To free the nipple or to not free the nipple - that is the question

By Caroline Moley

The Free the Nipple movement focuses on gender equality. It acknowledges and rebels against the double standards revolving around the censorship of female breasts in our culture. In her TIME article, Lina Esco, activist and filmmaker, says she started the movement to show how, “the shaming of the female nipple is a direct reflection of how unevolved this puritanical country is.” Esco goes on to say that, “you can pay to see women topless in porn videos and strip clubs, but the moment a woman owns her body, it’s shameful.” It is ironic that we live in a culture that slut shames and shuns women who expose and own their bodies; while at the same time our culture is obsessed with the objectification and sexualization of the female body. People who oppose Free the Nipple argue that showing female breasts in public may lead to people feeling uncomfortable because of the social stigma regarding “boobs.”  Frist of all, Free the Nipple is not just about women exposing their breasts. It is about women having the choice to expose and own their bodies like men can. It is about equal choice. The reason there is a social stigma around the female body is because we raise children within a culture that supports the objectification and sexualisation of the female body. As a result, people feel uncomfortable seeing a body part.

When I was in middle school, my school had a dress code for the girls. Girls’ shorts had to be a certain length and girls could not wear tank tops. I look back at this now and I am alarmed. The reason for the dress code was so that teachers and boys did not have to be distracted by female students’ bodies. At the age of 12 my body was already being objectified. My 12-year-old body was already susceptible to being sexualized by my peers and teachers. Even worse, it was my job to conceal it so I didn’t burden anyone with my “distracting” body. The dress code at my middle school fueled the objectification of my body. My middle school made me ashamed about parts of my body.  My body would not be so distracting if our culture didn’t raise people to objectify it. It should be a woman’s personal decision concerning how much of her body she wants to expose.

Is the objectification of the female body now the highest form of female oppression in our culture? We are basically saying to women, hey you can vote and have jobs but you are still just a piece of meat. The Free the Nipple movement begins a dialogue that makes our culture aware of what we have socially done to the female body. We have made it into an object, leaving women susceptible to unwanted attention and scrutiny. Women’s bodies are judged because our culture has created a space for judgment. Women of all shapes and sizes should have the choice to do what they want with their bodies. Women should have the choice to free their nipples or not free their nipples.

TIMES article: