Photo from twitter.com/freethenipple
The Free the Nipple movement was started in 2013 by Lina Esco after she struggled with the release of her film of the same name which features a group of topless women in New York protesting against the criminalisation of female toplessness. This struggle to get the film widely released motivated Esco to start the Free the Nipple movement which, according to their official website, is a “global campaign of change, focused on the equality, empowerment, and freedom of all human beings” but really it is about so much more than that. It is about women having full rights over their own bodies and the right to be seen as more than a sexual object. On sunny days, men can walk around with no tops on, if anything it’s to be expected when the weather is so warm. The problem with this is that women can go to jail for doing the same thing, purely because women are seen as sexual objects before they are seen as human and it is this attitude which Free the Nipple aims to change.
Photo from her.ie
It is not nipples themselves that are the problem, it is the sexual objectification of women and the constant double standards in society. A man who wears no top is a man wearing no top, a woman wearing no top is a woman with no shame, a woman committing a crime. There’s actually no Irish law that explicitly states a woman cannot walk around topless, it depends on whether they are being ‘indecent.’ In 2016 Carina Fitzpatrick was forcibly removed by police from Knockanstockan festival for doing what hundreds of men were doing, going topless, however it was her who was deemed ‘indecent.’ Plenty of illegal things worthy of being arrested for happen at festivals such as Knockanstockan, but the person who ended up arrested was the woman who took off her top. Topless men themselves were asking the guards why they weren’t being arrested but they weren’t, unlike the women who preceded to take off their tops and write ‘Free Carina’ on their bodies. Festivals are supposed to be a place where you can be totally uninhabited but women still have to follow rules that men don’t, they have to cover up and be aware that if they dare to wear a revealing top or, God forbid, no top at all, men and women alike will judge them.
Photo from instagram.com/freethenipple
Carina Fitzpatrick was told by the guards to think of the children, an argument often used by those against the Free the Nipple movement. Apparently, children should not be exposed to topless women but if they shouldn’t see topless women, why is it ok for them to see topless men? Children are not born with the idea that women’s breasts are sexual, they do not look at topless men and feel confused or violated so why should they feel that way with topless women? By teaching them that women should not be topless, we are teaching them that the female body is something shameful and gross that should be hidden away until a man asks to see it. Until recently, you couldn’t show a woman breastfeeding on Facebook, graphic videos of war and violence were allowed but a woman feeding her child was not. Women breastfeeding are made feel as if they need to cover up or leave the room to make sure they are not offending anyone but it is not a woman’s job to make sure every person around her is comfortable, a woman feeding her child with a bottle is not outrageously offensive so why should it be any different when a woman is feeding a child with her breasts? Men are allowed remove their tops pretty much whenever they want, women can’t even do it to feed their child.
Photo from theodysseyonline.com
When a man takes his top off he is seen as hot, when a woman takes her top off she is seen as indecent and pornographic. Topless boys are used as cover boys to sell magazines but the women who do this are branded as sluts. It is up to men to decide when women can and can’t show off their bodies. Men who complain about the Free the Nipple movement are not complaining when they see naked women in porn or during sex because they have decided that in these instances, topless women are ok. Page 3 is ok, strip clubs are ok, porn is ok, but women choosing to show their own bodies whenever they want, even to feed their baby, is not ok. When a woman chooses to show her own boobs in a random Insta selfie or at a festival, instead of in one of the ‘accepted’ ways, this is when the nudity changes from being ‘fashion’ or ‘marketing’ to ‘slutty.’ Men are deciding when the female body is acceptable and we are letting them.
Photo from instagram.com/freethenipple
Free the Nipple is something that all women, regardless of sexuality, race or class, can get behind. The movement is not about women wanting to take their tops off and get their boobs out for the lads, it’s about them being seen as a human being and not just a sexual object there for male pleasure. It empowers women to be able to say ‘this is my body that I am in control of, not something for you to stare at or play with.’ Free the Nipple is not about women being able to show their boobs off whenever they want, just like Repeal the Eighth is not about women being able to have abortions whenever they want. It is about giving women the choice and power to make decisions about their own bodies and not have to be seen as a body first and a human second. Women’s bodies are not sexually explicit, they are not dirty, they are just bodies and women are much more than their bodies.
Blog by Ciara Moran