The sexist history of censoring nipples is senseless and due to change with better understanding of gender and trans identity.
Look closely at Jason Momoa's nipple. Do you find it offensive? Amber Heard wants to know.
Recently, the Aquaman actress called out Instagram's sexist censorship policies. When promoting her recent feature in Interview Magazine, Heard posted to Instagram a shot from the black and white photo shoot in which she is bare chested underneath a black blazer. After the photo received nearly 750k likes, Instagram took it down as a violation of their "community guidelines." In response, Heard criticized the policy by posting a picture of costar Jason Momoa in an identical pose and semi-nude state.
"In honor of IG's rigorous and equitable Community Guidelines against showing the Female nipple," she captioned, "and since mine enjoyed the brief privilege that's afforded to my male counterparts.. I decided to pay homage by replacing it with a picture that DID meet IG's strict nudity guidelines and such careful gender policies." She also took to her Instagram stories to ask viewers to vote "on which edit you prefer the most." She thanked Instagram and said, "here's to 2019!"
For what it's worth, Instagram's policy acknowledges that nudity can be artistic rather than lewd or pornagraphic; they just don't care. Their policy reads: "We know that there are times when people might want to share nude images that are artistic or creative in nature, but for a variety of reasons, we don't allow nudity on Instagram. This includes photos, videos, and some digitally-created content that show sexual intercourse, genitals, and close-ups of fully-nude buttocks. It also includes some photos of female nipples, but photos of post-mastectomy scarring and women actively breastfeeding are allowed. Nudity in photos of paintings and sculptures is OK, too."
Really, Heard harnessed the elegance of Jason Momoa's right nipple to add to a conversation about double standards and the social shaming of the female body that dates back to the early 19th century. Before then, in the 17th and 18th centuries, toplessness wasn't even taboo. In France and Britain (influenced by French culture), "the latest fashions were cut so low that applying nipple make-up or nipple rouge became a part of some women's beauty routine at the vanity table."
Portrait of Princess of Lamballe by Duplessis, 18th century, ALAMY
Then came the Victorian era, during which Queen Victoria imposed rigid restrictions on how females should express their sexuality—or, more specifically, that they shouldn't. As writer Sara Sheridan recounted for the BBC, "Victoria's childhood had been scarred by her domineering mother, the Duchess of Kent, who left the Queen with a lifelong horror of sexual impropriety."
So, thanks to one queen's childhood trauma, Instagram (along with most media outlets) bans female nipples but condones graphic images of slain hunted animals, pus-filled pimple popping, and "stomach-churning" medical accounts. And, of course, men's nipples.
Portrait of Nell Gwyn, Simon VerelstALAMY
But Heard's sly salute to 2019 also highlights that time is running out for out-dated double standards. Namely, with trans and non-binary individuals expressing themselves more freely and finally being represented in the media, society is becoming more aware that gender is a social construct, and gender identity exists on a spectrum. When Robyn Kanner writes about being a trans woman in media, she admits that, to a degree, she understands Instagram's problem and attempt at a solution: "Its algorithm attempts to track and delete nudity. If that doesn't work, it's up to an Instagram user to see and report it. That's when a 'global team' at Instagram decides if it should stay or go." But, she wrote, "In 2013, when I had just started estrogen, there was a strong possibility that Instagram would have let me upload a picture of my breasts…It's 2018, and my C-cup breasts are too scandalous for Mark Zuckerberg and Kevin Systrom's photo-sharing platform." She concludes, "Instagram has successfully shamed women into believing our nipples and breasts are cursed images. It should reconsider its policy. Pretending nipples aren't family-friendly in 2018 is a massively silly endeavor." In 2019, Instagram is now, more than ever, "failing its community" by shaming female nipples.
Twitter / @Robynkanner
But, with censorship and shame around the human nipple based solely on gender, what could more inclusive gender expression mean for the nipple?
Freedom, according to the Instagram account @genderless_nipples. Since 2016, the account has been publishing user-submitted close-ups of nipples, both male and female, with no indication of what gender (or agender) the body is. Instagram doesn't ban the images, because A) there's no way to tell which one is a female nipple and so a violation of their policy, B) there's nothing innately shameful or lewd about the body part, in the first place, and C) anyone who reports the account in attempt to have the pictures banned is close-minded and trapped in a Puritan mindset that clearly needs to be expanded by watching Fleabag or anything on HBO or any of Laura Dodsworth's celebrated photography projects of 100 penises and vaginas.
So while you freely gaze at the beauty of Jason Momoa's nipple, remember the long history of nipples that came before his and the arbitrary reason you're not allowed to gaze at so many more.
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11 years ago, on July 10th, 2009, Colombian singer Shakira released the first single off her third studio album.
"She Wolf" is a synth-pop banger built on a B minor progression. It was, in many ways, an insane song, born out of the singer's own frustration and ennui.
Though the music was composed by John Hill and Sam Endicott, lead singer of post-punk band The Bravery, the lyrics were all Shakira's own. "[Shakira] contacted him (Hill), asking if he had any stuff," said Endicott. "We never had her in mind. We just made the thing independently of her, and then she liked it a lot, and she sang over it. She used some of the melodies we put in there and then wrote these crazy lyrics about being a werewolf. And that's how it happened."
Shakira - She Wolf www.youtube.com
Generation Alpha (born in 2010 to present) walks among us.
They've been wired into the Internet for all their lives, they'll be the most formally educated generation in history, and, if climate activism proves effective, they may avoid the ravages of climate change. And at 9 years old, the young generation already understands gender and sexuality better than any of their predecessors. Mattel knows that, and the Barbie-creators are cashing in on it. This week the toy company released the world's first line of gender-neutral dolls. As per the line's new slogan, Creatable World is "a doll line designed to keep labels out and invite everyone in." For $29.99, you can buy a generic, slim, 7-year-old child (long blond wig included).
The Creatable World doll is purportedly designed "to betray no obvious gender: the lips are not too full, the eyelashes not too long and fluttery, the jaw not too wide. There are no Barbie-like breasts or broad, Ken-like shoulders." Each doll comes with a wardrobe in mostly greens and yellows (allegedly gender-neutral colors) and includes hooded sweatshirts, sneakers, and graphic T-shirts as well as tutus, leggings, and camo pants.
Gender inclusive dolls PA
Firstly, Mattel is dangerously close to confusing gender-inclusivity with gender-neutrality. While it's completely fair to say that non-binary identity is complicated, so is society's history of constructing the false binary between strictly male and female.
"Non-binary" is a broad term, individuals who self-identify as such express their gender through diverse means, from combining elements of both masculinity and femininity or rejecting both to reify the fact that those notions are fundamentally flawed. Mattel is very pointedly seeking to market towards non-binary people who "Identif[y]as either having a gender which is in-between or beyond the two categories 'man' and 'woman, as fluctuating between 'man' and woman', or as having no gender, either permanently or some of the time," as defined by the LGBT Foundation and Scottish Trans Alliance.
But all Mattel does is equip the doll with swappable features that reinforce the false gender binary: traditionally "boy" and "girl" clothes and a long, blond wig. On their website, they advertise, "Creatable World™ gives kids a blank canvas to create their own characters. Switch long hair for short hair—add a skirt, pants or both. It's up to you! Mix and match, swap or share." While mixing male and female signifiers is part of non-binary expression, that's not the whole story; gender-neutrality isn't just about the choice between wearing "a skirt, pants or both." It's about rejecting the inherent assumptions and biases that presuppose a skirt is for women and pants are for men.
Mattel introduces gender neutral doll youtu.be
Of course, that's a tall order for a toy company. Mattel president Richard Dickson says, "I think being a company today, you have to have a combination of social justice along with commerce, and that balance can be tricky." He adds, "We're not in the business of politics, and we respect the decision any parent makes around how they raise their kids. Our job is to stimulate imaginations. Our toys are ultimately canvases for cultural conversation, but it's your conversation, not ours; your opinion, not ours."
Ideally, the doll can be used as a blank canvas of gender. As TIME noted, "The doll can be a boy, a girl, neither or both, and Mattel, which calls this the world's first gender-neutral doll, is hoping its launch...redefines who gets to play with a toy traditionally deemed taboo for half the world's kids." In fact, the toy industry has been trying to adjust to society's shift towards inclusivity. In 2015, 81% of Gen-Zers said that "gender doesn't define a person as much as it used to." In a study by the Williams Institute at UCLA, 27% of California teens identified as "gender-nonconforming." In response, the toy department at Target stores no longer have gender-specific sections. Disney no longer uses "boys" or "girls" labels on their children's costumes, and Mattel eliminated "boys" and "girls" from its toy divisions.
But while the kids of Generation Alpha are alright with gender fluidity, their parents are not. In testing the new line of gender neutral dolls, Mattel found that "many parents fumbled with the language to describe the dolls, confusing gender (how a person identifies) with sexuality (whom a person is attracted to), mixing up gender-neutral (without gender) and trans (a person who has transitioned from one gender to another) and fretting about the mere idea of a boy playing with a doll." One woman even said, "It's just too much. Can't we go back to 1970?"
Angie Smith for TIME Magazine
In reality, Mattel's latest cash grab is the company's newest attempt to revitalize its brand by diversifying Barbie's signature emaciated appearance. After all, this week marks the 60th anniversary of Barbie instilling rampant body image issues in young children. Since 2016, Mattel has tried to combat negative publicity by designing three new body types for Barbie ("tall," "petite," and "curvy") and releasing a line of culturally diverse dolls modeled after iconic women in history, such as Rosa Parks and Frida Kahlo. Monica Dreger, head of consumer insights at Mattel, claimed to find inspiration for the new line from "a couple of gender-creative kids who told us that they dreaded Christmas Day because they knew whatever they got under the Christmas tree, it wasn't made for them." She added, "This is the first doll that you can find under the tree and see is for them because it can be for anyone."
Dreger adds, "So we're maybe a little behind where kids are, ahead of where parents are, and that's exactly where we need to be." But that doesn't make Mattel describing today's gender-nonconforming kids as "gender-creative" any less spooky. It, and the doll, screams of a marketing ploy that commodifies queerness for profit.
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