Hey Instagram, we’re #stillcurvy
Written by Georgie Proud
Earlier this week Instagram banned #curvy as a search term, which has stirred up a whole lot of confusion, because to most people it doesn’t really make sense. The curvy hashtag has been used to promote positive body image pretty much since Instagram began and many body image advocates are furious that the hashtag has been banned. It’s been a cornerstone of the body confidence community, bringing body image advocates from across the world together. Similar to model Tess Holiday’s #effyourbeautystandards the curvy hashtag has been used to question modern beauty ideals and celebrate the diversity of women’s body shapes.
Instagram says it decided to ban the search term as it is consistently contained content that violated its community standards, in particular nudity. Basically porn sites would use the curvy hashtag as a marketing tool, posting nude pictures of women and tagging them as curvy in an attempt to get more customers. Rather than banning those users from the platform, Instagram opted to ban the whole hashtag.
This is perplexing when hashtags like #dildo, #fatpig, #clitoris and #vibrator remain searchable, and often contain content that violates Instagram’s community standards. Search terms #thighs, #butt and #nipple have been removed as well. Although #thinspo has also been removed, you can still search #skinny and #thin albeit they come with warnings about “graphic content” with further information on eating disorders available. In this case Instagram has obviously recognised the damaging messages that thinspo can spread, and have come up with an appropriate way to censor such content. Why then put a blanket ban on a hashtag that is centred around such a positive message, that’s simply been hijacked by a few bad apples?
Well Instagram doesn’t have a great track record when it comes to women’s bodies and censorship. You might be familiar with the #freethenipple campaign, where women post topless images of themselves in protest of the censorship of female breasts on Instagram. This censorship includes not only removing #nipple as a search term but also removing images of topless women that contain a visible nipple, including breastfeeding shots. The aim of the campaign is to de-sexualise women’s upper halves, so that women’s breasts are no longer seen as merely a sexual object.
Earlier this year Instagram twice removed a photo from artist Rapi Kaur that pictured a fully clothed woman lying in bed with a period stain on her clothes. They told her her photo had been removed because it violated their community guidelines, but the guidelines only cover violence, nudity and sexual acts – not periods. Rapi also posted the image to facebook with a long explanation of her artwork and questioning why it had been taken down by Instagram, the post was shared by thousands of people and eventually Instagram reinstated the original photo and apologized.
Thank you Instagram for providing me with the exact response my work was created to critique. You deleted my photo twice stating that it goes against community guidelines. They have banned images of breast feeding, stretch marks, domestic images of menstruation and classical art works that respectfully portray nude women and now they ban the hashtag #curvy. While they allow bitch, fat slag, hookers, thin – this is not a safe platform for women and especially young girls (as we all know Instagram is populated with nude images of young women effectively selling themselves sexually). – Rapi Kaur
Artist Sam Roddick had her account completely deactivated after she posted a picture of cornice shaped like a vagina. There was not actual nudity or sexual content in the photo, it just looked like a vagina and Instagram permanently deleted her account and told her there was no chance it would be reinstated.
They have banned images of breast feeding, stretch marks, domestic images of menstruation and classical art works that respectfully portray nude women and now they ban the hashtag #curvy. While they allow bitch, fat slag, hookers, thin – this is not a safe platform for women and especially young girls (as we all know Instagram is populated with nude images of young women effectively selling themselves sexually). – Sam Roddick
But the positive body image community will not be quiet, new hashtags such as #stillcurvy, #bringcurvyback, #youcanttakemycurves and #curvee have flooded Instagram with defiant images of curvy women. It seems bizarre that Instagram would alienate a community that is so present and genuinely positive, unlike a lot of other insta communities that bully, harass and alienate people.
In effect Instagram is censoring human diversity, by not allowing the real experiences of women, such as menstruation, thighs and curvy bodies, they are cementing the position of the sexualised, airbrushed model as the only body deemed acceptable. You can easily find pornographic images pretty much anywhere on Instagram and removing search terms actually seems like a pretty ineffective way of getting rid of them. They simply move from #sexy to #sexys. So is there any point in removing search terms like #curvy that clearly also serve a completely different and very important purpose? If Instagram really wants to make its platform a safe and welcoming place then greater effort needs to be put in to removing images that actually do violate their community guidelines, rather than simply moving them on to a slightly misspelt alternative.
So let’s make some noise and #bringcurvyback to Instagram.
Georgie is one of the co-founders of Rosie. She is passionate about social justice issues and feminism. She lives in Melbourne with a dog called Murphy and a cat called Worms. Georgie loves music, travelling and getting crafty.
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