So, the question we are all really asking is: Will the free the nipple campaign eventually lead to gender equality?
Two young women, Zoe Lennox and Amanda Haworth, organised a #freethenipple picnic In Orleigh Park in Brisbane where approximately 50 women, mothers, children, non-binary and transgender people, gathered on rugs, lay in the sun and shared their stories as a scattering of men sat on the edge and watched (Mitchell-Whittington, 2016). The girls created the event in order to “create a safe space where women didn’t feel sexualised or shamed for freeing their nipples” (Mitchell-Whittington, 2016). Police were also understood to have drove past the event, however, no arrests were made (Mitchell-Whittington, 2016).
Looking into this further, Pacific Standard interviewed Sarah Murnen, a social psychologist from Kenyon College in Ohio, who’s research specialises on the increasing sexualisation of young women (Wheeling, 2015).
Murnen’s initial impression of the campaign was that she wasn’t “sure thats the best way to do it, given that our culture already sexualises breasts to a great degree. I think there might be other ways to make that point – allow women to breastfeed in public places, emphasise less the objectification of women. I think one of the general issues is the extent to which women are objectified, and when people are shown as objects they often get treated by objects” (Wheeling, 2015). Murnen also believes that the campaign might actually contribute to the objectification of women’s bodies (Wheeling, 2015).
Although free the nipple is raising awareness around the world in regards to gender inequality issues, Murnen feels “like this focus on women’s sexuality as a form of empowerment is distracting us from the real issues that exist in terms of wage inequality, parental leave issues, etc. I think it’s a distraction, and it’s not really going to result in women’s empowerment to be able to bare their breasts in public. We need to focus less on defining women by their bodies in my view” (Wheeling, 2015).
In 2014, an image was removed off Facebook showing a new mother breastfeeding her premature baby for the first time due to a user complaining it contained “offensive” nudity (The Telegraph, 2014). Instead of trying to normalise the nipple straight away, a better angle the campaign could take is to normalise breastfeeding. This would be a lot more effective in advancing women’s issues and desexualising breasts (Milano, 2015).
Milano, A. (2015). I Worry ‘Free the Nipple’ Works Against Equality. [online] Time.com. Available at: http://time.com/4029633/alyssa-milano-should-we-freethenipple/ [Accessed 22 Aug. 2016].
Mitchell-Whittington, A. (2016). Brisbane ‘free the nipple’ picnic an intimate affair. [online] Brisbane Times. Available at: http://www.brisbanetimes.com.au/queensland/brisbane-free-the-nipple-picnic-a-quiet-affair-20160117-gm7sxs.html [Accessed 22 Aug. 2016].
The Telegraph. (2014). Facebook removes mother’s breastfeeding photo. [online] Available at: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/women/womens-health/11195373/Facebook-removes-mothers-breastfeeding-photo.html [Accessed 22 Aug. 2016].
Wheeling, K. (2015). Will the Free the Nipple Campaign Lead to Gender Equality? An Expert Weighs In — Pacific Standard. [online] Pacific Standard. Available at: https://psmag.com/will-the-free-the-nipple-campaign-lead-to-gender-equality-an-expert-weighs-in-a3e7dceefffa#.kensxdat4 [Accessed 22 Aug. 2016].