After the success of the ‘No More Page 3’ campaign earlier this year, we are a step closer to diminishing the sexual objectification of the female body in the UK. Over the Atlantic, a similar battle has commenced, but from the outside it looks like a contradictory cause.
The ‘Free the Nipple’ campaign is a fight for legal reform in the US to allow female nipples to be on show in public, alongside their male compatriots. Although one cause is requesting a cover up, and the other a reveal, their goal is essentially the same: equality of the body, regardless of gender.
The ‘No More Page 3’ campaign resulted in the removal of nude images of women from The Sun, the most popular newspaper in the UK. However, shortly after this removal, the topless young women (often teenagers) were replaced by celebrities clad with skimpy bikinis on the beach. They were not put there to illustrate the evolving swimwear fashions of the past decade, I can assure you. They are there as sexual objects. It was not the bare nipple on the page that I found offensive; it was the blatant portrayal of women’s breasts at sexual organs to be gawped at, rather than appreciated for their magical, biological baby-feeding purpose. So retaining the third page as a sexy female only zone – leaving the rest of the paper free to celebrate the achievements of manly men that the manly male readers look upon in manly awe – The Sun isolates the female body and renders it useful for one sole purpose: sex.
The strict laws in most US states regarding the exposure of female nipples, and the stringent regulations on Instagram have finally caused a reaction: #FreeTheNipple. The fact that men are allowed to be topless in public and online seems to be a bizarre injustice, considering that the offending body part, the nipple itself, is the same for both genders. Yes, female nipples may be attached to socially sexualised mammary glands, but why is it that these sexual objects can be shown to the world every day but with that one little, functional piece missing. This small, round piece is one of many that are missing from the puzzle of gender equality; but it is one that, if freed, will revolutionise the way that the female body is seen to the world.
One of the most entertaining methods of portraying the injustice of nudity regulations online has been the ‘Photoshop the Nipple’ idea that people have been using on Instagram. Micol Hebron, from California, has provided our topless Instagramers with a picture of a male nipple, which can be resized and photoshopped and placed onto an offending female nipple. Happy now Instagram? Everybody’s playing by the rules! This amusing creation illustrates just how ridiculous it is that the nipples of one gender are allowed and the others aren’t, when they really do look the same. Bikini’s have also been designed to support the freedom of our nipple friends; these bikinis tops, on which two lovely nipples have been printed, show the world that although women may be forced to cover their breasts by law, the nipple cannot be stopped. If I’m allowed to look at page 3 of the sun while I sit on the beach that must mean I’m allowed to wear pictures of nipples over my offensive live ones.
The fundamental difference between these two campaigns is what has made one potentially more difficult to achieve. ‘No More Page 3’ requested a removal of an injustice from a sexist society controlled by men who quite enjoyed this indulgence. Although this was a powerful and controversial change to demand, it fits with our country’s changing opinions of sexual equality and was able to gather enough support to succeed. It could be argued that to take something away is easier than to add something, especially when we are talking about the introduction of nudity in society rather than its removal, a controversial feat. For this reason, success of the #FreeTheNipple movement could mark an even greater breakthrough in the fight for gender equality. The right to be topless should not induce pressure in women to show their breasts, it should allow women the choice to do so if they please, choice being the key word here. Men have the choice, why can’t we?
Written by Tender Volunteer Annabel Murphy
Annabel is a 19 year old student at the University of Manchester studying English Literature. After completing her first year of university studies, she is spending four weeks at Tender in order to gain some experience in the charity sector and learn about the importance of the work done here.