the art project challenging censorship with close-up genderless nipple shots

The three students behind @genderless_nipples are seeking donations for their popular new project.

by Hannah Ongley
09 December 2016, 4:53pm

The Instagram account @genderless_nipples has only been live for a few days, but already has more than 5k followers and some very entertaining comments. They range from opinions about the pain level of nipple piercings — "Lol my nipples hurt waaaay more than my septum" — to debating the demographics of whoever submitted the nipple: "Male? Maybe?," "Female." "MAN," "It's a teenager whose hair didn't get dark yet," and "Is this Asian?" Figuring out which gender (or ethnic group) the nipple belongs to isn't really the point of the account, but it does make it pretty obvious that sometimes it's impossible to tell if a nipple belongs to a male or female, and that Instagram's double standard on censoring nipples is ridiculous. @genderless_nipples has so far received over 100 nipple "donations."

To the three twenty-something advertising students behind the project — Morgan-Lee Wagner (21), Evelyne Wyss (24), and Marco Russo (28) — the commentary is crucial. "We want people to discuss and debate with each other, get them to think!" they told i-D. "We want to spark a conversation and when people don't agree and say so, it just adds more petrol to the fire, we welcome that." By posting close-ups of anonymous nipples, they want to help de-sexualize the female body in certain contexts IRL. "It might even help young moms to feel more comfortable to breastfeed in public, for example," they say. Wagner, Wyss, and Russo moved to New York from Switzerland, Germany, and Brazil to study, and compare attitudes here to back home. "What we found surprising in comparison to Switzerland and Germany is how here in the US women among each other feel like they need to hide their breasts from each other in the dressing room at the gym, for example. We have open space showers in the gym and women walk around naked in the dressing room not caring much to be honest."

@genderless_nipples is hardly the first time that often dangerous differences in social attitudes towards male and female bodies have been pointed out. Women from Free the Nipple founder Lina Esco to i-D cover star Adwoa Aboah to Miley Cyrus and Rihanna have helped spark a debate about gender equality online and off. "The nipple is not the main message," Aboah told us in a video for her Gurls Talk project, which aims to get women to speak up about mental health, body image, and sexuality. "It is this beautiful metaphor for something bigger." 

And for every Instagram nipple expert helpfully pointing out that "the thing is that the boobs of the women make the men horny but not vice verse," @genderless_nipples gets far more emails and DMs of gratitude and support. "We even receive just emails without nipples from people with an encouraging message," the students say. Just two days ago we received an email from Japan from someone who told us how they are struggling in Japan with gender equality. It's really heartwarming sometimes."


Text Hannah Ongley
Image via Instagram