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This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Exeter chapter.

Controversy of the week: Free the Nip

I follow a woman on Instagram called Shona Vertue, who frequently does not wear a bra under her top in her stories and posts. This is a woman who posts stimulating and intellectual content about health and fitness, such as teaching her followers the correct form to prevent injury and advocating the benefits of yoga and meditation in everyday life. Yet it is her sometimes obvious ‘perky’ nipples, visible through her top, that bring her DMs from men on a daily basis. These messages range from ‘You must be cold’ to ‘That’s disgusting, put a bra on’. Why is it that men feel that they have the right to comment on female bodies? Why is it that women are made to feel ashamed of that yes, big surprise, we have nipples – in fact, we have breasts!

Back in 2014, Netflix released the documentary ‘Free the Nipple’ which followed a ground of women activists in New York campaigning for the freedom and reclaiming of the female body. While the matter of going braless is not as extreme as walking around New York topless, the point still remains the same. A woman’s body is her own property, and no one has the right to comment on it. 

If a woman chooses to wear a short skirt, a strappy top, or not wear a bra one day, then she should not have to be in fear of being called out at as she walks down the street. In my sixth-from we were required to wear ‘business wear’ – i.e. smart suits, etc. In the summer, many girls wore tops which exposed their shoulders. The Deputy Head saw this as ‘dangerous’ as we risked distracting the boys with our clearly very sexually enticing shoulders…


How is it that women have come to feel guilty for owning a pair of legs, shoulders, and breasts? Why are we teaching the young girls of our society that they need to cover themselves up or risk being judged, objectified, or – worse – violated, as if it was their fault they that they showed too much skin? When did it become the fault of women that men can’t ‘control themselves’?

Women’s bodies need to respected, not objectified. Young girls need to know that they can express themselves as they wish through fashion without being judged by society and the dominant patriarchy. 

Have you ever walked up to a man wearing a tight t-shirt and asked him if he’s cold? Could you imagine the backlash if you did? There’s a reason why men never get wold-whistled at on the street – because women know how objectifying, and sometime quite threatening, it is, and would never want to inflict that on anyone.

Shona Vertue has the courage (and the sass) to talk about these issues openly and frankly on her Instagram, using her social media platform to challenge the patriarchy and help change the objectification of the female body. She has taught me, and many others, that the female body belongs to nobody but the woman herself. If you don’t already, go follow her. 

Embrace what is yours, and tell everyone who feels like they have the right to comment where they can take their opinions…

Exeter University Student, studying English Literature and Spanish Athlete and Foodie (see @what.katie.does98 on Instagram) The future Kate Addie...