Student Life

Secretly freeing the nipple: @wearenipscapes challenges instagram censorship regulations

@wearenipscapes is an Instagram account dedicated to challenging the sexualization and censorship of female nipples. The page consists of pictures of beautiful landscapes with subtle nipple additions, usually hidden somewhere in the corner. The McGill Tribune recently spoke with Sally Maxwell, U3 Science and founder of @wearenipscapes, about her inspiration behind starting the account and why she thinks it’s so meaningful. 

The McGill Tribune (MT): Can you tell us a little bit about @wearenipscapes and why you started it?
Sally Maxwell (SM): @wearenipscapes is an Instagram account that I started in April [2016] when I was travelling with some friends in South America. Essentially, it is photos of beautiful landscapes with nipples poking out of the side of the image. The purpose of the page is to try and remove the stigma of the female nipple on social media, while exploring the beautiful planet we live in and expressing that through these nipscapes.

MT: Do you think social media plays a role in worsening the stigma of the female nipple?
SM: Definitely. I started it because I was frustrated by the fact that the female nipple was so stigmatized on social media—Facebook and Instagram both have clauses in their community guidelines where female nipples aren’t allowed to appear in photos unless they are images of a woman breastfeeding or post-mastectomy scarring images. I follow and support the Free the Nipple movement, and so I guess this was my way of expressing that.
MT: “Free the Nipple” is a really important movement right now. Why do you personally think nipple equality is so important? 
SM: Primarily, I think that nipple equality is a symbol for gender equality as a whole. For starters, the female nipple has been sexualized in a way that the male nipple never was, when the only true difference between the two is the milk producing capability and the lump of fat that may or may not exist behind the nipple.
MT: Do you think the fact that the nipple is so stigmatized makes girls more insecure about their bodies?
SM: Yes, undeniably. I think that girls, from a young age, are taught to hide their body—not only their nipples, but all parts of their body. Slut-shaming is prevalent in our society, and this not only creates a body-negative—versus body-positive—atmosphere, but also increases body-shaming, and ultimately eating disorders, depression, and anxiety. By teaching girls to hide parts of their body, we are dampening that empowerment and freedom, that form of expression, feeling good in our bodies, being proud of who we are, loving ourselves.

MT: I’ve noticed that a lot of accounts that show female nipples, like yours, get reported frequently. Have you received any backlash from Instagram? 
SM: Instagram has taken down several of my posts, which makes me very sad, but I haven’t received any direct messages from the public or from Instagram employees—I tend to just repost whatever they take down as a sort of “fuck you” to Instagram because the community guidelines are so ridiculous—like, only can nipples be present if they represent something that is entirely non-sexualized, such as a child sucking milk out of it. I think it is just an algorithm that can tell what looks like a female nipple/breast so they know which photos to take down. For nipscapes, we’re typically able to avoid this filtering method because the nipples come from the side of the photo, so it’s only if there is a lot of breast that they are taken down.
MT: What do you see for the future of nipscapes?
SM: I definitely hope to continue having fun with it, but also to grow the nipscape community and have more folks taking their own nipscapes and freeing their nipples!



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