When I was in high school I took AP Studio art, creating a concentration that focused on the connection the female body had to the natural world. I combined nudity with soft flowers and dancing butterflies to show the contradiction women face daily regarding their bodies. We are told by magazines, ads and billboards to look a certain way and have a certain sex appeal, yet when women embrace that we are condemned and humiliated, slut shamed and called whores. I wanted to show this contradiction through art and so I spent hours painting a large full body portrait of a nude woman, her face concealed by delicate blue flowers. Once I was finally finished with the oil on canvas painting I proudly posted a photo to Instagram. A few hours later I turned on my phone and as the screen lit up, I was greeted with the message, “We’ve removed your post because it doesn’t follow our community guidelines.” When I read this I almost burst out laughing because I found it incredibly humorous that Instagram thought my AP Studio Art oil painting was a threat to the “community.” Had society sexualized the female body so much that a faceless painting was now considered pornography?
Over the next few months I started to see this happen more and more. I saw it happening to myself, to celebrities and to my friends. We were all greeted with the same message stating that we had somehow violated community guidelines. When I looked through these guidelines to try and get some clarity, I ended up getting more confused. Some forms of nudity were okay, such as pictures of nude sculptures and paintings, just as long as it wasn’t pornographic. Was this actually the code they were enforcing? They specifically removed paintings and artwork of mine but seemed to have no problem with accounts that actually post PORN. There are accounts out there that blatantly objectify women, accounts that show women in demeaning ways and accounts that violently support rape culture.
I have had so many pictures and videos deleted and my account has even been deactivated. These posts aren’t blatantly sexual, but rather empowering and encouraging body positivity or they are merely just pictures of women existing in their natural form. Getting a picture removed from social media seems like an insignificant problem to be upset and annoyed over, but it’s not really about the fact that pictures get deleted or our accounts get deactivated, it’s about why they are deleted. Posting a photo of a female body is not and should not be inherently pornographic. That concept just further perpetuates rape culture and supports the idea that women’s bodies are meant to be consumed and they are meant for the male gaze. Not only is that sexist and heteronormative, but it also shatters the self-confidence of women who were trying to be empowered. A woman expressing her natural form in a non-sexualized manner, showing her outer-self as she actually lives is extremely important because society only allows the female form to exist for consumption sexual satisfaction.
By deleting sex educators, body positive accounts, women who have curvier body types, women who choose to dress a certain way, and women just merely existing and showing their natural form is silencing and censoring only a certain population. The female body shouldn’t be considered pornographic by default. Having a certain body and existing in a certain form does not make that person more or less sexual. Sexuality and one’s body are in no way related and the longer we believe that one’s body defines one’s sexual worth and sexual tendencies, the longer women will be slut shamed and the longer rape culture will exist. We cannot blame women for being “pornographic” when they merely exist. We must start looking at the oppressive structures that view women as inherently pornographic as the problem. These guidelines claim to be trying to “keep Instagram safe” but silencing a group of women who empower others and promote self-love is not keeping Instagram safe, it just excludes half of the users. How do you call these “community guidelines” when you’ve just divided the very community that exists on your site?
*Paintings also by Caroline Iaffaldano