It’s time to talk about media regulation.
In 2016 not much is left to the imagination, we’ve got celebrities like Kim Kardashian-West and Carley Rae Jepsen darting off into fame with sex tapes, Justin Bieber and Orlando Bloom with their penises blasted across the internet, and who could forget the infamous Miley Cyrus/Robin Thicke MTV VMAs performance (click the link at your own risk some things can never be un-seen).
Basically we are surrounded by nudity, whether it be in the media, sent to us in an early morning Snapchat or when we are just scrolling through our Facebook news feeds – it there. So with this taking off at the speed of light, media regulation is playing catch up and it’s putting a lock down on one spot in particular – the nipple.
(Source: The House Bunny)
I first came across the #freethenipple campaign a year or two ago and never really thought much of it, personally it does not matter to me whether or not females put their nipples on social media but it is a clear gender inequality, and media regulation is to blame.
For those of you who don’t know, the campaign began in 2014 when American director Lina Esco released the film ‘Free The Nipple.’ The website claims that it sparked “…one of the fastest growing movements of our time [and] …seeks the equality, empowerment, and freedom of all human beings” (Free The Nipple 2016). In the modern media the campaign has been slammed for being female narcissism and armchair activism as some view it as a clutching at straws male-hating attempt to bring up gender inequality. However, if you do your research you’ll see that it’s not just your neighbour taking it out on media regulation because she can’t upload a topless selfie – the nipple is a metaphor.
Feminist writer Soraya Chemaly discusses the campaign as something entirely separate from sexualisation, she believes that “Sexual objectification is the problem. There’s a difference between sexualization and sexuality. Breasts don’t hurt children, breasts feed children, and it’s the sexualization of women’s bodies that’s actually hurting children the most” (Chemlay 2015). Summed up in her interview Chemaly expresses that by separating sexualisation and sexuality women will be granted the freedom to express themselves in any way they wish without having to fear sexual objectification, sexual assault and even rape.
The movement gained even more traction when it made it’s way to social media as platforms Instagram and Facebook banned all content containing “…female areola in a non-sexual context [based on it being] …a violation of their terms” (Esco 2014). This example of media regulation escalated the movement to what it is today – as a response to this case of media regulation celebrities such as Courtney Love and Bella Hadid have shown their support of the campaign by using the hashtag #freetheniple. Facebook users have even reported cases of the platform removing their posts that contain the original film’s trailer.
As a war against the platforms Instagram users have taken to Photoshop to crop in small male nipples over their female ones. The campaining has lead to Facebook and Instagram allowing some content featuring the female nipple to remain on their sites such as images of women breastfeeding “…but failed to extend the policy to include women’s nipples in other contexts” (Zeilinger 2015).
In a public interview, Instagram CEO Kevin Systrom addresses the media attention and blames the censorship on Apple and their strict App Store guidelines. In any case that an app contains “…nudity [they] must carry a 17+ age rating” (Bolton 2015) and since Instagram needs to hold onto their 12+ rating “that means deleting nude pictures” (Bolton 2015).
This is where we need to look at the actual problem – the media regulation exists due to the public attitude that female nipples are seen as a sexual part of the body. This attitude of female sexual objectification isn’t something that should be taken lightly as it can unfortunately lead to horrible acts of sexual assault. This is what the Free The Nipple Movement is trying to change – the attitude.
Where do you stand on this topic? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below!
Until next time,
Bolton, D 2015, ‘Free the Nipple: What types of nipples are allowed on Instagram?’, The Independent, 7 October, viewed 25 September 2016, <http://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/gadgets-and-tech/free-the-nipple-what-types-of-nipples-are-allowed-on-instagram-a6683271.html>.
Esco, L 2014, ‘Facebook Wages War on the Nipple’, The Huffington Post, weblog post, 1 July, viewed 25 September 2016, <http://www.huffingtonpost.com/lina-esco/facebook-war-on-nipples_b_4548832.html>.
Scott, E 2015, ‘Why Instagram won’t be freeing the nipple (spoiler: it’s Apple’s fault)’, Metro, 6 October, viewed 25 September 2016, <http://metro.co.uk/2015/10/06/why-instagram-wont-be-freeing-the-nipple-5423571/>.
Free The Nipple, 2016, ‘Our Story’, Free The Nipple, weblog post, 2016, viewed 25 September 2016, <http://freethenipple.com/our-story/>.
Pittman, T 2015, ‘Women Take On Body Censorship With Help From Male Nipples And Photoshop’, The Huffington Post, weblog post, 8 July, viewed 25 September 2016, <http://www.huffingtonpost.com.au/entry/women-fight-nipple-censorship-with-photoshop_n_7735738>.
Rhodan, M 2014, ‘Facebook Lifts Ban on Exposed Nipples in Breastfeeding Pictures’, Time, 13 June, viewed 25 September 2016, <http://time.com/2869849/facebook-breastfeeding-nipples/>.
Wolfe, E 2015, ‘#Freethenipple Is Another Example Of Female Narcissism And Armchair Activism’, Return of Kings, weblog post, 13 April, viewed 25 September 2016, <http://www.returnofkings.com/60523/freethenipple-is-another-example-of-female-narcissism-and-armchair-activism>.
Zeilinger, J 2015, ‘Here’s What the Free the Nipple Movement Has Really Accomplished’, Mic.com, weblog post, 21 August, viewed 25 September 2016, <https://mic.com/articles/124146/here-s-what-the-free-the-nipple-movement-has-really-accomplished#.R2d0sXdY7>.