Feminist & artist. Writing & visuals.

#freethenipple isn't about tits - it's barely about breasts

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29.4.15
Free the Nipple came out last year - ironically with censored breasts in the Youtube trailer?
If you haven't heard of #freethenipple, it is most likely because you do not have an account on any social media platform. Or you do and just haven't heard of it. Anyway, it first came to my attention last year, popping up on my Instagram feed, and it later became a conversation in my household when my mother's scientific art was deemed "overly sexual" by Facebook, which really pushes my feminist buttons when you consider their refusal to take down graphic, violent videos, or rape joke pages.

I've since found myself bickering in the comment sections with people who seem to think breasts are primary sex characteristics, or that those arguing its case want a world that looks more like the third page in Britain's most popular newspaper.
I've heard girls say that it's 'just an excuse for sluts to get their tits out", or the perhaps better-worded responses that "the sexual objectification of women is being re-branded as feminist" (x). But I can't help but disagree. Acutely put by John Berger:

"To be naked is to be oneself.
To be nude is to be seen naked by others and yet not recognised for oneself"

In my opinion, the women baring their chests for #freethenipple fit into the first category; "tits" and page three, however, the second. Campaigners for free the nipple aren't asking to walk the streets naked for the rest of their lives, but to lift unequal censorship and stigma surrounding women's bodies. We are shamed for practically every aspect of our natural, unaltered selves: our own images are removed, instead, we are fed false ones - like the absence body hair in hair removal adverts, or blood in depictions of menstruation (unlike Picasso, we do not have a blue period). In a world where women are depicted by men, for men, we appear sexualised, or we simply don't appear at all. Unfortunately, in the story of reclaiming our bodies, Instagram really do seem to be the antagonist. I've come across accounts full of objectifying and offensive pictures of girls, but when Rupi Kaur posted a photo featuring her period stain, Instagram took it down...twice. Though it since has been restored, the message still stands. She wrote on her tumblr:

"Some are more comfortable with the pornification of women. the sexualization of women. the violence and degradation of women than this. they cannot be bothered to express their disgust about all that. but will be angered and bothered by this."

Only the second time I've seen period blood in the media. The first was here.
This is not just about breasts. It is not about women wanting to 'strip off'. This is about the relentless policing of women's bodies. It is about the female-focused taboo that is widespread in our society. It is about knowing that nudity does not equate to porn. If you're thinking, "but breasts are sexy?" then I advise you look around you, look for where and how breasts have been presented throughout your life, and by who. They're probably sexy because that's what you've been told. We're trying to tell you something else.