Saturday, 21 June 2014

#FreeTheNipple - Sexism or Fair Censorship?

Equality campaign Free The Nipple has swept social media over recent weeks, beginning a movement amongst women to battle nudity censorship and female oppression.

The movement was inspired by celebrity Scout Willis’ topless walk through New York City as she protested against social media site Instagram’s anti-nudity guidelines.

Scout Willis' topless stroll through NYC.
Image credit:

Willis filmed and photographed her walk, posting the images to her Twitter account and writing ‘Legal in NYC but not on @instagram’.

'I am not trying to argue for mandatory toplessness, or even bralessness,' Willis says.

'What I am arguing for is a woman's right to choose how she represents her body - and to make that choice based on personal desire and not a fear of how people will react to her or how society will judge her. No woman should be made to feel ashamed of her body.’

Tweets posted by Scout Willis

The protest has inspired film director and actress Lina Esco to create a film on the topic titled ‘Free the Nipple’.

‘Free The Nipple is a film, an equality movement, and a mission to empower women across the world. We stand against female oppression and censorship, both in the United States and around the globe’, says Ms Esco.

Free The Nipple protest in Washington Square Park
Image credit: Daily Mail

The campaign  has exploded on social media, with thousands of women worldwide tweeting the hashtag #FreeTheNipple, including renowned female celebrities.

Pop star Miley Cyrus exposed her chest in New York, posting on Twitter, ‘THANK YOU NY for being one of the few states to #FreeTheNipple’.

Australian actress Caitlin Stasey has also given her support, posting a topless photo of herself to Twitter with the caption, ‘Tired of living in a world where my favourite features are also my best kept secrets. #FreeTheNipple’.

US Vogue’s creative director Grace Coddington was removed from Instagram after posting a naked self-illustration.

The fashion favourite hit back at Instagram once her account was reinstated, posting a second drawing of her two cats  partially covered in censor bars.

The image was captioned ‘Good grief Pumpkin, Mother drew a nude selfie for her very first Instagram. No wonder they shut her down… she is much fatter than that’.

Image credit: @therealgracecoddington Instagram

Image credit: @therealgracecoddington Instagram

Pop artist Rihanna was also removed from Instagram after she posted an image of her topless on a magazine cover.

The artist retaliated, donning a transparent scrutiny-drawing Swarovski dress at the CFDA Fashion Awards, where she was titled Fashion Icon of 2014.

A dazzling Rihanna at the CFDA Fashion Awards
Image credit: Pix 11 News
A censored image of Rihanna's CFDA dress.
Funnily enough, one can still clearly tell where her nipples are.
But hey, that shockingly offensive areola MUST be covered.
Image credit: Caribbean 360 News

 Models and actresses Natalia Vodianova, Gisele Bundchen, Miranda Kerr and Julie Bowen have also highlighted the over sexualisation of breasts in today’s society.

The female celebrities posted images of themselves breastfeeding on social media in an attempt to battle the taboo of breastfeeding.

Natalia Vodianova breastfeeding
Image credit: @natasupernova Instagram

Julie Bowen breastfeeding her twins
Image credit:

A recent poll of Adelaide women aged between 15 – 50 years (76% in the 15 – 20 years age group) showed a split decision regarding Instagram’s censorship.

42% of respondents found Instagram’s censorship of the female body to be sexist, 35% found it to be fair and 22% were unsure.

87% of the women polled believed that women’s bodies are over sexualised.

Gisele Bundchen breastfeeding
Image credit: @giseleofficial Instagram

Gender studies graduate Mandy Williamson* finds Instagram’s censoring ‘odd’.

‘Why is it that when cleavage/breasts are shown it’s viewed as this highly desired, sexual part of the female form, yet when that same set of breasts is shown with nipples included in the image it’s suddenly gravely offensive?’ she says.

‘I actually feel that this censorship matter is not so much a case of adding to the over sexualisation of women’s bodies, but that it’s more so about controlling the ways in which women’s bodies are presented in mainstream media.’

Film director Lina Esco
Image credit: Oyster Magazine

Social media expert Michelle Prak believes that the censorship of female nudity is not an issue directly affiliated with just Instagram, but with society as a whole.

‘A social app like Instagram was following the lead in terms of what Western society finds acceptable now – this may change and has changed over time’, she says.

‘Social media has given people of all sexes the means to share images and stories more easily than ever before - and relatively censor-free in a lot of cases.’

Although a long standing issue, and one that will not easily be diminished, social media allows women to unite and speak out on over sexualisation and sexism.

Image credit: @caitlinstasey Twitter

Mandy Williamson* applauds the use of social media to battle sexism, stating that ‘this online/social media movement has emphasised that many women still face sexism on a daily basis.’

‘A great example of social media being used as a tool for women… to express their desire for gender equality is the recent online phenomena “Everyday Sexism”. (It)… highlights the idea that women should speak up about… sexism instead of suppressing (it) and that they should not let such experiences become a normalised part of being a woman.’

Michelle Prak also commends social media as a tool for fighting for gender equality.

‘Social media can be used to support almost any cause you care to fight for’, she says.

‘Social media tools have given the individual the power to create content, share it, and have conversations with millions of people around the globe, in a way that – decades ago – would have been unthinkable. It’s simply remarkable and, I think, quite heartening and exciting.’

Visit Free The Nipple's website here or their Facebook here.
Take a peek at the Free The Nipple film's trailer:

 *Name has been changed for privacy

'Till next time,
Kate x

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