By Eliana Dockterman
June 2, 2014

More than a few people noticed when Scout Willis walked around New York topless last week. But the 22-year-old daughter of Demi Moore and Bruce Willis says she wasn’t just trying to get attention — her public display was in protest of Instagram’s Terms of Use, which forbids users from posting nude or partially nude images. Willis took to XOJane on Monday to defend her shirtlessness, saying that women should be allowed to show their nipples on social media as a matter of female empowerment and gender equality.

The drama began two weeks ago when Willis said her Instagram account was deactivated because she posted a photo of herself in a sheer shirt and another photo of a sweatshirt featuring a picture of two friends topless. (You can’t see her faces in the photo.) She made a new account, but Instagram quickly took issue with one of her photos. She tweeted Instagram‘s fairly long response to her in which the company noted that while they “love that people use Instagram to express themselves artistically,” they must remain conscious of their global audience’s sensitivities when it comes to nudity.

So last Tuesday she took to the streets of New York — where female toplessness is legal — as a demonstration, tweeting photos of herself as she went: “Legal in NYC but not on @instagram” and “What @instagram won’t let you see #FreeTheNipple” she tweeted. Willis has continued since to post photos in which her nipples are visible to her Twitter account.

Willis is far from the first woman to be booted from social media for showing areola: the Facebook-owned site has previously asked mothers to take down pictures of them nursing their children and breast cancer survivors to take down their post-surgery photos, according to People. And earlier this year, Rihanna deleted her notoriously racy Instagram after the app mistakenly flagged the account.

Instagram’s policy, Willis argues, discriminates against women and reinforces sexist societal norms. She wrote in XOJane:

Willis equates the nipple issue with body shaming and slut shaming in another part of the essay.

 

Write to Eliana Dockterman at eliana.dockterman@time.com.

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