Olive Gaetz ’25
There truly may be no better campus to support a movement based on liberating all chests regardless of gender or birth-sex. Claremont is a community relatively isolated from the busyness of Los Angeles but still within one of the most liberal states in the country, known for its progressive movements and protests throughout the 20th and 21st centuries. Scripps especially, a historically women’s college, is a haven for students to feel comfortable in their dorms and classes among other like minded individuals from all over the world. Therefore, it comes at no surprise that the 5Cs might have a “Free the Nip” Instagram account to encourage students to feel comfortable with exposed chests in the same way that male students feel comfortable walking around or working out without shirts. Though it’s not out of the cards for an organization like this to actually exist, the @5cfreethenip account was doomed from the start.
For readers that have successfully managed to avoid discourse on Yik Yak or Fizz, 5C Free the Nip was an Instagram account that popped up last year featuring follower-submitted content of students pulling up their shirts in various locations on campus. Each photo censors out the submitter’s face as well as their actual nipples, usually with a tastefully added emoji or drawn-on scribble. Throughout the past year, 5C Free the Nip has fought with Instagram administration to keep their account online due to Instagram’s policies about nudity, but perhaps it’s for the best that 5C Free the Nip is eventually lost to the depths of the Internet, at least in its current form. Though social media activism can be efficient in spreading infographics and news, especially to younger audiences, it often lacks meaningful action beyond the screen. In this case, though 5C Free the Nip can certainly shed light on Claremont’s version of this movement, it only shows single snapshots of strategically-posed nude figures which doesn’t actually encourage nipple neutrality.
Though I’m certainly not against students having a space to express their sexuality and be positive about their body, as it’s no crime to want to feel beautiful or sexy, 5C Free the Nip is ultimately not at all related to the Free the Nip Movement and shouldn’t be labeled as such. The Free the Nip movement on a global scale is not intended to be a loud movement. It doesn’t want more attention on women’s breasts, it wants less. Freeing the nipple means that women feel comfortable to have their chests out in the same spaces that men would have their chests bared: a world where men aren’t staring or making sexual comments no matter if a woman is fully clothed or nearly-nude. Though the account attempts to counteract this by keeping the page private and only accepting female followers, 5C Free the Nip has an intrinsically sexual and exhibitionist nature to it that waters down any actual progress made to make nipples less sexual. Bottom line: this page is likely hurting the movement more than contributing to it.
If you’re looking to actually support the movement, look no further than the example set by the Scripps student body who have already been supporting the Free the Nip movement, perhaps without even intending to. Many students choose to eschew bras when going to class, extracurriculars, or even just the library and encourage their classmates to feel comfortable doing the same. Normalizing visible nipples and breasts involves having them become a part of our daily life, requiring no comments or acknowledgement that they are there. An Instagram account that puts nipples under high visibility as a symbol of confidence and sexuality does not encourage a nonchalant perspective of the female body, nor does it allow nipples to be any more “free” of the social scrutiny they are constrained to. It would not be surprising if in the future Scripps students started going to the pool or sunbathing on Jacqua lawn with unclothed chests, setting a precedent for how Scripps will support its students and their right to their own bodies. If students are passionate about the cause and willing to be the first to set an example for their peers, the liberation of the human body is definitely within our reach at Scripps. That being said, the Free the Nip movement has to be a gradual change of society’s perceptions of nudity and sexuality; it can’t be accomplished by simply displaying bodies on an Instagram account and expecting viewers to work on changing their personal biases and comfort alone. Students should be encouraged to pursue their own means of activism, but it’s also important to take note of how those actions are actually affecting the problem and their audience. Ultimately, despite the account’s best intentions, @5cfreethenip has only doused the Free the Nip movement instead of fueling it.
Image Source: Olive Gaetz ’24