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instagram, stop shaming women’s bodies

Image: Hannes Trapp via Wikimedia Commons/Flikr

Image: Hannes Trapp via Wikimedia Commons/Flickr

As many are already aware, #FreeTheNipple is a feminist campaign aimed at highlighting the double standard that exists within our society, in regards to male and female nipples. Our society normalises male nipples and breasts, particularly in Australian culture where topless men are socially acceptable. On the social media front, a man can take and upload a photo of himself topless and not have that photograph removed. However, the same standards do not apply for women.

Recently, we’ve seen celebrity activists like Amanda Palmer, Caitlin Stacey, Scout Willis and Rihanna rebel against Instagram’s ‘anti-nudity’ policy, by tweeting photos of their breasts exposed. Both Willis and Rihanna had their photos removed by Instagram for ‘nudity’ reasons. Scout Willis walked around New York topless and documented it, while Rihanna attended the CFDA awards in a sparkling, see-through dress (try removing those photos Instagram). While female celebrities and women alike have their photos (and occasionally accounts) removed, social media allows individuals like Dan Bilzerian (the guy who threw a woman off the roof) to upload photos of and to objectify women.

As Willis highlights, ‘his photos are outrageous. They’re just so rude and so mean and every woman is called a bitch by Bilzerian himself or his legions of fans’. By condoning Bilzerian’s photos and condemning other photos of women’s breasts, social media denies women the agency to represent their own body how they choose. Furthermore, it reinforces misogynistic values within our culture: the constant and over-sexualisation of female breasts and the slut shaming of women who choose to bare their breasts in any way.

The removal of breast-feeding photos and topless photos in general is a statement by Instagram that women should be ashamed of their bodies; ashamed of having breasts. We’re free to expose our breasts just as long as it’s how the media desires; how society chooses – to benefit the heterosexual male gaze. Women should not be made to feel ashamed of their bodies and for having breasts. We should not fear how those around us will react to our bodies and how society will judge us however, we are right to. We are right to fear the reactions and judgment that will arise if we upload a photo of or walk around topless and therein lies the problem.

If women are made to feel unsafe for uploading a topless photo (whether it be for the #FreeTheNipple cause or because we just bloody well feel like it) it is due to the sexist nature of social media. Concerns may overrun us that our photo could be taken (without our permission) and circulate the Internet. If we upload a photo directly for the #FreeTheNipple cause, our statement or intended purpose could get lost somewhere in the Twitter sphere (let alone other networks it could travel to). This is not to say #FreeTheNipple is a lost cause but rather to highlight how difficult it is to generate change in this area.

Social media’s values are a reflection of society’s values and with the expansion and domination of social media in this era, it is incredibly worrying to think misogyny dictates our behaviour to a degree.

I commend Willis and Rihanna and any woman who has the bravery to take a photo topless. I also commend any woman who doesn’t. I support the #FreeTheNipple campaign whole-heartedly, to those who are against it, remember it is about women demanding the same equal rights as men: to expose their breasts without shame and judgment.

One thought on “instagram, stop shaming women’s bodies

  1. I feel like Instagram removing images of nipples and breasts is less a statement that ‘women should be ashamed of their bodies’, and more an action which illustrates that women’s bodies are constantly sexualised.
    I’m assuming that the reason social media sites in general don’t allow photos of nude breasts because they would come under the banner of ‘sexually explicit’ images.
    The removal of photos of women breastfeeding merely demonstrates that women’s bodies are solely sexual objects, even when they are an essential part of the miracle of feeding their children. I wouldn’t personally call this misogyny, but an example of society’s constant sexual objectification of the female form.

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