Rich celebrities most definitely do not need me to come to their defense (not for free, at least), but I make an exception, always, for Florence Pugh—especially after the gift she gave to humanity at the Valentino show in Rome on Friday: a hot pink, transparent, nipple-freeing mesh dress. Over the weekend, Pugh revealed that for whatever reason, male trolls have been body-shaming her online over the dress—“and all because of two cute little nipples,” she wrote in a Sunday Instagram post. (Male trolls, if you’re reading this, I challenge each and every one of you to a UFC-style fight in the Octagon for Ms. Pugh’s honor.)
“It isn’t the first time and certainly won’t be the last time a woman will hear what’s wrong with her body by a crowd of strangers, what’s worrying is just how vulgar some of you men can be,” Pugh said. “What’s been interesting to watch and witness is just how easy it is for men to totally destroy a woman’s body, publicly, proudly, for everyone to see. You even do it with your job titles and work emails in your bio..?” She continued: “What’s more concerning is…. Why are you so scared of breasts? Small? Large? Left? Right? Only one? Maybe none? What. Is. So. Terrifying.”
Pugh then concluded the lengthy, thoughtful caption with the hashtag #fuckingfreethefuckingnipple, and frankly, I couldn’t have said it better myself. In the least pervy-sounding way possible, I love to see nipples that aren’t cis men’s, which flaunt their privilege by merely existing in public without a flicker of a reaction, culturally permitted to be as hairy as need be... but women’s nipples?? Yes, please!! On the runway?? In the park?? On a red carpet?? At the Morbius premiere?? Anywhere!
When it comes to nipple-revealing discourse, thin, flat-chested women, and particularly thin, flat-chested white women, enjoy a fair amount of privilege, given society’s obsessive need to hyper-sexualize large breasts. But the harassment Pugh has endured shows no one wins in our persistently puritanical society, even in the year of our lord 2022.
Pugh may be the first celebrity in recent years to go this hard in support of women’s nipples, but she certainly isn’t the first to free hers for fashion: Many a style icon like Rihanna, the Hadid sisters, Winnie Harlow, and, of course, Kendall Jenner have helmed the movement for years. And while Pugh’s Valentino dress is certainly a favorite of mine, I thank and honor all of these ladies for their service. Here are some particularly memorable looks.