why “their response is violence and fear”.

For Saiz, it is about “an ideological struggle of the patriarchy”, one that must be fought with the following weapons: the body, words, books, ideas and education.

“Whoever thinks that the message is someone only taking off their shirt and showing their tits has not understood anything”, she says. “What we are trying to say is that we are not allowed to be masters of our bodies.”

“I do what I want with my body because men do what they want with their bodies.”

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