Has Instagram’s Censorship Gone Too Far?

Posted by Lauren Reno

You may have seen a few articles circulating social media lately that tell the story of 22 year old Rupi Kaur, who posted a photo of herself, fully clothed, and menstruating. Instagram promptly took the photo down, saying that it did not meet Instagram’s Community Guidelines.

Photo Credit: José Moutinho via Creative Commons.         

Kaur then posted the photo again after it was taken down a second time, this time on other social media sites such as Tumblr and Facebook, with the caption:

“Thank you @Instagram for providing me with the exact response my work was created to critique. You deleted my photo twice stating that it goes against community guidelines. I will not apologize for not feeding the ego and pride of misogynist society that will have my body in underwear but not be okay with a small leak, when your pages are filled with countless photos/accounts where women (so many who are underage) are objectified. Pornified. And treated less than human. Thank you.”

Later, after many people on social media began to express their anger on the issue, Instagram apologized to Kaur and has restored her photo. You can take a look at Kaur’s full project here.

Along with Kaur, many people believe that it is wrong for Instagram to censor pictures of women doing exactly what women were made to do, such as breast feeding and menstruating. Why is it not okay for women to be depicted in photos doing those things, and yet, half naked pictures are perfectly acceptable?

So what do you think? Is it wrong for Instagram to remove photos of women doing what is natural for women? Or should it be removed for making some viewers uncomfortable?

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7 responses to “Has Instagram’s Censorship Gone Too Far?

  1. Viewers who are uncomfortable can unfollow the user’s account. I don’t think Instagram should censor natural bodily functions or rituals. I understand why this user was frustrated with Instagram. Although I don’t agree with this type of censorship, I do support censorship of triggering material, like images of self-injury. This is because seeing photos like that can trigger a dangerous response from others without intending to. Photos, like the photo you discussed, does not pose a threat to anyone’s health or safety, so Instagram cannot and should not censor someone’s private account this way.

    • I think you’re absolutely right here. I think, if anything, they could maybe impose a system where you can put a warning on a photo so people can choose whether or not to view it.

  2. It was definitely wrong of Instagram to remove the image. It’s ridiculous that natural functions, which were not even shown explicitly, were censored. I know Instagram has a continual battle with censorship, especially with Chelsea Handler’s crusade. While I agree with Brita’s point on adding warnings as opposed to removing the photo completely, it’ll be interesting to see if/how Instagram changes its policies.

  3. I definitely think Instagram needs to look at the whole picture here. (Heh, picture.) In the scheme of inappropriate images, Instagram’s scrutiny is wrongly targeted on this particular issue. Going along with what Kaur said, Instagram should consider how misleading their choices of censorship could be to young girls in particular. Young girls are already exposed to a barrage of sexualized images, but a woman on her period is shameful? Censorship like this only serves to perpetuate a a negative perception of how women’s bodies are valued by society.

  4. “I will not apologize for not feeding the ego and pride of misogynist society that will have my body in underwear but not be okay with a small leak, when your pages are filled with countless photos/accounts where women (so many who are underage) are objectified.”

    PREACH MOMMA! Lauren, I’m glad you posted about this. I was hoping someone would. Like everyone else said – if you don’t like it, then unfollow it. There are so many photos of nearly naked women (and men), controversial rituals, and people who are under one influence or another. These things could just as easily be considered offensive to some people, but society has been conditioned to accept these choices that people make. Let me say it again — CHOICES.

    Women don’t have the choice to menstruate or not. Women don’t have the choice to turn off their reproductive system. (I mean, we do. But only with expensive and life-altering surgery.) If Instagram seriously had an issue with this photo of natural bodily function and not with the naked, drunk, vomiting subjects on their site, then something is seriously wrong.

  5. I’m really loving all the unity I’m seeing in the comments. I agree 100% with what everyone has been saying. Lately, I’ve been learning a lot about how women are made to feel shame for simply… being women. I was getting my TED Talk on last night, and Brene Brown has two really interesting talks about shame and vulnerability. Browns says that shame increases our risk for other unhealthy behaviors and conditions, like depression and eating disorders. That information seems really applicable here; making it “wrong” or “offensive” to post a picture of natural womanhood shows young girls that they should feel shame for who they are. That message perpetuates unhealthy stereotypes and behaviors, harming a whole generation of young woman. Shame on you, Instagram.

  6. I definitely feel that Instagram has made a huge mistake here. I find it very hard to imagine that they would be able to justify the fact that images of women doing what women do naturally is not acceptable, and yet showing a picture of a nearly naked woman is. I would love to hear Instagram try to defend this.

    And thanks for all the great comments guys!

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