Free the Nipple: Lina Esco Makes a Movie, Starts a Movement

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Photo: Courtesy of Free The Nipple

Most directors seek to make a movie for their debut; Lina Esco has sought to make a movement. In a true case of art imitating life (and life imitating art,) the timeline of making the just released film Free the Nipple occurred in conjunction with the start of an IRL movement, one championed by the likes of Miley Cyrus, Lena Dunham, and Scout Willis. Esco is firm on her statement that her primary goal isn’t to urge crowds of women to rush topless into the streets, but rather to create a dialogue.

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The movie, at its center, is in itself a piece of activism. It lies at some vaguely defined midpoint of activism and art. As far as an art form goes, “It’s not your typical Hollywood film,” Esco says…“or your typical Hollywood plotline–this is completely different.” The film is supposed to convey “what it looks like when people really want to change the world and the realistic obstacles of what really happen.”

It is about girls challenging censorship laws. Esco is baffled by society’s perception of the nipple as vulgar. To portray her feeling of dumbfoundedness, she juxtaposes the issue of female censorship with the notion that violence is much more publicly displayed. We see gunfire, bodies, bombings on TV, but a nipple is taboo. Even in cities like New York, where a female’s exposed breast has in fact, been legal since 1992. As a taboo, the nipple has thus also become a metaphor, “You would not be talking to me right now if this movie was called EQUALITY,” Esco assures me on a phone call.


But lest you think a movie is enough for this first-time filmmaker, you’d be wrong, she hopes to use proceeds to work with a constitutional lawyer on issues surrounding censorship of the female body.

“I’ve done what I could,” she says. “The only way this movie can make an impact is if people take something out of it. I want it to open your mind to see things in a different way, it’s not about hating men. Feminism is about men and women. Feminism just means that men and women should be treated equally.” In 2014, we hope that message is clear with or without boobs involved.