I posted a topless photo of myself on various social media platforms over the weekend– not because I was seeking attention, but because I was trying to prove a point. First, I freed the nips on Tumblr. Within minutes of posting the photo, it was immediately re-blogged by a porn site, and a male acquaintance from my hometown sent me a private message calling my post bold. A message I’m sure he would never have sent if I were a man.
Later, when I hesitantly decided to post the same image on Instagram, I censored it. I contemplated posting the photo uncensored, but I knew if I did, I would have an inbox full of slut–shaming messages, creepy follower requests and an annoying email reminding me about Instagram’s nudity guidelines that read, “You may not post violent, nude, partially nude … pornographic or sexually suggestive photos.”
My purpose in posting the half-nude pic was simply to remind people that it wasn’t too long ago, 1936 to be exact, that men protested and won the right to be topless in public and now, 80 years later, women are still fighting for the same right.
Celebrities like Miley Cyrus and Chelsea Handler have both had topless photos they posted of themselves removed from their personal social media accounts, proving that the Free The Nipple movement is more then just a trending hashtag on Twitter, it is a breast-bearing fight for equality.
American filmmaker and activist Lino Esco started this topless crusade in 2012 when she began directing an independent film under the same name as the campaign, according to Dazed Digital. Unfortunately, Esco’s film was poorly received by the press and The Guardian even called the film “unwatchable.” While Esco’s Free the Nipple campaign was initially created to promote her movie, it has since turned into a full-scale cultural revolution. A revolution in which we should all be actively involved, men and women alike.
In California, as long as you aren’t being lewd about it, it is perfectly legal for a woman to be topless in public, according to the California Penal Code. However, when a woman decides to exercise her right to let her puppies breathe in a context that doesn’t include a stripper pole, she is often asked to cover up.
If porn films and titty bars are the only places where it is socially acceptable to show a female nipple, it is no surprise why feminists today, including myself, are having such a hard time overcoming the constant objectification of the female body.
Almost every person I’ve spoken to about this issue has said to me that, while they can appreciate the intention of the movement, they feel it won’t be able to sustain itself due to “the male gaze.”
“Men will hijack the movement,” they’ve said to me, “and make it all about boobs and miss the message completely.”
This might be the case at first, but I truly believe that the more men, and society in general, start to see the female nipple in a context that isn’t hyper-sexualized, the less likely they’ll be to call a female “bold” for doing something guys do every time they go for a run in the park or take a stroll on the beach.
The movement has already made strides by influencing Instagram and Facebook to change their strict no-nipple policies by allowing users to post breast-feeding and mastectomy photos online. It’s up to the X generation to keep the movement going. We have to use our consumer power to boycott sexist companies, applaud woman who bear their breast and aren’t afraid of doing so and encourage men to join the movement. Let’s remind each other and chauvinists everywhere that freeing the nipple isn’t about a free tit show, it’s about equality.
What’s vulgar about Freeing The Nipple isn’t the act of woman taking ownership of their body. What is vulgar is the way society has chosen to respond to it.