By Sarah Mason
Instagram is one of the most popular social media sites of this century, and of course, with such a large platform they must continuously establish guidelines to ensure safety among its users. With this in mind, the sites’ nudity policy has refused to adapt over the years and remains unjustifiably inequitable towards the acceptance of the topless female. The website is frequently restricting and monitoring nude images, removing any content deemed ‘unsuitable’ for public viewing. This has been strict in particular to women posting images of their own bodies, more specifically their nipples, while the restrictions towards men have been considerably less strict. Today I will be assessing the reasons why Instagram continues to remove images of the female nipple, and whether Instagram should be altering their policies to encourage equality of genders.
In today's society, we're becoming increasingly normalised to the exposure of female breasts, both on and offline, and have been for many years. One of the first instances of female nudity published within UK media was by the newspaper The Sun in the 1970's, with traditions such as the controversial Page 3 unfortunately becoming somewhat iconic for the Tabloid. They would frequently exploit nude, un-pixellated images of women for wide audiences to view. However, there have thankfully been revelations around this feature in recent years.
Through social media sites, like Instagram, women have had the chance to reclaim their own bodies and sexualities. As such sites transition into these kinds of spaces, it has become more important than ever to allow women to upload images of themselves freely. This development surrounding the ownership of female bodies, and also in the promotion of body confidence and acceptance, has been a considerable step in the right direction. While female nudity within the media has been evident for decades, it is now circling in a free space, rather than one that is beneficial to men or used to generate profits. For Instagram to repress this reclamation of female nudity that was once so heavily exploited, they are removing themselves from the conversation of equality.
Some media forms, like television and film, have joined the campaign encouraging women to reclaim their femininity and sexuality. Millions find themselves entertained by shows like the Channel 4 ‘phenomenon’ Naked Attraction, which not only shows naked men and women equally, but discusses and praises them for all of their features. So, if more traditional forms are moving towards a space of acceptance, why are social media platforms like Instagram failing to follow suit?
The logic behind this ‘nipple ban’ has had everybody talking in the last year. Not only have users been actively opposing these restrictions towards women, they have also been amused by users who have been able to push the limits of the policies. The website has not been nearly as frequent in removing images where other parts of the breast are visible. In fact, sideboob and underboob snapshots have become a growing trend for women across their vacays. Celebrities like Miley Cyrus and Kendall Jenner are commonly uploading themselves in revealing clothing, making their nipples incredibly visible under their clothes, just never completely exposing them. Many accounts, such as the incredible @sageandellie, have even gone as far as posting themselves with men’s nipples photoshopped on, making huge statements about the reality of society's acceptance.
With all this in mind we simply must question whether Instagram is simply sending the wrong messages with its policies to all women, from young girls to breastfeeding mothers. Not allowing the female nipple to be posted clearly conveys an incorrect message about their purpose, denying the ideology that women have been so strongly fighting for: that the female nipple holds more than just viewing pleasure and should not be treated as a purely sexual image as they previously have been. With a growing number of users on Instagram, should the platform be doing more to better minds about equality and sexuality, before immediately deeming body parts ‘offensive’ or 'overtly sexual' and 'explicit'?
Society can’t keep trying to change and restrict the conditions in which it chooses to ‘accept’ female nudity. Prominent social platforms, like Instagram, should be helping to influence people's opinions and squash this sense of ownership and shame that is attached to female nudity.
All I have left to say is Instagram, do better.