Opinion

How #FreeTheNipple is fighting to change social media policies

Photos showing women's nipples were once banned from certain social media outlets. The #FreeTheNipple campaign is fighting to change those policies.

Photo: iStockphoto

Photo: iStockphoto

A few weeks ago, if you’d posted a breastfeeding photo with even a tiny portion of your nipple showing, Facebook would have taken it down for contravening their nudity policy.

But not anymore. Facebook has quietly changed their breastfeeding policy to allow nipples. This may seem like a small thing, but it means quite a lot for the women who have had their pictures—and even accounts—disabled for harmless photos of their nursing babies.

Read more: Mother’s Instagram deactivated after breastfeeding photo>

The changes were not publicly announced, but breastfeeding advocates have been on the case. While Facebook never outright banned breastfeeding photos, the continued account deactivations and harassment of women who posted the pictures made us wonder why the social media platform hated breastfeeding so much. Especially since so many overtly sexual photos are allowed to remain posted.

Blogger Paala Secor decided to test the new policies by posting some breastfeeding photos with fully bare breasts. All these photos remain up on her Facebook page.

Secor wrote:
“We are proud to nourish our babies with our breasts and we will not be shamed for it. We will share our special/difficult/funny/priceless breastfeeding moments with our friends, families, and community and we will not to told [sic] to keep them to ourselves.”

These changes were made thanks to the #FreeTheNipple campaign which has been gaining international momentum due to some celebrity endorsements. The social media campaign, tied to a film, has been critical of the regulation of women’s breasts in all contexts—from breastfeeding, to mastectomies, to topless photos.

Scout Willis (daughter of Demi Moore and Bruce Willis) recently walked down a New York street topless after Instagram deleted some of her photos claiming “instances of abuse.” What did the photos contain? One featured Scout in a sheer top and jacket she made with a picture of two topless women on it.

In an editorial for XOJane, Scout wrote:
“I am not trying to argue for mandatory toplessness, or even bralessness. What I am arguing for is a woman’s right to choose how she represents her body—and to make that choice based on personal desire and not a fear of how people will react to her or how society will judge her. No woman should be made to feel ashamed of her body.”

Rihanna has also expressed support for the campaign, recently posing on the red carpet in this transparent, glittery dress. The singer’s Instagram account was disabled after she posted a topless photo, although it has since been reinstated. However, she has closed her account in protest.

Facebook-owned Instagram hasn’t yet changed their policies but with the #FreeTheNipple crusaders focusing their attention on the picture-sharing site, my guess is the changes are coming. The increasing popularity of breastfeeding images means that more and more women are posting photos of their children nursing.

Many of these women aren’t activists, but just mothers documenting the daily moments in their lives. They may not have celebrity clout, but they have strength in numbers. And one by one they are making breastfeeding—and nipples—something that people see more often.

You can check out this #FreeTheNipple PSA “Everybody’s Gotta Eat” HERE

Emma Waverman is a writer, blogger and mom to three kids. She has many opinions, some of them are fit to print. Read more of her articles here and follow her on Twitter @emmawaverman.  

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