FreetheNipple and NoMorePage3: Changing Our View of Women’s Breasts

  |   By Elisabeth Dale

Would you wear The TaTa Top? It's inspired, in part, by the #FreetheNipple movement, an effort to achieve greater gender equality.

The hashtag comes from the movie, Free The Nipple. The film questions the necessity of laws governing exposed nipples. While it is legal in the US for men to bare their chests, only breastfeeding mothers have the same freedom (but not in every state).

This "top free" equality movement isn’t new. It's been around for years, fighting legal battles in parts of Canada and some US cities, including New York where Free The Nipple was filmed. But the movie brings renewed attention to the issue. And it’s reaching a far wider audience thanks to the support of celebrities like Miley Cyrus and Rumer Willis. T-shirt sales also spread solidarity and support for the cause.

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#FreetheNippleFree the Nipple T-Shirt

On the other side of the Atlantic, you'll find the #NoMorePage3 campaign. Its goal is to get The Sun, one of the most widely read newspapers in the UK (think circulation equal to The Wall Street Journal), to stop featuring photos of young, topless women in its pages. No More Page 3 argues that “boobs are not news” and that these soft porn images are not only sexist and demeaning, but out-of-place in a family newspaper.

The No More Page 3 strategy is to put public pressure on The Sun to remove Page 3. They’re received endorsements from celebrities, politicians, and other educational and social groups. They also sell t-shirts and encourage supporters to post selfies to social media. They’ve gathered over 200K petition signatures and continue to keep up the pressure. People are listening to their message, and it may be influencing other men's magazines.

nomorepage3No More Page 3 T-shirt

#FreetheNipple and #NoMorePage3 share the same feminist goal: greater equality for women. One is focused on removing legal discrimination. The other asks that women be treated with the same dignity and respect as men. To put it simply: they are tackling the same problem, just from different angles.

But is #FreetheNipple's call for greater boob freedom necessary? It's not like a lack of exposure to women's naked breasts is a problem. Rhianna’s nipples were well-photographed at the recent 2014 CFDA Fashion Awards. And couture runways have never shied away from baring it all.

Robin Thicke put women's breasts on (creepy) display in his popular Blurred Lines music video. Game of Thrones showed audiences all kinds of boob flesh; even though few women appeared to nurse their babes in The Seven Kingdoms. And there are countless websites capturing nip slips, celebrity wardrobe malfunctions, side boob, under boob, and nipples poking through tops. The nipple seems pretty free already.

But there's a difference between what is viewed as acceptable and unacceptable nipple displays. Approved showings are sexually titillating, or shame women. Facebook bans photos uploaded by proud breastfeeding moms and breast cancer survivors. The irony is that you don't see much boob in those pics; they're either blocked by a baby's head or medically reconstructed and tattooed.

I'm not sure the general public is able to distinguish between these different types of breast reveals. In that case, #FreetheNipple protests will end up attracting the same voyeurs who are fans of Page 3.

The #FreetheNipple mission is also focused on removing laws that ban public breastfeeding. But protected status is already the norm in all but 5 states, and it hasn’t stopped the harassment of nursing moms. Dozens of “nurse-ins” (where women breastfeed in public as a group) haven't swayed public opinion. The majority of men and women (boob owners willing to discriminate against their own sex) think breastfeeding is best done behind closed, bathroom doors.

Will putting more visual emphasis on women's breasts change anything? Maybe it's time to have more conversations about where, when, and who benefits from their exposure. That’s the aim of the #NoMorePage3 group. They’re not asking anyone to ban the page. They’re requesting (perhaps too politely) that The Sun remove it. They also want readers to consider how Page 3 advances the rights of women in the workplace; what it teaches young girls and boys about the value of women’s bodies; and how it furthers the goal of economic, political, and social equality between the sexes. All good questions to ask when considering our current view of boobs.

What's your view? Will you wear The TaTa Top or support the #FreetheNipple cause? How about the #NoMorePage3 campaign? Why or why not?

Featured image: The TaTa Top

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