How the latest #freethenipple campaign stole an artist’s clever idea

We now live in a nation with marriage equality, but we’re still a long way from nipple equality.

While Facebook and Instagram still shudder at the sight of female nipples, campaigns to combat this double standard continue to crop up—this time in the form of resurrecting a campaign created by an artist in June of last year.

The image seen below has been making its way around Tumblr, with more than 9,500 notes, and is also being widely shared on Instagram. It shows an image of a male nipple and instructs women to place it over their own so that their topless photos comply with different social networks’ standards.

Micol Hebron

A photo posted by Our Lady J (@ourladyj) on

Women on Instagram are using it as a workaround for sharing topless photos.

C’est absurde n’est-ce-pas ? #freethenipple Regram @alinenilsson

A photo posted by Dylan Bianco (@dydou._) on

Artist Micol Hebron is credited on the Tumblr post as the originator of the male nipple image. And after speaking to her, it turns out that the current iteration is actually an appropriation of a project she launched last year.

Hebron told the Daily Dot in an email:

I made a post on Facebook (and it was recirculated on Instagram) on June 7, 2014 with the same image (it is the publicly available ‘male nipple‘ image from wiki-media), and nearly the same language.

The language of my original post was: ‘Here you go – you can use this to make any photo of a topless woman acceptable for the interwebs! Use this ‘acceptable (male) nipple template’, duplicate, resize and paste as needed, to cover the offending female nipples, with socially acceptable male nipples (like a digital pasty). You’re welcome.’

She provided a side-by-side comparison of her male nipple substitute from last year, and the one being circulated this week, noting, “if you zoom in, you’ll see that the ‘bumps’ on the areola match up exactly.”

 

Micol Hebron

She also took to Facebook to express her dismay over the fact that a campaign she suggested last year was being co-opted by others, writing “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.”

There have been many attempts to #freethenipple, with model Chrissy Teigen serving as a goodwill ambassador of sorts for the cause. The social media rockstar and wife of singer John Legend has made many attempts to push Instagram’s boundaries, most recently sharing a topless photo from a W Magazine photo shoot.

The photo was subsequently removed.

(Sorry, this embed was not found.)

Perhaps one day the female nipple will be free. But for now, it must live beneath its male counterpart.

H/T Tumblr | Photo via @ourladyj/Instagram

Marisa Kabas

Marisa Kabas

Marisa Kabas is a lifestyle reporter and activist. Her work has been published by Fusion, Fast Company, and Today. She’s also served as an editorial campaigns director for Purpose PBC, a social movement incubator.