The “Free the Nipple” campaign is not exactly new. Women have been working to desexualize the female nipple for a while, but the way social media companies have responded is especially interesting and frustrating.
Instagram combats posts of nudity with:
“We know that there are times when people might want to share nude images that are artistic or creative in nature, but for a variety of reasons, 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".
Facebook deals with it this way:
"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."
Twitter doesn't really have an issue with nudity. They ask that tweets be marked as "sensitive media" if they contain graphic content and "gratuitous images of death" may be removed.
Essentially Instagram and Facebook are managing to discriminate against the female nipple by categorizing it as "graphic" and "sexual." But don't worry, breastfeed and post-mastectomy scars are okay–no doubt as a response to the public's outrage over the idea that a photo of a mother actively breastfeeding or a survivor of breast cancer might be labeled "graphic" or "sexual." While it is obviously a step in the direction that these photos be allowed on sites, they don't usually contain a nipple. So what is the deal with female nipples being so scary?
To further emphasize the ridiculousness of bans on female nipples in images on social media, women have been fighting the censorship by encouraging the use of this image below.
The Free the Nipple documentary seeks to combat the stigma and censorship of female nipples. The site for the movie explains the movement as such:
"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. Today, in the USA it is effectively ILLEGAL for a woman to be topless, breastfeeding included, in 35 states. In less tolerant places like Louisiana, an exposed nipple can take a woman to jail for up to three years and cost $2,500 in fines. Even in New York City, which legalized public toplessness in 1992, the NYPD continues to arrest women. We’re working to change these inequalities through film, social media, and a grassroots campaign."
The photoshopping campaign proves that male and female nipples are visually the same. So why is there a problem with women going topless, even when breastfeeding? Why is the female nipple, a body part related to giving humans life so "graphic" and "sexual." And where do non-binary identifying people fall on what I'll call the nipple appropriateness scale? Nipples that are on top of mammary glands, fat, muscles, silicone etc. should all ultimately be treated the same.