“Free the Nipple” is a movement that began officially around 2014 when Lina Esco’s film “Free the Nipple” was released; this film depicts women topless right here in New York City protesting the censorship of their bodies. The movement aims to address and protest the censorship of female nipples (vs lack of censorship of male nipples) on social media sites and in public. Although the release of the film marks the official “beginning” of the movement, this issue has been going on for much longer than the past two years. The increasing involvement of internet and media in our everyday lives has only heightened the stakes. Many celebrities have supported the movement for a long including Miley Cyrus, Rihanna, and Lena Dunham, suggesting that the only difference between female breasts and male breasts is the presence of lobules (which allow women to breastfeed); if this is the only difference, then what is so offensive about female breasts?
Breasts are not inherently sexual organs, but rather serve the purpose to feed offspring during early stages of life. Some boys in my politics class last semester who shall remain unnamed claimed that they were “personally offended” when they saw women breastfeeding in public (even if they were covered with a blanket) and suggested that they should do so in the bathroom– where people poop and pee (gross! I would not want to eat in the bathroom). While breastfeeding in public is more widely accepted as a non-sexual activity (a no-brainer, if you ask me), when female breasts are exposed in a situation other than breastfeeding, it is an abomination. Some people suggest that female breasts should be censored because they are considered pornographic imagery; this has only developed through their portrayal in modern day pop culture and their censorship. Female breasts have become taboo and considered pornographic when revealed too much in a public setting; for this reason it has become universally known that the female nipple is “too much”.
The censorship of female nipples promotes the (unsolicited) sexualization of the female body that can lead to harassment and even violence. Male politicians in the United States argue that if a woman is allowed to show her breasts in public, she should not be upset when men touch them without permission (these are the leaders of our country, people)! This kind of victim blaming contributes heavily to rape culture; in other words, if something can be seen, it is automatically granting permission to grope to the perpetrator. Applying this same argument to other aspects of life; if you have a flat screen television visible through your picture window, it is completely acceptable for people to come into your house, use it, or even steal it.
Facebook and Instagram are frequent culprits of censoring nipples simply because they “appear female”; this brings up the issue of what makes a nipple male or female and how transpeople’s bodies fit into social media censorship. A new, lesser known movement “Do I have boobs now?” campaign addresses this, especially at what point in a transition is a body considered “too feminine”or “masculine enough”to appear in media. It highlights that it is not the amount of breast tissue (as some men have more than some women) but rather that sites like Facebook and Instagram are only concerned with censoring women’s bodies.
Male nipples and male bodies (even less) have never been sexualized and prosecuted in the same way that female nipples have; men have always been able to go topless to the beach or to workout, but it is unheard of and completely socially unacceptable for women to do so. There are now more places in Europe that accept female nipple exposure such as nude beaches (however, still a long way to go), but no such thing in the United States of America (coined the land of the free– which in my opinion is BULLSHIT!!).
In film, nipples are often the difference between a PG 13 and a R rated movie or the difference between a music video and the explicit version of the same video. Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines“, a disgusting song, is a prime example of this. It is not considered explicit because of the lyrics or the ideas but because of the nipples shown in the explicit video.
Anyway, to wrap it up, the Free the Nipple movement (while not necessarily new ideas) has gathered new momentum to achieve body equality within modern day pop culture and social media. This will hopefully positively affect how men and women interact (street harassment, body image, etc).
Davis, Allison. “15.Because Toplessness Is a Right (and a Movement) in New York. Activist Lina Esco made a film, Free the Nipple, which tells the story of a group of topless female crusaders.”New York 15 Dec. 2014. Academic OneFile. Web. 10 May 2016.
“Free the nipple (if you so choose).” Spectator [Hamilton, Ontario] 2 Mar. 2016: A14. Infotrac Newsstand. Web. 10 May 2016.
“Free the nipple on social media.” UWIRE Text 23 Nov. 2015: 1. Academic OneFile. Web. 10 May 2016.