An open letter to instagram
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: I am a Feminist artist and activist who has had their body positive and sex positive content censored by Instagram. I feel deeply angry about this patriarchal act. After gaining support from many Instagram users, followers, customers and fellow artists, I decided to create this open letter.
This letter intends to address the blatant sexism and racial bias demonstrated by Instagram in their unashamed censorship and policing of non-sexual photographs and artwork which depict womxn’s bodies and body positive messaging through the use of representative images. Removing these accounts is harmful as it privileges and perpetuates sexist and patriarchal ideas above the wellbeing of Instagram’s users. This system is also damaging to small businesses who use Instagram as their main platform to distribute their work.
Body positivity activists and advocates, from artists to models, are constantly experiencing shadow-bans, post removals and even permanent account removals by Instagram Explanations from Instagram often include claims that the accounts are promoting ‘sexual content’ and (absurdly) ‘soliciting sexual services’.
It is an absolute disgrace that Instagram is determined to censor this positive and progressive content, especially given their demonstrable inaction in removing accounts that promote pro-ana (pro-anorexia) messaging and unrealistic images of womxn’s bodies. This brings into question the issue around double standards of the acceptability and permissibility of different body types.
The discriminatory nature of Instagram’s censorship of womxn’s bodies recently made the news, as reported by The Guardian. Instagram was accused of having a racial bias, when censoring images posted by Nyome Nicholas-Williams, which sparked the hashtag #IwanttoseeNyome. A quote from the article states:
““Millions of pictures of very naked, skinny white women can be found on Instagram every day,” said Nicholas-Williams. “But a fat black woman celebrating her body is banned? It was shocking to me. I feel like I’m being silenced.””
You can read more of the article via this link:
The author of this letter, Ru from Ru’s Nudes, has also experienced this censorship and policing of her content, for her (smaller scale) art account, where she posted paintings and mixed-media artworks. She experienced the removal of 3 separate accounts - @rus_nudes, @rus.nudes and @
- preventing her from sharing her artwork, promoting her message and running her business. This account contained explicitly positive messaging around body positivity, posting diverse images in order to create a more representative collection of womxn’s bodies as the pieces of art that they are. Evidence of this can be seen in numerous testimonials by recipients of paintings, and followers of the accounts, including:
“I’ve found it so positive and refreshing to see all different boobs and thighs and body types being painted so beautifully and every time I see one of your paintings or drawings it genuinely makes me feel so much more positive and almost like kind towards myself”
Another body positivity account which faced account removal is @tits.and.bits, who also felt the censorship of their account negatively impacted their business, and spoke a lot for Instagram’s priorities. The account owner writes:
“Having my art account removed was devastating to me as a small business, artist and woman. Helping people celebrate the beauty of their bodies, regardless of society's perception of beauty is the sole purpose of my art. Being told this was “sexual content” was devastating, as this reinforces the damaging view that naked woman are only there for sexual pleasure, rather than to just exist in the natural beauty they are”
In addition to account removals, artists have been prevented from promoting their posts through hashtags or sponsored posts. Amy from @awaltersart recently posted about this. She posted photos from playboy which are allowed by Instagram, alongside a warning message about her own art, stating:
“How can a PAINTING go against their rules of nudity yet a nude model from @playboy is perfectly fine? I seriously don’t understand. It specifically says they won’t run my ad because it shows an image of excessive skin or nudity.. which includes breasts or buttocks. This kind of material is SENSITIVE in nature. But I’m pretty sure my image is a painting of the female body, not an actual naked female body...And I’m not at all offended or whatnot from what Playboy post, they’re naked women, I’m a woman and I paint the female body .I’m just really annoyed that I can’t promote my small business. It doesn’t really make any sense, and isn’t fair”
Finally, the following artist was afraid to be named for fear of having their account censored or removed again:
“When I started creating and selling my art, I was upset to find that I could not pay to advertise my art on any social media platforms, because I draw and paint the female form. I was especially disappointed about not being able to promote on Instagram, where we see plenty of minimally clothed photos and models every day.
My art is not sexual. I do not view it as such and neither do my followers or customers. It is about appreciating the beauty of the natural female body, and empowering women to feel comfortable in their own skin with body positive art.
I even had an advertisement taken down that was a drawing of a hand that was deemed “sexually explicit”. It was simply a hand, not in any sexual pose or implying any sexual act. A hand. Do we sexualize even that part of a woman’s body now?
I am choosing to remain anonymous because I fear the repercussions of speaking out against Instagram on this. So many wonderful artists have had their accounts taken down for “sexually explicit” content and I am scared to draw attention to myself and have mine removed as well, losing all of my hard work and critical income stream. I hope that Instagram will see that their advertising policies are unfair, sexist, and preventing so many artists from having success on their platform.”
Many other body positivity accounts have been censored through account removals and shadow bans. Some of these have have agreed to be included in this letter, as listed here:
The act of accusing these accounts of containing ‘sexual content’ and so far as ‘soliciting sexual services’ comes from the inappropriate and unwarranted sexualisation of women’s bodies in non-sexual contexts. This sexualisation of women without their consent derives from the idea that women are objects that exist for men’s desire. It seems that sexuality and body empowerment are only allowed when it is within the terms as expressed by the patriarchy. Women should be allowed control of their own bodies and to feel positive about said bodies. It is Instagram’s responsibility to remove harmful content from their platform, yet instead they are censoring the very content that would liberate their users.
In contrast @lookingforbeth and many other accounts have reported posts containing openly mysogenistic, transphobic and homophobic posts (see content by @feminismis_garbage ) and instagram refused to remove the account claiming that the posts do not break Instagram’s community guidelines. The disparity between what is or is not accepted by Instagram is ludicrous and seems to be in correlation with what is permitted by the patriarchy.
Therefore, this is an open letter to Instagram to demand that Instagram addresses the blatantly sexist and racist censorship and policing of women’s bodies on this social media platform where content is tailored to reinforce patriarchal, heteronormative norms. This letter is in favour of a platform in which Feminist messaging can blossom, in order to empower and educate all users, especially those just growing into their bodies.
I agree for my signature to be added to the open letter above.
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