While we are being shown acts of terrorism and violence on a daily basis in our media, the content that is considered “too scandalous” to show is women’s nipples. Not men’s, just women’s. Even though the biological function of the female nipple is to feed children, our society has sexualised the female body to a point where women are made to feel inappropriate in their own skin. Nevertheless, there are many who are openly and successfully fighting this injustice.
The #Freethenipple campaign is a movement to change the laws that make it illegal for women to show their nipple in public. The movement began in 2012, when filmmaker Lina Esco created the film, “Free the Nipple”, targeting sexist public nudity laws. The film gained mass attention and continued to grow with thousands of supporters all over the world. The main focus of the film is the “hypocritical contradictions in our media-dominated society wherein acts of baroque violence, killing, brutalisation and death are infinitely more tolerated by the FCC [The Federal Communications Commission] and the MPAA [The Motion Picture’s Association of America] who regulate all films and TV shows in the US” (Esco, 2013).
It is currently illegal for a woman to be publicly topless in 37 of the 50 US states. In 5 of these states, a woman can even be sentenced to jail time for publicly breastfeeding. #Freethenipple is a fight for equality against this censorship. While the campaign utilises social media to gain recognition and support through the hashtag, the discrimination for women to represent their natural selves is worsened by the media, which sexualises women to a point where their bodies are now seen as distasteful and offensive. For example, a man’s nipple can be posted on Instagram, no matter how inappropriate the photo is with no complications. On the other hand, a woman who has had a single mastectomy must censor her other nipple otherwise Instagram will remove the image for being “inappropriate”. The point of the #Freethenipple campaign is not to make all women walk around topless but to wear a top if you’d like to, but not because it’s illegal not to (Warnick, 2014).
While gender inequality is still relevant in our society the movement is bringing much needed attention to the issue. In 2014, Facebook removed its ban on images of breastfeeding. This however doesn’t extend its policies to allow the female nipple in other contexts. Esco wrote in a 2013 Huffington Post essay, “When I started my online campaign, Facebook and Instagram banned the photos of topless women that were taken on location, faster than we could put them up. Why can you show public beheadings from Saudi Arabia on Facebook, but not a [female] nipple? Why can you sell guns on Instagram but yet they will suspend your account for posting the most natural part of a women’s body?” The #Freethenipple campaign is aiming to change the backwards views of our society and while there is still a long way to go it is the first step of many, in making a difference.
IFC Films 2014, Free the Nipple – Official Trailer I HD I Sundance Selects, online video, 20 November, YouTube, viewed 13 April 2015, <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eX8czRjkaBI>.
Esco, Lina 2013, Why I Made a Film Called Free the Nipple and Why I’m Being Censored in America, The Huffington Post, Weblog post, viewed 9 August 2016, <http://www.huffingtonpost.com/lina-esco/free-the-nipple_b_4415859.html>.
Warnick, Aaron 2014, Social Equality Movement Brought About By “Free The Nipple”, The Duquesne Duke, Weblog post, 27 January, viewed 9 August 2016, <http://www.duqsm.com/social-equality-movement-brought-about-by-free-the-nipple/>.
Zeilinger, Julie 2015, Here’s What The Free The Nipple Movement Has Really Accomplished, Identifies Mic, Weblog post, 21 August, viewed 9 August 2016, <https://mic.com/articles/124146/here-s-what-the-free-the-nipple-movement-has-really-accomplished#.LMmQEDBym>.