Gender equality is really important. That, I would say, is undeniable. Although modern Western society is considerably better than it has ever been, there are still some imbalances between the privileges that men and women have. Some of these imbalances are in the public eye, but others are still flying under our radar. What I find remarkable is that more and more it seems that once one of these gender equality imbalances are brought to our attention, we won’t continue to ignore it. We instead rise up and actively fight to get the problem fixed. Take the wage gap, for example. Until the Sony hack happened, society didn’t talk about how women made considerably less than their male peers. But once the hackers released the confidential Sony wage information and made the issue more transparent, all of a sudden it was widespread knowledge and conversation.</p>
In the case of the wage gap, the tipping point was putting attention on the issue. Raising attention leads to starting a conversation, and then the conversation becomes critical for exposing why a problem needs to be resolved. The issue that currently has the attention of our society is that women are not allowed to post topless photos on social media — but men can. To some, this issue is trivial and unimportant. Women can’t share photos of their breasts on Instagram — so what? Yes, on the surface it might strike you as odd that we care about the issue. But posting your nipple on social media isn’t the right that people are fighting for. We are fighting to reclaim a woman’s right to regulate how she will choose to expose her body.
The campaign is called “Free the Nipple.” In essence, people are protesting the fact that the social media websites involved, namely Facebook and Instagram, don’t allow photos of topless women. Facebook and Instagram do not have regulations regarding male nipples. Free the Nipple operates under the logic that women and men should have equal social media rights. It’s a compelling argument because the gender inequality is very explicit. However, when you start to wonder whether or not women should be posting topless content in the first place, the message can get lost.
There are people in favour of exposing naked breasts on social media. They argue that the only reason that women cannot be topless is because their breasts are sexualized. Further, activists argue that the sexualization of a woman’s breast is discriminatory and wrong. This component of the debate is questionable. The sexualization of a woman’s breast is a complicated topic. Is it actually discriminatory to say that the nipple is sexual? Or is it just a biological fact? If that really was the central argument to the Free the Nipple campaign, perhaps the way to solve the controversy is to fight for the prohibition of men exposing their nipples. No, I would argue that we’re not actually fighting because we want to post our nipples online.
The key component of the fight to Free the Nipple is that women should be the people who own the decision of whether or not to post pictures of their own breasts. It is wrong and unfair that the social media companies unilaterally made the decision for us. More importantly, they did not extend the same regulations onto men. We, as women, should have the right to regulate how we choose to expose our own bodies. Who knows what we will actually do with the decision, but that isn’t the point. Gender equality means that if men have that freedom, women should too.
Having attention on an issue is a good thing because it starts a conversation. Issues like the wage gap are instantly and obviously wrong. Other issues, like the Free the Nipple debate, are less obvious. It is only through talking about the problem and truly deconstructing it that we begin to understand what it actually means for gender equality. Keep talking about what it would mean to Free the Nipple. Although, if I may, Free the Nipple might be a misnomer. Maybe we should start calling the campaign “Reclaim the Nipple” instead.