Free the Nipple Movement – the Debate

The Free the Nipple movement has been a huge political argument and a large-scale social media controversy for several years now. However many remain somewhat in the dark about what the argument is about. Both sides of the argument are passionate about the debate. But where does the argument stem from? What are the main points of discussion?

Free the Nipple and Feminism

The founders of the Free the Nipple movement argue that the censorship of the female breasts is not only a feminist issue. It is also a humanitarian issue as it falls under the umbrella of inequality between genders. However, that basis itself is problematic for many feminists. Given that the definition of feminism is the equal social, political and economic equality of the sexes.

Many advocates of the Free the Nipple movement find it important due to the suggested sexualisation of the female body created by the censorship of breasts. To be censored is to be inappropriate. Contenders of the movement argue that it has bred a culture of women forcing images of a sexual nature on the public. This further exacerbates the sexualisation of women. The debate falls firmly into two camps and two very polarised schools of thought. But it is interesting that often their arguments use the same evidence. For example: Supporters believe that exposure and normalisation of the breasts will reduce the sex symbol status of the female body. Opponents believe that exposure and normalisation of the breasts will do the opposite. And so, the plot thickens.


A sensitive area of the debate is where breastfeeding comes into this. Supporters of the movement feel that those who oppose breastfeeding in public only do so due to the ordinary censorship of breasts. They argue that if they were normalised in popular culture and social media, the stigma surrounding public breastfeeding would be lightened. For many, this is a key driving force in the debate.


For many supporters though, the movement is simply challenging the inequality of choice. In 1936 men going shirtless was legalised as four men went before the court and challenged the absurdity of its illegality. Today, women going shirtless is still illegal in most western land. Many women can’t see why an inequality like this should exist.

One of the most interesting elements of this debate is the divide it creates amongst women. While most women have been united against other areas of inequality, there is a portion of the female population who are against the movement. Some viewing it as an excuse for everyone to walk around half naked whenever they please. Supporters (I assume) don’t wish to strut into the office with the girls out on show. I feel they’re contesting the idea that a man might feel more comfortable being shirtless on a hot day. And that perhaps a woman might too. The thought of a beach full of topless women might seem unusual. The movement challenges why. Perhaps, in time, reversing opinions of exposed breasts and (dare I say it) breeding greater equality between the sexes.

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