Facebook’s “Female Nipple” Ban is Sexist and Absurd

April 21, 2016 at 9:43 pm

Free the Nipple on Facebook, Sign the Petition!



Last week, Facebook removed our story about the endangered Jarawa hunter-gatherers, because it contained images of topless females. The images of topless males in the story apparently were fine.

All three admins of Return To Now’s Facebook page were also blocked, for various numbers of days, as a punishment. The article still managed to get nearly 20,000 likes before it was removed.

Facebook’s nudity policy explicitly prohibits images of “female nipples,” but makes no mention of male nipples:

“We remove photographs of people displaying genitals or focusing in on fully exposed buttocks. We also restrict some images of female breasts if they include the nipple, but we always allow photos of women actively engaged in breastfeeding or showing breasts with post-mastectomy scarring.”

Facebook makes exceptions for artistic and educational nudity, but apparently an article about one of the oldest tribes on earth – and their way of life – is not educational enough.

ANDAMAN AND NICOBAR ISLANDS, INDIA - 2001/12/01: A group of Jarawas gather on the beach.. (Photo by Thierry Falise/LightRocket via Getty Images)

Why? Why are female nipples considered offensive, obscene and in need of covering? Meanwhile male nipples – which look EXACTLY the same, minus the surrounding fatty tissue – are perfectly acceptable?


While editing the photos to make them “appropriate” for Facebook, the absurdity of this sexist policy, and our culture’s hatred for women in general, became painfully obvious. As I selectively blurred out the breasts of the Jarawa women, who in many images were standing unashamedly side-by-side with bare-chested Jarawa men, I almost began to cry. “I’m erasing their womanliness, their femaleness,” I thought. “I’m turning them into men.”

The breasts of these Jarawa women were blurred out using iPhoto’s “blemish removal” feature.

The photo-shopping of these women’s breasts was erasure, not only of their gender and their sex, but of their culture and heritage. I was sure that the innocence and bliss on their faces was at least in part due to their sexual freedom – their freedom to be naked and whole and appreciated for ALL of their beauty, nipples included, in the presence of men, who are neither disgusted nor obsessed with their breasts.


I know it’s too much too soon to ask Facebook to allow full nudity – including penises and vaginas – so we’ll save that battle for another day, but I also want to point out how detrimental the cultural covering of those parts of our bodies has been.

Many immediate-return hunter-gatherer peoples have no word in their language for “rape,” because the concept is unknown to them. They run around naked all day, every day, breasts and genitals hanging out, and no one gawks or stares or goes crazy about them. Penises, vaginas, breasts and butts are no more shameful or special than any other part of the body. By covering them up, we are making them taboo. We are making people obsessed, and potentially more likely to rape.

I know it’s going to be a while before the world is ready to remove the fig leaves from our reproductive organs, but I think a decent start would be removing the cultural ban on female nipples, and I can think of no better place to start than the world’s biggest social media outlet:

Sign the “Free the Nipple on Facebook” petition here.

While you’re at it, sign this petition in support of a class action lawsuit against a discriminatory public nudity ordinance in Fort Collins, Colorado. It’s lawsuits like these that will help change the laws around the country.

These petitions are part of a larger campaign based on the film Free the Nipple:

Today, in the USA it is effectively ILLEGAL for a woman to be topless, breastfeeding included, in 35 states. In less tolerant places like Louisiana, an exposed nipple can take a woman to jail for up to three years and cost $2,500 in fines. Even in New York City, which legalized public toplessness in 1992, the NYPD continues to arrest women.

If you’re looking for a social media alternatives that allow female nipples and nudity, check out Twitter  or Tumblr. And if you’re looking for a non-discriminatory city to live in, join us here in Asheville, NC 😉