There's Some Controversy Brewing in the #FreetheNipple Hashtag Campaign

August 11th 2015

Earlier this summer, the hashtag #FreetheNipple went viral for challenging social media platforms on their sexist double standards. Women are standing up to the practice of censoring the female body in a number of ways. Some are posting topless photos, while others are using a Photoshop trick. Facebook and Instagram censor female body parts more than male body parts, so users started Photoshopping images of male nipples over female nipples to highlight the issue at hand.

The Photoshopped statement gained traction this year when, but creator Micol Hebron explained on her Facebook that a form of the campaign actually started in 2014.

Who is behind the idea of the Photoshopped nipple and what does the campaign stand for?

In July, Hebron posted on Facebook that she first came up with the male nipple idea in June 2014, but it exploded this year as a result of others heavily promoting the cause (oftentimes failing to acknowledge her as the creator):


"TBT to that time, over a year ago (June 2014) that I posted an image of male nipple and told everyone to put it over images of female nipples to make them 'internet acceptable'.... and then my "idea-that-someone-else-will-make-a-lot-of-money-off-of-#244" went viral this week, via someone else's visualization (using the very same image). Sigh," she wrote on Facebook.

In an email to the Daily Dot, she pointed out that the male nipple in her 2014 post appears identical to the male nipple in the recent viral #FreetheNipple movement, “if you zoom in, you'll see that the 'bumps' on the areola match up exactly.”

In the comments thread for her Facebook post, Hebron further divulged, "My frustration comes more from the fact that this really does happen to me ALL the time, and I just wish I knew how to market my ideas in more savvy ways ... I don't think there's much I can do here, unfortunately ... [I] should just be happy that the 'word' (and image! Lol) are spreading. It's true, artists are often not good marketers ... I try to tell myself not to stress out about such things, because I'll have more ideas."

Celebrities who have shown support for #FreetheNipple

Many famous figures have supported the efforts of the #FreetheNipple movement and consequently increased awareness of it on social media. Miley Cyrus posted a #FreetheNipple photo of herself topless on Instagram last year and Scout Willis did the same after walking around New York City with no bra or shirt on:

While she did not Photoshop male nipples over her own, Chelsea Handler posted a topless picture of her on a horse to re-imagine the famous photo of Russian President Vladamir Putin doing the same thing and the image was banned on Instagram multiple times:

Model Chrissy Teigen also showed support for the #FreetheNipple movement when Instagram removed one of her topless W magazine photoshoot images. She went on to post this photo that hides the sight of her nipple but still reveals much of her breast.

Teigen also responded to Instagram's nipple censorship by posting a photo of husband John Legend's rear end. That photo, however, was not removed by Instagram:

Beyond the hashtag

The movement to allow women to show nipples goes beyond social media. In fact there was a 2014 documentary titled "Free the Nipple," which followed a group of women in New York City working to "decriminalize the female body," IMDB states.

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