Facebook Finally Lifts Its Ban On Nipples

by Alicia Lu
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New moms, rejoice! Because you can breastfeed in peace now — on Facebook that is. Finally, Facebook has lifted its ban on exposed nipples in breastfeeding pictures. The restriction was quietly lifted without a formal announcement, after a not-so-quiet campaign called #FreeTheNipple garnered international attention. And it all started with two of Bruce Willis' daughters.

Last month, Scout Willis strolled through New York City's East Village neighborhood topless in support of the #FreeTheNipple campaign in protest of Instagram's policy against female nudity. Her impetus was Instagram's suspension of her account after she posted a picture of a sweatshirt that featured two topless women. Scout pointed out the photo-sharing app's hypocrisy by reposting a photo from venture capitalist Dan Bilzerian's account, which is a smorgasbord of scantily clad women, along with the caption "@instagram pictures of breast cancer survivors have been flagged+deleted but this is super #sick and #hot amiright???."

While Scout fights the good fight against Instagram, her sister Rumer has joined the #FreeTheNipple movement in her own way, starring in a PSA along with Soko, Tyler Jacob Moore, and Kim Allen about normalizing breastfeeding. The PSA was released in conjunction with the promotion of the upcoming Free the Nipple film, which explores our society's acceptance of graphic violence over a naked female's body. According to Cosmopolitan, the film asks the question: "What's more obscene? Violence, or a nipple?"

Using the tagline "Everybody's gotta eat," the PSA is one of many recent campaigns that fight for the cause.

Last month, two University of North Texas students created the When Nature Calls campaign that calls out the unfair pressure nursing moms feel to hide and breastfeed in bathroom stalls. The campaign was in support of a Texas House Bill 1706, which would "ensure that a mother’s right to be in a location may not be revoked solely because she begins to breastfeed."

And now Facebook is joining in by, finally, lifting its ban on exposed nipples in breastfeeding pictures. The policy change was first announced on Huffington Post by feminist writer Soyara Chemaly, who launched her own campaign last year that led to the policy change.

According to her blog entry, the focus of the initiative was to get Facebook to recognize its double standard in allowing content that mocks rapes, domestic battery, and other violence against women, as well as content that sexually objectifies women, while prohibiting breastfeeding pictures that feature the female nipple. The campaign against gender-based discrimination and the "obscenity double standard" worked, because after 60,000 tweets and 15 advertisers leaving the social media site, Facebook is now addressing the issue.

Why This Is a Good Thing

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We — both men and women — need to change our mentalities about the female body, period. It's not a secret that sexual objectification of the female body is pervasive in American culture, from the media to the workplace and everywhere in between. Research has shown that while the male body is perceived as a whole, the female body is reduced to its parts, and the brain further breaks it down by focusing on specific parts normally perceived as sexual to embody an entire woman.

Both men and women are guilty of this skewed perception, and we can hardly blame them, since every other magazine cover and billboard blatantly uses sexualized female body parts to sell products.

So how does allowing even more exposed body parts on Facebook help matters? For one, it's not selling anything. Secondly, seeing a female breast being used to feed a baby is a powerful reminder that a woman's body parts have functions — ones that can sustain another human life. They're not only here for you to ogle. Third, the irony that users can post near-pornographic shots of themselves in provocative clothing and positions but not a completely non-sexual photo of a mother and baby bonding is just painful. As photographer Laura Dodsworth, creator of the Bare Reality project, told Chemaly, "Controlling female nudity is about controlling women."

How It Could Be a Bad Thing

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Please, for the love of God, do not start a breastfeeding selfie trend. That should not be a thing. Documenting the connection you feel with your infant, like the act itself, should remain sacred. Let's not take this new liberation and run with it by posting nonstop glamour shots with infants in tow. This ban lift is a much-needed step toward making breastfeeding, and breasts in general, nontaboo, but it should in no way be an excuse to show your nipples.

Images: Free the Nipple/Facebook,