Michael Stipe Explains Censoring His Nipples To Protest R.E.M. Ban

R.E.M.’s Michael Stipe recently sat down with GQ for an interview and shared his protest against MTV’s censorship by also censoring his own nipples in solidarity with female dancers.

The question recalled the video for R.E.M.’s ‘Pop Song ’89,’ noting that MTV censored the female backup dancers’ nipples with black bars and that the same censorship was applied to the singer, to which Stipe replied:

“That’s right. Well, I actually did that. I insisted that if the female nipples were censored, the male nipples were as well. So, that was my little feminist statement at the moment.”

Stipe’s Stage Wear And Personal Style

Reflecting on his stage attire, the rocker continued:

“This looks like a tuxedo shirt. The suit is off the rack. It was probably, like, a cheap and cheerful British suit that I could afford at the time. I would rip them up onstage. I mean, they really took a beating. I still have a lot of my stage clothes, but they’re all torn to shreds, and there’s salt stains under the armpits and everything.”

The video for ‘Pop Song ’89,’ directed by Stipe himself, featured him alongside three women, all topless, dancing to the upbeat track. The decision to use large, obtrusive black bars to cover all four participants came after MTV’s request to censor the women.

The Impact Of The Controversy

Stipe’s philosophy of ‘a nipple is a nipple’ led to this equal treatment in censorship, emphasizing the absurdity of differentiating between male and female nipples in terms of broadcast standards.

The controversy surrounding the video’s censorship played a significant role in drawing attention to R.E.M. and the single ‘Pop Song ’89’ from their sixth studio album, ‘Green.’ The debate over the censorship and Stipe’s protest helped launch the song into the Top 20 of both the Modern and Mainstream Rock Tracks charts.

You can watch the clip below.