November 21, 2014 10:39 AM EST

Censorship matters to Lina Esco, whose new film Free the Nipple tells the story of a group of activists challenging laws by baring their chests in the streets.

For Esco, “It’s not about going topless, it’s about equality.” The movie grew out of a real-life campaign that questions a country that glorifies violence in the media but removes a woman from a flight for breastfeeding her baby. As one of the fictional activists says in the trailer, “Our sexuality has been taken away from us and is essentially being sold back to us.”

The movement got a jump-start when Miley Cyrus, who has faced plenty of censorship herself, tweeted a picture of herself holding a fake nipple last December, accompanied by the hashtag #freethenipple. It’s not lost on Esco that the sensationalism of a bunch of topless women can only help to spread the word about her cause. “If I would have made a movie called ‘Equality,’ and no one was going topless,” she acknowledged to Entertainment Weekly, “nobody would be talking about it.”

Free the Nipple hits theaters on Dec. 12.

Write to Eliza Berman at eliza.berman@time.com.

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