In an almost surprising set of circumstances, the #FreeTheNipple campaign is extremely active on Instagram, even though Instagram’s terms of conditions state the female nipple is banned and any images containing a female nipple will be removed if posted. #FreeTheNipple has used this to their advantage making a very important statement about gender inequality. Supporters have been posting images with a male nipple photo-shopped on top of a female nipple to make them “acceptable”, emphasising the ridiculousness of the ban and the unnecessary sexualisation of the female nipple.
Due to the widespread response #FreeTheNipple has gained across social media, support has spread across the world. At the beginning of 2016, a Facebook event was created by two young women organising a picnic in Brisbane for anyone who identifies as a woman to celebrate the #Freethenipple movement. While many went topless at the picnic, it was not enforced, but rather focused on the support of gender equality and the movement. While the Facebook event gained quite a lot of attention with over three thousand people interested and 800 RSVP’s, only 50 women actually attended the event. This is one of the main issues associated with “hashtag” movements.
The utilisation of social media as an activism tool is a result of the digital age we are living in. It cannot be denied that hashtags are an effective way of gaining mass attention very quickly. However, it can often be seen in past movements that ‘slacktivism’ occurs, whereby people are supporting a cause online with no effort or involvement truly put in. As a result, a cause gains attention but little is actually done to solve or aid the issue. Journalist Malcolm Gladwell stated, “Social media is build around weak ties…where activists were once defined by their causes, they are now defined by their tools” (Gladwell, 2010).
Similarly, the #FreeTheNipple movement has received negative criticism for their supposed biased representation of the female body. Many were quick to point out that the faces (and bodies) of the movement seemed to conform to traditional standards of beauty, aka women who are skinny and pretty.
In fairness, the movement clearly states its support for equality for all women, however its website fails to visually support these ideologies. In an article exploring the exclusivity of the movement, Georgina Jones stated, “ I’m sure that these women would have welcomed anyone with breasts in any shape to join them. But the unconscious ignorance of diversity is one that we cannot allow within any feminist movement in 2015. Feminism without intersectionality is pointless; freeing nipples and only representing nipples that adhere to patriarchal standards of beauty is pointless” (Jones, 2015).
Although these critics make a valid point, the most important thing is to remember is the main reason for #FreeTheNipple. While women have come a long way, gender inequality still exists and as a society we should not be okay with this. Like anything, #FreeTheNipple has issues and room for improvement but it ultimately encourages an equal world and that should be everyone’s focus.
Jones, Georgina 2015, Free The Nipple And Its Relationship To Standards Of Beauty: Exploring Exclusivity In The Mammary Movement, Bustle, Weblog post, viewed 23 August 2016, http://www.bustle.com/articles/60103-free-the-nipple-and-its-relationship-to-standards-of-beauty-exploring-exclusivity-in-the-mammary-movement
Mitchell-Whittington, Amy 2016, ‘Brisbane ‘free the nipple’ picnic a quiet affair’, Brisbane Times, 17 January, viewed 23 August 2016, http://www.brisbanetimes.com.au/queensland/brisbane-free-the-nipple-picnic-a-quiet-affair-20160117-gm7sxs.html
Gladwell, Malcolm 2014, ‘Small Change’, The New Yorker, 4 October, viewed 1 October 2014, http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2010/10/04/small-change-malcolm-gladwell