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Image / Living / Culture

Zoë Kravitz: When did women’s nipples become such a societal taboo?


By Sarah Finnan
28th Jul 2021

Zoë Kravitz

Zoë Kravitz: When did women’s nipples become such a societal taboo?

Can’t a woman just walk around New York City in peace? Some may be afforded that luxury but Zoë Kravitz isn’t amongst them.

As an internationally acclaimed actress (not to mention the kin of Lisa Bonet and Lenny Kravitz – two of the world’s most beautiful people), you might say that being photographed comes with the territory… but there’s a difference between a quick outfit of the day snap and being the subject of an unnecessarily sexualised “article” whose headline reads “Zoë Kravitz goes braless while meeting up with a friend for lunch”.

Time to evolve

If there’s one person you can trust to say “hell no” to the bullsh*t though, it’s Kravitz and this time was no different. Calling the tabloids out for their blatant sexism, the actress screenshot one piece in particular, sharing it on her Instagram stories and questioning “how is this headline ok?”

I think you’ll find that it’s not. Tagging Just Jared and the Daily Mail and writing “time to evolve”, it seems that only one of the publications heeded her advice and while Just Jared has since updated their version to reflect Zoë’s feedback, the Daily Mail has not. Disappointed, but not surprised – we rarely are when it comes to what they’ll do for a story.

Of course, the headline was just an amuse-bouche of what was still to come and the rest of the Daily Mail piece only further objectifies the actress. “The 32-year-old Big Little Lies star went braless under a cropped bright blue tank top for her outing on Sunday,” it reads. Later discussing her “taut stomach” and “narrow hips”, if the purpose of the article is to paint Kravitz as a style icon (as it supposedly postures to do), then it fails miserably. Zoë does that all by herself and commenting on her body/decision to forgo a bra is completely unwarranted. 

The year is 2021, but it seems that we’ve learned nothing from times gone by. Free Britney continues to trend on Twitter but the “do better” brigade forget themselves when the opportunity to exploit another woman in the spotlight presents itself. 

Repeated offence

Not the first time that the X-Men star has spoken out about being objectified, the whole thing takes on a much more cynical undertone when considering comments Kravitz previously made in relation to the incessant media attention she was put through as a teen. Admitting that it had detrimental effects on her body image, Kravitz said that being around “that world” was definitely partly to blame for her developing anorexia and bulimia. 

“I had a really hard time when I was 16, 17, 18. I started with the eating disorder in high school… Just [a hard time] loving myself,” she told Complex in an interview, later adding that she “felt pressured” by proxy. “I don’t think it was about the fame, but I think it was definitely about being around that world, seeing that world. I felt pressured.” 

Pussy Island

Which brings us to Pussy Island, an upcoming movie that Kravitz co-wrote with E.T. Feigenbaum and one that marks her directorial debut. Managing to capture the “zeitgeist clash of power and gender dynamics in a genre construct”, the story has evolved since its conception four years ago but the meaning behind the title remains the same… and it “has some heavy meaning beneath it” Zoë told Deadline. “As a woman in general, and a woman in this industry, I’ve experienced some pretty wild behaviour from the opposite sex. The title was kind of a joke at first, this place where people would go, bring women, party and hang out. 

“The story evolved into something else, but the title wound up having multiple meanings. And it alludes to this time and place we claim to not be in anymore, in terms of sexual politics. People are evolving and changing but there is still a bad taste in a lot of people’s mouths from past behaviour. It’s a nod to that.” 

Social media censorship

Now consider Kravitz’s explanation of the title with regards to the situation she currently finds herself in – forced into fighting her corner over an article that, let’s face it, was written to draw attention to her chest. Why are nipples so taboo though? We all have ‘em. Zoë isn’t even showing hers in the photo… she’s wearing a “cropped blue tank top” lest you forget. 

The obvious answer is that the female form has been so hyper-sexualised that even the outline of a nipple is enough to outrage these days. There’s such a fixation on how women look that people feel the need to comment on anything outside the “norm” (i.e. not wearing a bra). Photos of topless men permeate social media without anyone batting an eyelid but Instagram continues to censor the platform for fear that a bare-chested woman may slip through. All extremely hypocritical given that articles about Zoë Kravitz’s underwear choice are free to make the rounds online even without her explicit permission