Willow Smith voiced her opinion on a controversial topic in a controversial way last week when she posted an Instagram photo of herself wearing a T-shirt with a woman’s exposed breasts on them. Smith posted the photo in support of #FreeTheNipple, a film and movement that supports the right for women to be publicly topless without penalty. The controversy surrounding Smith’s recent Instagram show of support for the #FreeTheNipple movement has not gone unnoticed by the organization’s founder, Lina Esco. Esco’s “Free The Nipple” movement and movie have been generating much conversation over the past year; and she’s in full support of Smith’s right to make a statement.
“There is no right age for a woman to want to claim her body and have equal rights and speak about how she wants to express herself,” says Esco. “Her supporting the Free the Nipple movement, which is all about equality, with a T-shirt of boobs and to have the media going crazy for it as if it’s child pornography or something is ridiculous.”
At 29 years old, Esco has worked as an actress and model, and is passionate about what she’s doing.
“You can sexualize a woman’s body, you can objectify their boobs, you can do whatever you want in magazines to women — but the moment a woman owns her body and reclaims herself and owns it in whatever shape or form they want to be; women are being condemned because of that,” she states, her voice a mix of frustration and indignation. “There are so many laws against women’s bodies but there are barely any laws against men’s bodies.”
Returning to the criticism of the teenaged Smith, Esco wants to protect the young star’s voice.
“I think Willow Smith’s statement was about equality, not about the shirt,” explains Esco. “The shirt was just a statement for her to get the real conversation to begin — about equality.
“She’s a very precocious kid and very evolved and very progressive. For her to make that statement at 14 years old; she’s pretty intelligent and very evolved. I’d say much more evolved than a lot of kids her age. So for her to have an interest in a big issue like equality is a big deal.
“It was hard to put the movie out there because distributors didn’t know how to market the film and that’s when my friend Miley [Cyrus] started tweeting about it. And all of a sudden, the movement had begun. and it just went on from Rihanna to Cara to all of these people.”
And her 2013 film helped that movement grow exponentially.
“The film contained more than I could ever say about this,” she admits.
And Esco believes the youth understand what this is all about much better than their elders.
“I’m getting so many girls and boys that get this. There’s no debate about it,” she says. “And they’re not doing it because [they want] to show [their] boobs. They’re doing it because of the message behind it. It’s 2015 and we’re still acting like Puritans.
“The nipple is the first thing that a child sees and they bond with. Willow Smith is not actually topless. She’s wearing a T-shirt [with an image] of boobs. And I believe the reason why she’s supporting [the movement] is because she connects with the message of the movement. She’s obviously very progressive.
“Old America needs to crash down and let the young generation kind of change things. Like Albert Einstein said, ‘You can’t fix the problem with the same mind that created it.’ ”
So for Lina Esco and Free The Nipple, there is no age limit for when one can voice support for a movement–even one as controversial as this. Esco says that it’s much ado about nothing.
“I don’t see what’s the big fuss about Willow posting a picture with a T-shirt and a very intelligent statement and hashtagging ‘FreetheNipple.’” she reiterates; and is quick to dismiss those who would hop on the bandwagon for less-than-honorable reasons.
“Guys trying to pass as FreeTheNipple on Instagram and asking girls to direct message them pictures — that stuff is not cool,” she says, while also telling stories of men sending nude photos to female supporters on Twitter. Esco is adamant in her position that this is not about sex.
“We’re promoting healthy images of women, and inspiring messages about equality and inspiring messages about change and empowering of women and feminism,” she says. “There is not one pornographic image of women on our sites at all.
“I didn’t make this movement out of angst and anger because society isn’t evolved enough or any of that, I made it because I feel like it’s time. There is no anger about this. We’re not pushing our truths onto anyone. People are curious about it and they want to talk about it. The whole mission of the film was to start a conversation and it has begun. We’re not here to get pissed off because you’re not thinking like us. If you want to join us — great. If you don’t, that’s OK as well.”
According to Esco, the celebs that have thrown their support behind Free The Nipple haven’t been actively recruited by her or anyone with the film or movement. She believes they just share a perspective.
“Everybody that’s been attracted to this has been attracted on their own will,” says Esco. “I didn’t call Willow Smith. I don’t know her. People like Chelsea Handler and Rihanna — I don’t know them.
“We started a campaign about breast-feeding in public and women being able to feel comfortable and now Facebook reversed the policy and now women are allowed to post pictures of breast-feeding. The most natural human act and that’s been seen as obscene.”