People still send me pictures of their naked breasts for our Free the Nipple campaign — I asked them why

It’s been nearly a year since The Tab launched our campaign


2015 was the year of the breast. And it was also the year The Tab began their Free The Nipple campaign, inviting women and men across the world to get involved and highlight the hypocrisy of social media’s censorship. Over 760,000 people read our piece, which reached New Zealand, Australia, America and Italy. And it meant different things to everyone who contributed.

In March last year, The Tab published a Free The Nipple manifesto. It was a reaction to the experience of a friend, who complained that Instagram had taken down her topless holiday photo – but it was a culmination of many things.

However, the article wasn’t angry. I wanted to tell a story of women celebrating and reclaiming their own bodies, and not giving a fuck who saw them online, or noticed that they were involved in the campaign. Everyone who contributed found it liberating, and apart from a few slightly lecherous DMs from men, the response was positive.

It’s been 11 months since the article was published, but I’m still getting emails. From women who have seen it online, from people who want to tell their own stories. I spoke to some of the women who still send me pictures of their breasts and their opinions on Free the Nipple to ask them why they do it.

Amelia, a student at Western Illinois University in America, discovered the campaign months after it had been posted, back in September, and sent in her submission. When I asked her why she told me: “I got in touch because I feel very strongly about this campaign, it means a lot to me.

“My whole life I’ve tried to show the world that the human body is beautiful. Some of us feel comfortable in clothes from head to toe, but some of us just want to be free.”

Although the piece was published in the UK, Amit, an Indian man, decided to get involved. When I asked him why, he said it was a “unique campaign”. In an odd email correspondence, he explained: “Nipples are a sensitive yet neglected part of the human body. The campaign provided a unique opportunity for girls to express themselves and made people realise that they’re not just objects.

“In my country though, not many people are aware of the campaign. Our culture is more traditional, and women are respected in many ways, but they don’t have this kind of freedom. As a guy, I’m always proud of my nipples.”

The piece also reached an older generation. Just before Christmas, Sandra, a 55-year-old transgender nurse living in Norwich emailed me. She said she wanted to get involved because to her, having breasts was the most important and biggest part of being female.

I wanted to know whether the people who got involved in Free The Nipple had experienced backlash. When I originally published it, I had plenty of messages from friends I hadn’t seen in months, from creepy strangers, and from my mum, who was pretty concerned that it had appeared out of the blue.

One girl, Amelia said she wasn’t concerned about the potential negatives of being involved. She told me: “I’m still doing body art, and I’m still showing it off, whether people appreciate it or not.”

Others were more concerned, though. Lucy got involved in April, but later contacted me to ask me to take her out of the article because she was having second thoughts. She decided ultimately to be a part of the campaign, though I wanted to know what happened, and why she was so unsure.

When I spoke to her, she explained: “I had mixed reviews. People were mainly shocked, and guys were a little negative when they found out I was involved. But the response from girls was so empowering and positive.

“I’ve always been so interested in the campaign – it’s absolutely ridiculous that women’s breasts are sexualised so much more than men’s to the point that we aren’t allowed to freely show them. Of course it wouldn’t be appropriate to sit topless in a restaurant (unless you’re breastfeeding, in which case it’s absolutely fine) but then it would be just as inappropriate if a man sat in a restaurant topless.

“I think that in places in which topless men are accepted – the beach, the swimming pool, photos on social media, etc – topless women should be accepted too. It’s yet another aspect of feminism that needs to be addressed and I was very happy to get involved.”

To keep contributing to our Free The Nipple campaign email [email protected].