‘Free the nipple is dumb’

Over at the xojane website, Tatenda Musapatike is voicing what is probably a highly unpopular opinion, that the entire #freethenipple campaign is silly.

Yes, of course it’s silly, but it’s equally silly that 15% of the way through the 21st century that this is still ‘an issue’. This should have been something that was done and dusted decades ago.

I can see, to some extent, where Tatenda is coming from, but in some respects she’s also totally wrong.

To begin with, the entire #freethenipple campaign isn’t ‘one more instance of how a wealthy, and often white, brand of feminism has detached itself from those who need the movement most’.

Our post, earlier this week, about the BlackOUT Collective staging a protest demonstrated that it’s not just a concern of white women.  The group’s statement said that their topless protest was, in part, to bring attention to the fact that society tends to focus on black women’s physical bodies except when those bodies are victims of violence. They also wanted to let women reclaim their bodies in a public space. So it’s not just about white women.

Our post, earlier this year, about Icelandic women seizing the #freethenipple hashtag demonstrated that it’s not just a concern of wealthy women.  Ordinary Icelandic women were joining in to highlight online bullying and body shaming by others. So it’s not just about wealthy women.

I wrote, earlier this year, how feminist writers and journalists often appear keen to demonstrate slackly researched points of view (specifically in respect of The Guardian newspaper), something that often undermines the feminist viewpoint. Articles that appear to say ‘pay me Guardian, for a feminist article which will establish my feminist credentials’. On the other hand, The Guardian almost seems to be publishing these to fulfil ‘minority’ quotas that exist only in its own mind. We need a gay writer, a black writer, a disabled writer…

Tatenda goes on…Every day women are facing struggles that they just shouldn’t have to because of institutional gender and racial bias, and we don’t have time to waste fighting Instagram.


Really? Because it’s not where your priorities lie, does that mean that the #freethenipple campaign shouldn’t exist? How ‘sexy’ (from a media perspective) is hash tagging #institutionalgenderbias?

Because of the point (no pun intended) of the #freethenipple campaign, it has brought other issues to the table. How much coverage is institutional gender bias going to achieve? None. And that’s not because an international gender biased media is trying to keep women under its thumb. It’s because such an issue is ‘boring’. Tits sell papers…but in respect of the #freethenipple campaign, there’s coverage which then, and only then, allows other aspects of feminism to be discussed. Without nipples, gender bias is dull, not newsworthy and invisible. While we’re at it, without #freethenipple Tatenda wouldn’t have had anything to write about, no fee to collect. Perhaps she should be donating her fee to, ooh, I don’t know, more worthwhile feminist issues.

We don’t have time to waste fighting Instagram? Really? Really? This week Facebook partly changed its nudity policy due to a court case it lost in France. While it seems like a small thing, what’s the alternative? To allow global media concerns to determine how we should act and think? Or do we have the right to reject their self-styled ‘world social media policeman’ role?

Perhaps we should allow Facebook or Instagram to censor the word ‘feminist’. After all, Tatenda, they set their own rules, so why fight them on that? Why fight them if they decide that their private, for-profit company’s policies have no need to include women. Or black people. Or Jews. Or gays.  It’s their rules, why fight them on that?

Alternatively, accept that everyone will fight their own fight on their own terms. They don’t need to conform to yours to make their feminist statement. Or is your brand of feminism superior to theirs?k9exqy7wcwjl5stcvn5j

I accept the point made that #freethenipple gives no voice to the issues that plague women daily.

That Hispanic women make 54 cents of what a white man makes.

That Black women make 64 cents of what a white man makes.

I also accept that the feminist agenda in Iceland isn’t going to be particularly zoned-in on the plight of Hispanic & Black women. It’s not because they don’t care. It’s because an area resembling East LA doesn’t exist on the outskirts of Reykjavik. Those women will, instead, be focussing on their local equality agenda. Iceland’s possibly the most advanced country in the world in terms of equality rights, but their women still see room for improvement. Please don’t try to suggest that their white, wealthy, nipple-freeing agenda is somehow inferior to anyone else’s feminist ideals.

Incidentally, white women (statistics via your own link, Tatenda) only make 90 cents of what a white man makes. Certainly, the disparity is less, but there’s still a disparity. We should be addressing all of these disparities, as women, and not subscribing to what you, a damned proud, progressive feminist, might identify as a typical patriarchal divide-and-conquer policy. Perhaps if you focussed on the plight of women as oppose to Hispanic women, Black women, lesbian women, old women, ‘fat’ women, we might be getting somewhere, faster.

I accept that the United States still does not have any policy for paid maternity leave, but that’s not uniquely a female thing. The US doesn’t have any paid paternity leave policy either.

I accept that paid sick leave still isn’t available for every woman in the United States. Again, not unique to women, or the US.

‘And people are being implored to give a damn about #FreeTheNipple?’

And the rest of us should give a damn what proud progressive feminists think about how we’ll think and act on equality issues?


I once thought The Guardian was the exclusive domain of slack-thinking feminists who often appeared to be quislings for the patriarchy, so laugh out loud was their infantile versions of feminist issues, but it rather appears xojane have their very own version.