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Free the nipple or fake the nipple?

The Nipple Bra walks on the line between empowerment and objectification

Free the nipple or fake the nipple? The Nipple Bra walks on the line between empowerment and objectification

If there's one thing that social media rules just won't accept, it's racist, misogynistic, and homophobic attacks such as slurs and hate speech. Actually, wait. Let's redo that. If there's one thing that social media rules absolutely won't tolerate it's nipples, specifically female ones. There have been countless discussions about the misogyny behind this anti-nudity policy, especially when it involves female nudity (or what algorithms perceive as such). Everything gets banned, removed, reported, even if it's breastfeeding or artistic photos. Creators even censor little girls' chests at the beach with emojis and hearts, not because it might be risky to expose them online, but because otherwise Instagram takes down the post. Now, there's another layer added to the "free the nipple" issue, quite literally.

From Sex and The City to Kim Kardashian

The idea isn't exactly groundbreaking. For example, in an episode of the fourth season of Sex and The City aired in 2001, Samantha Jones, a sex goddess but also a paragon of coolness, started handing out fake nipples to her friends to wear under their shirts, shouting "nipples are in". You didn't even have to wait for the temperatures to drop. Miranda, it must be said, wasn't entirely sold on this pitch, but that's because she hadn't met Kim Kardashian yet. Our modern-day Samantha Jones, an influencer and mogul in all things internet and social media-related, has just launched a new product from her clothing and lingerie brand: a bra with incorporated nipples, the Nipple Bra. There's nothing complicated about it: it's a bra that mimics the silhouette of nipples under a shirt, placing them pointed, small, and cute on a perfectly rounded breast, supported and enhanced by the push-up design.

Free the nipple or fake the nipple?

Setting aside for a moment the myriad controversies this woman manages to stir up with any of her ideas, which are at the core of her persona and the reason for her success, and considering only the bra itself, the matter gets complex, and questions abound. Is a fake nipple more acceptable than a real one? Why? Do we shy away from the female nude to the extent that we prefer a fake and exaggerated, dare we say, parodic version? Only one form of nipple (the one suggested by the Nipple Bra) becomes acceptable? Are we comfortable with being told how even this part of our bodies should be, up until now more hidden than others? It's hard to answer. The theme at play here is always the same. We need to understand where the ultra-thin line lies between female empowerment, shock value, objectification of the body, and a strong suggestion to own a certain bra and have a certain body, we need to separate things and look at them critically, both as consumers in general and as women. If everything we do (including baring ourselves) is for the male gaze, can we consider ourselves truly free and liberated?

A matter of boundaries

Maybe it's not like that. Maybe it's simply a playful garment that breaks taboos and will, over time, lead us to accept real female breasts, all different in shape, size, and perkiness. Without a doubt, this type of bra can be helpful for women who have undergone a mastectomy, or for those who, for any reason, want to experience having a traditionally defined breast. From Kim Kardashian, a devoted seller of detox lollipops in the good old days (it was 2018) and a great tightrope walker on the boundary between all these things, it was hard to expect something different. The advertising, it must be said, is clever and even mentions global warming. The brand works for men too and secures partnerships with the NBA. And if the most famous of the clan has long stopped setting trends and deciding the course of times, it can still be admitted that she's a great interpreter of them. The rest, unfortunately or fortunately, is up to us. If the most important task of a clothing brand is to sell, ours as consumers is to develop a critical awareness, to contextualize, and to decide fully aware of what to purchase. Even if it's a bra with fake nipples in a historical period when our real nipples are still an issue.