A Brief Nipstory of the 'Free The Nipple' Campaign

What's got celebrities from Russell Simmons to Miley Cyrus all riled up? #FreeTheNipple

Is it just me, or is the internet getting a t*t bit nipply these days?

The “Free the Nipple” campaign has gained all kinds of steam, with celebrities like Miley Cyrus weighing in on the disparity of censorship between male and female nipples on social media and beyond. An artist on Instagram sarcastically provided a digital cutout of a male nipple, so that women could photoshop them onto their own, less acceptable nipples. And while I appreciate the creative Photoshopping and use of emoji from man, women and transfolks around the world, I wasn’t sure what to make of the whole thing, so I decided to delve deeper

On Sunday August 23rd, 2015, the 8th annual “Go Topless Day” launched in sixty cities around the world, the stated mission of which was to “to encourage women to stand up for their constitutional topless rights in cities and states where they are still forbidden to do so.”

While it is NOT illegal for women to appear topless in any public place where men are permitted to be topless in most states (though New York City is threatening to illegalize it for both genders) women who choose to invoke this right are often fined for public indecency, or in other ways discriminated against.

Also, there’s social media.

Though the movement has been around for a while, it wasn’t until social media, most notably Instagram and Facebook, started banning the female nipple that the general public took notice, mostly because our Instagram pages started to go missing, which was the final millennial straw.

Wha ha happen with “free the nipple” wuz:

A long time ago, humans roamed the world topless. In some places, this has never changed.

Somewhere around the early 1900’s, religious people made it their mission to impose “puritanical values” across the globe! Men and women were forced to swim in basically, wetsuits. Mermaids were drawn in sea-shell bras. Everyone everwhere (in the Western world and anywhere we colonized) was forced to cover up.

In the 1935, 42 men were arrested in Atlantic City for going topless on the beach. Within a couple of years, they earned the right to go topless.

Women followed suit. 60 years later, they finally won their right to “bare chest.” A group of seven topless women in Rochester, NY were arrested 1986 and acquitted in 1992. Their trial permanently changed New York nudity laws for good, and spread across America over the course of the next ten-or-so years.

In 2008, Facebook bans photos of breastfeeding, calling them “obscene.” No one really cares, but I guess some people do.

In 2011, an independent filmmaker named Lina Esco (photographed above with Russell Simmons during his 2014 Fundraiser, Free The Nipple) makes a film on a $1 million budget called Free The Nipple, coining the name of the infamous revolution.

Still, no one really cares until….

In 2014 Demi Moore's daughter Scout Willis got upset about the suspension of her Instagram profie. She posts a topless photo of herself walking down the street in NYC on Twitter and writes an article in XOJane stating, “This is about helping women feel empowered to make personal choices about their bodies not dictated by what society says is decent.”

Instagram stands by its expressed “no nudity” clause in their terms of conduct, and continues to suspend the profiles of anyone who violates their terms, which state:

“We don’t allow nudity on Instagram. This includes photos, videos, and some digitally-created content that show sexual intercourse, genitals, and close-ups of fully-nude buttocks. It also includes some photos of female nipples, but photos of post-mastectomy scarring and women actively breastfeeding are allowed. Nudity in photos of paintings and sculptures is OK, too.”

Other celebrities followed suit, posting bare chested photos of themselves and the #FreeTheNipple campaign takes flight. Rihanna, Miley Cyrus, Madonna, and Chelsea Handler join in.

The indie film, Free The Nipple got a distribution deal with IFC.  

Last June, artist Micol Hebron posted cropped photos of male nipples for women to use to cover their own to meet Instagram’s decency protocol. A couple of days ago, James Shamsi made the news by posting a cropped image of what looked like female nipples, but were actually male. His photo was suspended.

Then, on Sunday, the 8th annual “Go Topless Day” finally made headlines, while #FreeTheNipple has officially gained position in social media vernacular.

The movement argues that banning female nipples but allowing male ones unfairly discriminates against women and gratuitously sexualizes the naked female form, which may be true. In their defense, when I looked up #FreeTheNipple on Insta tonight, what I found was mostly straight up porn that was on its way to getting banned. Also, I found this. 

Instagram may just be trying to keep their site from becoming a place where no “look-what-I-had-for-brunch” poster wants to go, but the line they have drawn is proving to be somewhat arbitrary.

Facebook has taken a similar, though somewhat more understanding position, stating: “We remove photographs of people displaying genitals or focusing in on fully exposed buttocks. We also restrict some images of female breasts if they include the nipple, but we always allow photos of women actively engaged in breastfeeding or showing breasts with post-mastectomy scarring. We also allow photographs of paintings, sculptures, and other art that depicts nude figures.” 

And Miley Cyrus is still pretty much doing this all the time:

A photo posted by Miley Cyrus (@mileycyrus) on

So that’s what’s up with #FreeTheNipple. It’s a group of mostly female, but some male protesters who are in favor of boobs. They mostly exist on the Internet, but they also have a growing contingent of live- activists arguing that anything men can do women can do, too.

What's your stance? Let us know in the comments!

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