You might already noticed that there are no female nipples on instagram. You see sexualised recordings, GIFs, videos, but no female nipples. You see women sitting on a man’s lap dressed only in a thong, you see them twerking, you see them rolling on the beach – but you don’t see their nipples. Only male breasts are allowed to stay.
Only breasts “covered” with transparent tops are allowed. What’s not allowed: menstrual spots, buttocks that don’t belong to some superstar, female pubic hair flashing out of the top of the panties, and female nipples in general.
Why are nipples considered to be so offensive? Why are nipples considered to be more offensive than pictures of firearms? Nipples are a basic physiological characteristic of women. Why is it uncomfortable for us as a society to see female nipples?
© Nina Sever
Nipples of presumably living women are prohibited. Published pictures of a bust are fine. Nudity in photos of paintings and sculptures is acceptable. Here the basic principle of social media becomes visible, a line is drawn between photography and all forms of visual art.
There is a general censorship for “mature content”, but this is implemented inconsistently, so that an unclear concept of nudity was created. Instagram and Facebook do not distinguish between nudity as pornography or art. Instagram itself says that it does not make its own value judgement on how nipples are perceived in society. The guidelines are merely intended to reflect the sensitivity of the broad and diverse range of cultures and countries around the world. This is bullshit. We see the world the way it is depicted on social media platforms and, above all, we can depict it ourselves. What is disturbing about the current era of nude art is that women are often the ones holding the camera or brush. They censor themselves in order to be visible.
The guidelines of social media do not stand for sensitivity but for society’s ambiguous view of the female body. These guidelines stand for a (self-) censored female breast and for a male breast that is perceived as everyday, normal and public. The greater impact of erasing nipples and other allegedly offensively depicted bodies is that many contemporary artists are not able to take advantage of social media in the same way as others. When websites that serve as a news and expression platform selectively and unexpectedly delete posts, that is censorship. Restricting the access of artists and art lovers to social media on the basis of the content of their works becomes discrimination.
The power to suppress images of female nipples has an enormous potential impact on communication about visual art, but also on sex education, discussions about sexual politics and even one’s own self-censorship. The policy of freedom of expression has shifted to private companies.
Social media have made it easier for women to present themselves through a variety of images, showing how diverse the female body can look.
Social media are no longer an antipole for the designed image of women in magazines or elsewhere. No space has been created that removes the censorship of the female body. Digital connectivity should have enabled women to present themselves publicly, to create their own identity and to free their bodies from oppressive social forms. But instead, the everyday female nipple is banned.
There is no question that breasts and thus the female nipple are still charged with cultural and sexual expectations. But why is it still impossible to resolve these expectations in 2020? For a #nipple on Instagram, TikTok, Facebook, tumblr, Pinterest. These platforms do not have the right to censor. Just because someone might be harassed by female nipples. What will be censored next? What will we be bothered with next?
We’d like to invite our community to share cases of biased & unfair censorship on social media. The existing guidelines are intransparent and oftentimes discriminate against certain groups of people. The vague and random enforcement of these rules pushes many contents into spaces that are anything but safe.
By participating in this campaign, you become part of a movement towards a destigmatized way of dealing with nudity & sexuality.
Use #uncensoredme to participate or to learn more about the campaign.