#freethenipple Case Study: Part Two

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].


#freethenipple Case Study: Part 1



On an average summers day at the beach I will probably encounter around 200 mens nipples flying around and that is totally normal, right? But why do people get excited when they walk past a female sun baking topless and mutter things under their breath like “OMG did you see that chicks tits OMG?!”. Why is it socially acceptable for men to get their nipples out compared to women?

Free the Nipple is a gender equality campaign, mainly on social media, which argues that women and men should be granted the same freedom rights. The movement also aims to close the gap on gender equality and to oppose sexual objectification (Wikipedia, n.d.).

Lina Esco the creator of the movie “Free the Nipple” explains that she “ came up with “Free the Nipple” because it’s engaging and funny—and the fuel we needed to start a serious dialogue about gender equality. The shaming of the female nipple is a direct reflection of how unevolved this puritanical country is. You can pay to see women topless in porn videos and strip clubs, but the moment a woman owns her body, it’s shameful.” (Esco, n.d.)

Social media sites such as Facebook and Instagram have strict guidelines which prohibit any and all “graphic content” including a womens areola (Turco-Williams, 2015). Due to numerous complaints, Instagram has reviewed their terms and conditions making them more “transparent”. In an interview with TechCrunch, Nicky Jackson Colaco (Instagram’s director of public policy) said “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.” (Turco-Williams, 2015)

Although Instagram says that some photos of female nipples are allowed, the majority of images posted in response to the Free the Nipple campaign have been either reported or removed due to a breach in guidelines. In response to this, Esmay Wagemans uses art to protest Instagram’s censorship policy by covering up female nipples and male nipples… who would have thought?! She creates “nipple casts” from a type of latex which allows the wearer to show nipples without showing any skin (Frank, 2015). Wagemans says “I really like the design of it myself because it is located exactly at the crossing line of nudity and non-nudity. If you look at it a little longer, you’ll eventually start asking yourself: is what I’m seeing nudity?” (Frank, 2015)

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Instagram – @esmaywagemans

33 out of 50 states in the US currently allow women to be topless, however law enforcement can still arrest women for ‘disorderly conduct’ (Matsuo, 2015). With the help of activists, rallies and campaigns like Free the Nipple, hopefully the equality gap between men and women will close. 



Esco, L. (n.d.). Founder Lina Esco: ‘Free the Nipple’ Is Not About Seeing Breasts. [online] TIME.com. Available at: http://time.com/4029632/lina-esco-should-we-freethenipple/ [Accessed 7 Aug. 2016].

Frank, P. (2015). Artist Creates Nipples To Put On Her Nipples Because #FreeTheNipple. [online] Huffington Post Australia. Available at: http://www.huffingtonpost.com.au/entry/esmay-wagemans-second-skin_us_5643af90e4b045bf3ded9dcb [Accessed 7 Aug. 2016].

Matsuo, A. (2015). The 33 States That Allow Women To Be Topless. [online] TheRichest. Available at: http://www.therichest.com/expensive-lifestyle/lifestyle/the-33-states-that-allow-women-to-be-topless/ [Accessed 7 Aug. 2016].

Turco-Williams, N. (2015). Instagram finally updates its confusing policy on nudity. [online] Dazed. Available at: http://www.dazeddigital.com/artsandculture/article/24456/1/instagram-finally-updates-its-confusing-policy-on-nudity [Accessed 7 Aug. 2016].

Wikipedia. (n.d.). Free the Nipple (campaign). [online] Available at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Free_the_Nipple_(campaign) [Accessed 7 Aug. 2016].