Scout Willis Joins the Fight for Body Acceptance with a Free Nipple Campaign on Instagram

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It's feminism at its bare-chested best.

The following contains images that may be NSFW.

If you see a bare-chested Scout Willis wandering the streets of New York, don’t call the police. Instead, think about removing your own top and joining her cause. In what originally could easily have been dismissed as another celebrity child acting out on social media, the second daughter of Demi Moore and Bruce Willis, is currently waging an important feminist fight against Instagram for her own right to bare – nipples, that is. 

It started over a week ago, when Scout posted a photo to Instagram on May 20th, of a sweatshirt emblazoned with a photo of two topless female torsos, entitled “::The Babe Bomber:: For sale soon.” The photo, however, was pulled down by Instagram, so she turned to Twitter:

She continued to tweet about the censorship, lamenting “Why does @instagram allow photos of heroin being used but deletes a photo of a print of some smoke shows without tops on???” before tweeting that she’d be turning her Instagram private to prevent “haters” from reporting her photos. Her privacy setting made no difference, and on May 22nd, Instagram revoked her account.

She spent the last few days retweeting support from her followers who agreed with her that Instagram’s policies were more than draconian, before rejoining the social media service on the 26th, choosing to post artistic nudes in an experiment to see how long it would take her to get kicked off the site. It took less than 24 hours.

As she discovered, it was Instagram’s issues with areolas that got her kicked off, prompting her to change the display name on her now-defunct account to “Scout Areola Willis.” She spent the last few days tweeting out hypocritical image comparisons of what Instagram currently allows to be seen alongside what they made her delete, but upped the ante today, walking the streets of New York bare-chested and in a flowy skirt, while tweeting her desire to #FreeTheNipple.

She’s been retweeting support all day, and eloquently combating detractors, not with vitriol, but rather, lucid explanations of why she’s choosing to react in the way she is.

Scout isn’t the first celebrity to take on Instagram’s backwards views on female body censorship – Rihanna’s account was suspended earlier this month after she posted a topless photo from a Lui magazine cover shoot. The singer took to Twitter to voice her displeasure, and though Instagram maintains that her account suspension was an accident, shortly after it was reinstated, it had been wiped clean once more. Instagram’s parent company Facebook has repeatedly come under fire for their own fast and loose censorship of photos and posts from users that contain arbitrarily sensitive material – transgender icon Jayne County was suspended from the site after posting a status update that read “I am having a party tonight and all my breeder, fag, dyke, tranny and shemale friends are invited!” Though later reinstated, the suspension was yet another data point in the ongoing debate about how Facebook and its subsidiary companies handle nudity, sex, and LGBT issues with subjective opaqueness. 

And it’s not just celebrities fighting for the right to bare breasts. Late last year, filmmaker Lina Esco released a documentary entitled Free the Nipple, which examined America’s complicated history with censorship and female nipples (though, as is widely known, male nipples cause no such fervor), both in public life, as well as onscreen. As she wrote in The Huffington Post, “Did you know an American child sees over 200,000 acts of violence and 16,000 murders on TV before they turn 18 and not one nipple? Yet the FCC fines CBS $550,000 for Janet Jackson's infamous Super Bowl wardrobe malfunction; which was covered by a metal 'nipple shield' if one looks at the footage."

So how do the Rihanna’s and Scout Willis’ of the world tie into the work of activists like Esco? By engaging in open and positive discourse. Though it’s only been a week, Scout has been more engaged on this one issue in the past week than most celebrities are about anything. On top of that, her discourse has been thoughtful and lucid, even when acknowledging her detractors. While being topless in New York has no longer been a crime for women since 1992 (fairly late in the gender equality games), it’s still banned in 37 states in America, five of which qualify breastfeeding under those restrictions. By continuing to push the envelope, the goal is that bare breasts will be seen less as a Twitter stunt and more of a commonplace sighting — another indication of culture's growing acceptance of the body, not as a purely sexualized entity, but a natural part of life.

Image via Twitter.

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