Body Positivity has come a long way. As a collective we’ve successfully banned the term “bikini body” from (most) magazines, and curvier models are starting to become part of the norm. But in some places, fat-phobia is still the name of the game, and Instagram is a major player.
For those of you who don’t know, Instagram has a set of community guidelines to keep the platform safe and free of graphic, hateful, or pornographic content. There’s a lot of language in the full set of guidelines, but the major point here is that IG states, “We don’t allow nudity on Instagram.” If you feel that the guidelines are being violated, you have the ability to report the photo.
On August 28th, Danielle of @chooselifewarrior posted this photo, along with a lengthy, passionate caption that reads:
“Women’s bodies can be naked for profit sure, naked for men’s eyes sure, naked & posted by themselves – DISGUSTING.
Sexualised by men sure, taunted by society fine, fallen in love with by the soul within – ABSURD.
Women who understand my need to control my own sharing & promoting of body image get it.
They understand to create change we need to see diversity, diversity in bodies and people.
Nakedness is nothing to be ashamed of but we women are told automatically that is our goal in life.
To turn men on
Even if we don’t mean it
Even if it is not sexual
Even if we did not consent
The simple act of empowering ourselves is twisted – because we are always to blame, men always are “just being boys”
And it was immediately pounced on and ripped apart by trolls who reported the photo and left hateful comments like:
And you’re probably thinking, ‘these users are violating term and condition #6 of instagram! Instagram should take action!’ And they did take action. Almost immediately, Instagram sent Danielle a notice citing a violation of their terms, and removed her photo – not just once, but each time she reposted it, a total of FOUR TIMES.
Instagram swears, according to its guidelines, that a real live human being reviews and determines the fate of every reported image and account, which means that a member (or multiple members) of the Instagram team looked at her post, read her heartfelt and empowering words, and deemed it inappropriate. It means they would rather bend to the will and the ‘comfort’ of fat-phobic, fat-shaming trolls than protect the rights of users trying to put some good out into the world.
This isn’t the first instance in which a plus-size woman has been censored on instagram. Back in May of 2016 Aarti Olivia Dubey of @curvesbecomeher, a fierce proponent of body positivity (and the first plus-size model featured in a Singaporian magazine, and all-around awesome human) posted an image of her and two other ladies in their swimsuits – and it was removed by instagram. She created such a sh*tstorm that the social media giant finally admitted that they were wrong (way to go, Aarti!).
Now. Some could argue that this instance is different – that Dani’s photo did violate one of the terms, banning partial nudity or sexually suggestive photos. But if that’s truly the reason why her post was taken down, then why are these images allowed?
If instagram is so concerned with keeping the platform “safe” and free of “nudity or partial nudity,” why do we still see images like these everywhere? Why are there photos of thin conventionally beautiful women in thong bikinis, or instagram models in sexually explicit poses, or barely covering their breasts? Why are there images of slit, bleeding wrists on self-harm accounts, or emaciated bodies on pro-ana accounts? Why is there porn on hashtags like #beautiful or #healthy? Where does Instagram draw the line between what is acceptable and unacceptable?
After the fourth time her post was removed, I decided to do an experiment. I posted a replica of her original photo, using the same caption (except for a few sentence structure and word changes). I received a total of ZERO negative comments. I was called beautiful and strong and an inspiration. My photo is still up, while all four of Dani’s have been removed.
Edit: this photo is an exact copy of @chooselifewarrior’s original post a few days back, which has been reported by trolls and removed by @instagram 4 separate times. It has already received a better response than any of her posts. Why? Because I’m thin — because my body is deemed socially acceptable. Because the sexualization of my body is not considered a fetish. What a disgusting double standard. #IstandwithDani ????⚡️ “Some people talk about my body as if they have any idea what it’s like to walk in it. Society talks about my body as if it owns it. As a woman I am expected to meet the beauty standard set before me — And instead of empowering us, they become a vice, tightening with unrealistic expectation, and the shame of self-promotion. Women’s bodies can be naked for profit — sure. Naked for men’s eyes — sure. But naked and posted by women themselves?DISGUSTING. Sexualised by men? Sure. Taunted by society? Fine. Fallen in love with by the soul within? ABSURD. Women who understand the need to control their own sharing and promoting of body image get it. They understand that in order to create change, we need to see diversity — diversity in bodies and in people. Nakedness is nothing to be ashamed of — but as women we are told that our bodies have a different purpose: To excite men. Even if we don’t mean it; Even if it is not sexual; Even if we do not consent; The simple act of empowering ourselves is twisted — because we are always to blame, men are always ‘boys being boys.’ See, my body is sailing ship — Meant for a million other things before my sexuality, before the use and gaze of men… But that’s all society sees. This isn’t an advertisement for sex.This is a woman claiming her body. Let’s not be afraid to empower ourselves, whatever that means for you. To the men who think my body is theirs, thinking that their opinion will break me, or that it even matters. To the women who slut shame for no other reason than they’ve bought into the bullshit establishment which holds our rights as women hostage. I’m showing as much of my body as I want, to normalise its existence. Sex has nothing to do with it.”
A photo posted by Gina ✌????️ (@nourishandeat) on
Why the double standard? Why is my photo allowed, and hers isn’t? Why are celebrities allowed to post nearly naked, or actually naked but “covered” images, while people like Dani and Aarti are censored?
Because I’m thin, and they’re fat. My post has just the same amount of side-boob and bare back as hers, yet my body (and those other celebrities’ bodies) fit within the social norm. Sexualizing a body like mine isn’t considered a fetish – it’s commonplace. We’re used to seeing slender bodies sexualized and stripped to minimal clothing in the media. It’s how society sells just about everything. A body that doesn’t fit in with society’s beauty ideals is pushed aside – better left unseen.
Michelle of @mindsetforlifeltd, body confidence coach and creator of #scarrednotscared, is all too familiar with this mentality. She says,
“Whether it’s the media or social media, naked women are still being sexualised and because of the old adage “sex sells”, it means this kind of exposure is only considered acceptable if the body fits within the standard definitions of beauty. Dani is often the target of abuse for standing up against conventional beauty norms and yet nothing is done. Instagram should spend their time protecting people like her, not silencing her.”
And Megan of @bodyposipanda, a leader in the Body Positive movement, agrees, saying Instagram’s removal of Dani’s post sends a dangerous message:
“Taking down images of fat bodies while leaving images of thin bodies with the same degree of nudity sends the message that certain bodies aren’t worthy of being seen. It is not up to Instagram to decide who is worthy of being seen, we all are.”
Other BoPo activists have since been calling out Instagram for this blatant hypocrisy:
Hey @instagram can you tell me how the photo to the left don’t get taken down, but the one to the right of @chooselifewarrior has been taken down twice? What is it with fat bodies that is so offensive? Unhealthy, ha? That is a shit argument considering health is not a size. But if so; my photos of me being severely underweight don’t get taken down???? The one to the left does not only show far more skin; it also portrays non-consensual BDSM play and objectifying of women. Anyone who has experimented with BDSM knows how crucial consent and safe word is! It is NOT a joke. If one part says the safe word and the other part willingly ignores it is by definition rape. Yes it might be a joke, but are rape jokes ok? Is sexism ok? With 10k likes it has obviously been reported many more times than the one of @chooselifewarrior #creatingconsentculture #effyourbodystandards
Dani (@chooselifewarrior) is one of my favorite people. She is smart, loving, hard working, caring, intuitive, and genuine. We’ve spent hours on skype when we can and she has helped me through some really devastating experiences. This world is lucky to have Dani in it. She is a gift. This week though ( and honestly all the time) what she put out into the world was dismissed, made fun of, and silenced. Dani represents so many things the world is not comfortable with, she is fat, she is openly in ed recovery, she doesn’t cover up, and she doesn’t apologize for her body or the space it takes up. She is fierce! Dani has posted this picture four times now, and four times it has been deleted by Instagram for not complying with their post guidelines. We all know this is a bunch of bs. This picture has been deleted because people think her existence is unworthy, because a bunch of bullies believe that fat makes a person less valuable, because she is a woman and someone’s level of attraction to her somehow translates into whether or not her voice is heard or important. This post has been delete because we live in a society that systematically devalues fat people. Which in turn gives permission to cowardly, insecure, sad individuals to spend their time reporting a post that makes them feel uncomfortable, not because of what is pictured, but because it represents something they don’t have, courage, confidence, and self love. And Instagram has decided that their voices matter more than Dani’s. So #ImWithDani because she is beyond amazing, because she inspires me, but also because she, like anyone, deserves to be seen, respected, and heard. I love you so much Dani! And please, please, please read her caption continued in the comments below. DANI’S CAPTION: “Some men talk about my body as if they have any idea what it is like to walk in it. Society talks about my body as if it owns it. If I don’t meet the beauty standard set I therefore deserve a less than treatment. Women who look like me see someone unafraid, they see hope – I hope. They see images like this way less clothed & suggestively standing in nearly every advertisement around.”
A photo posted by Melissa (@yourstruelymelly) on
Currently, Dani now runs the risk of being deactivated by Instagram due to the number of “violations,” despite being an unwavering voice of positivity and reassurance and understanding for those in crisis with self-esteem, eating disorder recovery, and body image issues. Her stance on fighting fat-phobia and the stigma of mental illness is desperately needed in a community where thinspo and depression blogs are a click away.
I think I speak on behalf of all women whose bodies have been deemed “undesirable” when I say, “WHAT the hell, Instagram?!”