We will be seen: Female Rebellion Against Social Media Censorship

We will be seen: Female Rebellion Against Social Media Censorship

Being virtually connected has become an essential aspect of 21st century daily life.

Staying in touch with friends, meeting new people, liking and posting pictures nowadays largely takes place on social platforms and defines how we spend our free time. Supposedly, for the protection of every users’ well-being and the prevention of any harm within these platforms, the censoring and deletion of pictures has also become an essential part of daily social media usage. But social media and censoring do not only affect the content with which we fill the 30-minute train ride to work or school- it also deeply influences our perception and understanding of societal boundaries.

The items, pictures and content seen, or rather not-seen, reflect and shape our view on what is considered normal and socially acceptable. However, the problem is that what is considered inappropriate for social media is completely subjective- for instance, the censorship of the female body. There is a never-ending problem with the censorship of female nipples and photos promoting body-positivity and rather than protecting users, the deletion of this content promotes the unhealthy view that female anatomy is somehow harmful and not socially acceptable.

[It has to be mentioned, that the pictures we are referring to are not pornographic in nature, but are normal representations of the female body.]

One of the most famous instances of Instagram deleting posts is Rupi Kaur, who in 2015 posted a picture showing a girl lying on a bed with a blood-stain on her jogging bottoms. After realising her picture was deleted by the platform, Kaur reposted it, only for it to be deleted again. Kaur then turned to her followers on Facebook and Tumblr to share her frustration, this evoked a huge wave of protest against the social media platform. Instagram apologised and re-uploaded the picture. And although this incident led to the platform having a more open policy towards uploaded content, there is still considerable censorship issues on the platform. Another instance of censorship on the platform was experienced by Petra Collins, whose picture showing her waist down in a bikini bottom, which did not violate any of the policies and terms of use- like the millions of other posts under #bikini. The only difference was that Collins' post showed an unshaven bikini line and so was deleted- ridiculous right?

It is particularly important to draw attention to this issue as it impacts almost everyone, *in social media logic its more important to ban pictures of female body hair over straight guys crotch grabbing and sending unsolicited dick pics*.

A way around this censorship? Protest and representation through art. What is especially positive about this is that art can be freely circulated on social media, since any expression of nudity or menstruation etc. is permitted in an illustration or drawing. Using this loophole, a whole wave of artists has risen, and they use their art to represent the natural female body in its forms and varieties.

The artist Venuslibido, for example, depicts in her drawings women with censorable ‘flaws’ like unshaven body parts. Some of the women are illustrated naked, and yes, they also have nipples (shocking, we know). Another artist is Celeste Mountjoy who depicts in her illustrations the female body in all its glory. She also beautifully captures moments of intimacy and romance between same-sex couples. Some projects do not have the specific aim to fight censorship but focus rather on increasing body positivity and nurturing an authentic body aesthetic, like the 1001fesses_project. They have experienced social media censorship first-hand, their account regularly facing deletion. After one year of being deleted and excluded, they were allowed to continue, but are now forced to blur photos. But even with the blur, their continuous aspiration for more positive body images shines through.

Another mode of protest is hashtags: hashtags like #menstruation and #menstruationart aims for the normalisation of period depiction online. The #femalenude, #femalebody and #hairyfemale also aim to represent all aspects of the female form.

Outside Instagram, on Tumblr and more there are several projects concerned with the discrimination and censoring of the female body on social media platforms, as well as more generally in society. The volume 'Pics Or It Didn’t Happen – Images Banned from Instagram' (Prestel), by Arvida Byström and Molly Soda, collected 270 deleted pictures and moved them back in to the spotlight. Byström and Soda observed an overwhelming pattern in the pictures submitted by their followers, again identifying female nipples, vaginal secretions and body hair as common features in the removed pictures.

Rupi Kaur’s photo conveys how female body parts are inherently discriminated against, excluded and censored. However, these deleted photos and following protest have also shown that we will not be made to apologise for our bodies. Kaur was right when she said: 'their patriarchy is leaking. Their misogyny is leaking. We will not be censored', instead we will be seen.

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