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A Reminder that Free the Nipple Isn't About Porn

By Kylie Cheung | Think Pieces | February 6, 2017 | Comments ()

By Kylie Cheung | Think Pieces | February 6, 2017 |


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For all its controversy, the Free the Nipple movement is, before anything else, about everyday women. It’s a movement meant to erase sexual double standards that shame and objectify the female body; its goal is to restore women’s autonomy in a society that seeks to sexualize, stigmatize, and regulate their every bodily decision.

But of course, as movements about women so often are, the narrative around Free the Nipple has largely been hijacked by men who completely miss its point. Unsurprisingly, given the movement’s concern with women’s bodies and right to equal treatment as men, men have essentially transformed Free the Nipple into a slut-shaming fest. Their enthusiasm in casting women who expose their nipples, just as men can without controversy, as pornstars, like there’s something inherently awful about this, has resulted in a shift in the movement’s focus to make it about Playboy models.

Case in point: this awful, clickbait story by British newspaper, The Sun, entitled “Playboy model Simone Holtznagel strips naked for ‘Free The Nipple’ campaign during X-rated girls’ night out.” The Sun, as well as plenty of other online British tabloids such as the Daily Mail, pulls shit like this fairly often. You’ll notice all of their articles pegged to the Free the Nipple campaign involve sexualizing public figures or models, and steering the narrative around the campaign back to porn and objectifying women.

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This could hardly be more characteristic of patriarchal society — to take a movement all about ceasing to sexualize women’s bodies and do precisely that by making it focus on porn, and suggesting that the only women who would ever want the right to bear their breasts are sex workers. You’ll hardly find a news outlet that analyzes the movement from a political lens, that considers women’s First Amendment right to freedom of expression, and our Fourteenth Amendment right to equality with men, who, FYI, are able to roam about in public topless without being laughed at and arrested.

Ultimately, however, none of this is to say that just because a woman is a sex worker that her voice about issues like Free the Nipple should not be heard or taken seriously; this couldn’t be further from the truth. All I’m saying is that mainstream news should avoid sweepingly associating a movement about women’s right to not be reduced to sex objects with pornography.

And in the same vein, why be selective when it comes to hearing out sex workers? Many of them have long been advocating for such causes as legal recognition of their field of work, as well as labor rights, but it seems our patriarchal society is more than willing to ignore them unless their demands can somehow be spun into yet another mechanism to shame and sexualize women.


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