Free The Nipple: Empowering Women Across the World

Hayley Kenny

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Warning: This article contains imagery considered NSFW.

We see the words ‘Free The Nipple‘ appearing on social media but what exactly is it? It’s not about women taking their top off for fun or men thinking they’ll get to stare at some boobs, in fact it’s not even about nipples. Free The Nipple is about equality and starting a discussion on the way we view women in this society and the issues we have with women’s bodies. How can we be constantly bombarded with sexual imagery yet society does not allow women to be in touch with their own sexuality?

Free The Nipple Logo - Photo credit: hercampus.com
Free The Nipple Logo – Photo credit: hercampus.com

Free the Nipple is a campaign to promote women’s equal rights to go topless in public, which is a right men have always had. It is an equality movement aiming to empower women across the world. Graffiti artists, dedicated women and many celebrities such as Miley Cyrus, Chelsea Handler and Willow Smith have shown support to create a viral #FreeTheNipple campaign. The campaign addresses the issues of equal rights for men and women, female oppression and censorship, as well as legal rights to breastfeed in public.

Margaux Brooke - Photo credit: margauxbrooke (tumblr)
Margaux Brooke – Photo credit: margauxbrooke (tumblr)

Free The Nipple isn’t about allowing women to walk around topless as just like men, that isn’t always appropriate. The movement is about the end of sexualizing women when it isn’t meant to be sexual. The reason men get so ruffled when they see a woman’s breasts is because we have taught them that a woman’s breasts are taboo. A woman being able to go topless doesn’t mean that men have the ‘right to touch,’ it means that women have the right to love their bodies and not hide them in shame.

Cross stitch - Photo credit: yeah-grrrl (tumblr)
Cross stitch – Photo credit: yeah-grrrl (tumblr)

#FreeTheNipple seems to have stemmed from Scout Willis and Instagram’s anti-nipple policy for women. Scout had her Instagram account deleted after posting topless photos. She says, “I am not afraid of who I am. For women to be able to reveal an equal amount to men in public, whether by choice or for breastfeeding, without being cat-called or embarrassed is what the Free The Nipple Campaign aims for – women to be able to feed her children wherever she wants to without feeling indecent.”

Scout Willis goes topless - Photo credit: Scout Willis (twitter)
Scout Willis goes topless – Photo credit: Scout Willis (twitter)

In December 2014, the film Free The Nipple was released. It documents a group of women in New York City who go topless in public to protest against censorship of women’s bodies and the fines given to women who do not follow these censorship laws. The film “explores the contradictions in our media-dominated society, where acts of violence and killing are glorified, while images of a woman’s body are censored.”

I wish that #FreeTheNipple was far more known, but oh well. That’s one of the greatest things that could happen, as I always hated bras. Besides, both female and male nipples look exactly the same, so nobody should even be bothered about a woman’s nipples showing. Seriously, the society needs to understand this simple concept and stop saying that breasts are sexual organs.” – Natalia via Tumblr

We live in a society where a topless woman is frowned upon. Female breasts are a secondary sex characteristic, which means they are something that develops after puberty. Therefore, to say a woman should be robbed of the right to go topless due to the relation between breasts and sexuality is the equivalent of saying a man should lose his freedom to grow facial hair (a male secondary sex characteristic.)

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Hayley Kenny