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When Argentine breast cancer charity Movimiento Ayuda Cáncer de Mama (MACMA) found that 67% of women don’t self-check their breasts, it wanted to create a simple how-to guide that it could post on social media. If women can spend ten minutes social networking each day, surely they can spare a minute to have a quick prod.

But because both Facebook and Instagram remove pics of women’s nipples, the charity was met with a censorship obstacle. So it used a pair of man boobs instead. The campaign video shows a woman unbuttoning her shirt and exposing her breasts, which are obscured by social media logos, meaning she can’t demo the self-check properly. In steps ‘Henry’ who’s hairy pair of moobs are used as an alternative. The campaign had eight million views in just four days and won The Cannes Health Lions Grand Prix for Good 2016. But the Man Boobs for Boobs did more than just raise awareness for breast exams, it raised awareness of the unequal treatment of male and female nipples.

So what’s the difference between moobs and boobs? “Male nipples have just never been as socially sexualised as female nipples,” says sexologist Dr. Stephen de Wit. “Men have been conditioned to see the female breast and nipple as sexual. Because they’re hidden, they’re more “intriguing, enticing and captivating.” But women are pushing back, celebrating female bodies and how they function. The enormously popular #freethenipple campaign — there are currently over 3,000,000 posts tagged as such on Instagram — reclaims breasts as something natural, not pornographic.

But why does the idea of ‘hacking censorship’ resonate so well, especially with younger generations? Gen Yers believe people should be free to make their own choices — like posting a pic of your tits on Insta — and 91% believe everyone should be treated equally (why should men’s nipples be allowed and women’s not?). With 47% saying they’re more likely to support a brand that promotes equality in advertising, brands that understand the sentiment behind campaigns like ‘Free the Nipple’ will gain kudos, while brands that suppress individuality and equality will be the subject of some very vocal backlash. Facebook and Instagram had better listen up.


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Jo Allison is Canvas8’s editor. Previously, she worked for retail trends consultancy GDR where shopping was part of the job description. When she’s not getting her head around the quirks of human behaviour, she’s busy ‘researching’ the latest food or fitness fad.

04 Jul 16

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