#FreeTheNipple Questions Gendered Double Standards About Nudity
Posted August 4, 2014
Why is acceptable for men to expose their chests in public, but for women it is not? The #FreeTheNipple campaign and documentary examines this question.
Photo: @freethenipple on Twitter
What is the #FreeTheNipple campaign?
In the 21st century, we have replaced personal diaries with posting status updates about life on the internet, letting it all out on social media. Any little thing that pops into a person’s head now can be documented and shared on the World Wide Web. Through using blogs, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram and other forums, we can stay connected and are constantly able to share the minutiae of our lives with the world. While some find this to be a wonderful way to live, and others shudder at the lack of privacy, usually every individual is free to post whatever they they see fit.
One notable exception, however, is naked bodies. Particularly naked female bodies.
It’s not just a question of pornographic imagery, either. One major issue at hand is the strict dichotomy of who can be topless and who cannot. Men are socially permitted to be shirtless in private, public, and on the web. However, if a woman publicly exposes her chest and breasts, it is assumed to be a sexually provocative and inappropriate display (even if the woman is simply breastfeeding her child). This phenomenon of censorship has sparked a campaign and documentary film called Free the Nipple. The film’s purpose is to spark an equality movement which will enable women of the world to not be ashamed or scared to be topless. #FreeTheNipple seeks to dismantle double standards related to the sexualization of women’s bodies as enforced by society and the media. Breaking the barriers of female censorship is no easy task, as 35 states still have laws that allow police to arrest women for being topless in public, while a nude male chest is virtually never considered to be indecent. Even though all U.S. states have legalized public breastfeeding to one extent or another, many women still feel uncomfortable breastfeeding in public because of these social stigmas.
Social Media + Nipple Controversy
Facebook, another very popular social media site with over 500 million users, has begun to revise their policies regarding topless photos. As of June, the site will now allow breastfeeding photos. A rep told CNET “It is natural and beautiful and we know that it’s important for mothers to share their experiences with others on Facebook.”
The banned female nipple policy also holds true to Pinterest, Google+, and LinkedIn. Flickr and Tumblr have a more lax system where the user can decide if they want label their content as “mature” or not. Twitter is the only social media website that is completely nipple friendly. For more information check out this link, for a social media guide to female nipples policies.
Want to know more?
The #FreeTheNipple movement raises a lot of interesting questions about how society views women’s bodies that are worth exploring. Why are female breasts so sexualized as to be considered offensive when women expose them to breastfeed their children (when breasts are biologically intended for that purpose)? Why is it acceptable for men to expose their nude chests, when women cannot, and so forth? These are topics that warrant further discussion.
Sasha Aurand has a BA in psychology from Indiana University, with a minor in Human Development and Family Studies. Her research includes work with Alan Roberts’ attraction studies.