Free the Nipple: Tits and Activism

You’ve probably encountered the viral campaign for #freethenipple that’s been percolating over the past year. In anticipation of the new film inspired by real events, celebrities from Cara Delevingne and Lena Dunham to Miley Cyrus have come out in support of the movie and the movement to de-stigmatize women’s bodies. Slutist was at the IFC preview with the filmmakers last night, which was complete (of course) with topless viewers. Russell Simmons, a big supporter of the film, gave a brief introduction on the inequality of the sexes and how important first-time-director (and lead actress) Lina Esco’s work is. On the way back to his seat, he joked that he wanted to sit with the topless attendees before quickly admonishing himself and muttering, “sexist pig.” (Ha.)

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Free the Nipple follows the relationship and the mission of two women, Liv (Lola Kirke) and With (Lina Esco), who rally around laws barring female topless nudity to protest censorship mores in the United States (particularly the concurrent demonization of female sexuality and the valorization of violence). What struck us within the first few minutes of the film was the way the camera focused on the breast without being hypersexual or fetishistic—an incredibly rare feat. Although Free the Nipple started out a bit overly earnest (and even naive) for our tastes, once we got over the first half (and some glaring questions like how can these girls get away with squatting in Williamsburg these days?!), the second part of the film was emotionally engaging. To us, Free the Nipple reached a high point when footage of other topless activists around the world was interspersed with the fictional protest scenes, revealing the impact of topless activism across cultures and political systems. Bonus points for the fact that the film is basically an exercise in the Bechdel test, with only two male characters used for comedy (Griffin Newman) and gravitas (Zach Grenier).

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At the end of the screening, there was a brief Q&A, during which some of the actors and producers spoke. “It’s not about going topless, it’s about equality,” Esco affirmed, summing up the true intentions of the film. Whatever your views are on Free the Nipple‘s aesthetic merits, it carries an undeniably vital message.

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