Spotlight on: 'Free The Nipple'
The female nipple has long been a point of contention the world over, but especially in the United States.
A country that features violence on TV freely, yet balks at the very suggestion of the exposed female breast on screen, it is also illegal for a woman to be topless even when breastfeeding in 35 of the 50 states.
Free The Nipple is, in the words of its organisers, a feature film, an equality movement and a mission to empower women across the world. "We stand against female oppression and censorship," they say, and their mission is to normalise the female nipple in society and in the media in much the same way the male nipple has been. You wouldn't look twice at a topless guy strolling down the street (de rigeur in Ireland even if there's only a mere hint of heat in the sun), but for some reason, the female breast has been mystified and sexualised to the point where it's socially unacceptable to bare them. Singer Rihanna raises eyebrows when she goes out wearing sheer tops and no bra, but the organisers of this campaign argue that she should be free to do this in the US whereever she pleases.
The organisers have been fundraising at celebrity filled parties, and the movement has gained traction thanks to celebrity supporters like Rihanna and Cara Delevingne who have all been baring their breasts in different capacities to promote the cause.
Scout Willis, sister of Rumer and daughter of Bruce and Demi Moore, even went so far as to stroll around New York City topless (as it is legal there) in a public service announcement style film to demonstrate how she can bare her breasts in public, but not on popular social networking sites without having the image declared "pornographic" and removed.
The campaign is purposefully in-yer-face – strong language, NSFW imagery and provocative tweets and memes rule. The aim is to raise awareness by being controversial, and the basic message is to propose the question – what's more obscene? Violence or a nipple? The message is equality, but the practice is heady, designed to illicit a reaction, good or bad.
Filmmaker Lina Esco has also gathered the support of famous faces like Lena Dunham and Liv Tyler to her cause.
It remains to be seen whether Free The Nipple will effect change, but it's definitely got people talking and is making headlines around the world.
For more information, see www.freethenipple.com, or follow them on Twitter @FreeTheNipple.
First published in INSIDER Magazine, exclusive to Thursday's Irish Independent