Since its launch is 2010, Instagram has grossed over 800 Million users, with over 60 million photos and videos shared daily. The only way a media platform of this density would ever thrive the way Instagram has is with the help of community guidelines and rules. With such regulations comes original agreement of following them, if you choose to participate in said platform. “Attempting to enforce community standards at such a scale will no doubt inevitably result in accidental takedowns and confusion. However, the frequency with which Instagram takes down photographs involving the female body and expressions of feminism has provoked controversy – and suggests a broader tension between the network and its users.” -Warren, Rossalyn, and Charlie Warzel. “Why Did Instagram Delete These Women’s Photos Of Their Bodies?” BuzzFeed, BuzzFeed, 2 Apr. 2015, www.buzzfeed.com/rossalynwarren/deleted-instagram-photos-that-are-causing-controversy. Until we address the inherent anti-women bias that is a part of our society, social media along with all other social forums cannot be entirely free and fair. This paper will examine how sexual mores assigned to women are not only present in the smilingly progressive world of social media, but in fact, enforce these restricting perspectives.
This issue first came to prevalence in 2014 with Courtney Adamo a London based “mommy blogger” with over 40,000 followers at that time. Adamo posted a photo of her 18-month-old daughter in a dress and yellow rain boots, lifting her dress showing her belly button. Later that day she received emails from Instagram saying that her photo has been removed due to a violation of the rules and guidelines. A few hours after discovering that her picture was removed, she then re-posted only to come to find that her account was deactivated, due to the same reasoning of violation. Courtney Adamo rebutted with the following.
“She is a baby! It is no different from a photo of a baby wearing a nappy, or a little boy in swim trunks, and to entertain the idea that it is even remotely inappropriate is a disgusting thing in itself. Instagram has deleted four years of my family photos and memories: all the photos of our travels, my children’s birthdays” – “Sadness and Outrage and Gratitude All in One.” Babyccino Kids: Daily Tips, Children’s Products, Craft Ideas, Recipes & More, 9 July 2014, babyccinokids.com/blog/2014/06/20/sadness-and-outrage-and-gratitude-all-in-one/.
Adamo was met with a wave of support from other Instagram users which ultimately led to was the site’s decision to reactivate her account. The gendered bias that there is something taboo about this child’s body reinforces the sexualization of the female form on social media. In a 2009 study “THE SEXUAL DOUBLE STANDARD AND ADOLESCENT PEER ACCEPTANCE” Derek A. Kreager and Jeremy Staff states “the belief that women and men are held to different standards of sexual conduct is pervasive in contemporary American society.” This “double standard affect women being shamed for promiscuity and can trickle down to cases such as the sexualization of a toddler.
While Instagram is often viewed as a progressive and forward thinking space, it is not free of unlaying double standards. Best selling author and poet Rupi Kaur posted a photo on Instagram in and unknowingly sparked a revolution. The image displayed, showed a spot of blood on her legs, as well as blood on her bedsheets. As most women and men will understand, this event often arises when a woman is on her period. She posted the photo along with the caption; “I bleed each month to help make humankind a possibility… Moreover, communities shun this natural process. Some are more comfortable with the pornification of women. The sexualization of women. The violence and degradation of women than this”-: ‘Thank You @Instagram for Providing Me with the Exact Response My Work Was Created to Critique. You Deleted a Photo of a Woman Who Is Fully…”.” Instagram, www.instagram.com/p/0ovWwJHA6f/. The blood used in this photo was not real and therefore did not violate any of Instagrams written rules. Instagram thereby took down the photo and declared that it did not go with the community guidelines, which led them to take down the photo- not one but twice.
So we ask why? Why is this epidemic of women shaming becoming so mainstream on social media? “A recent book by Nancy Jo Sales, American Girls: Social Media and the Secret Lives of Teenagers, provides a snapshot. Based on interviews with more than 200 adolescent girls, Sales concludes that social media often reinforces a culture of sexism and misogyny (1).” This argument proceeds to say that:
“Emerging empirical research also corroborates the notion that while sexualization of females is rewarded online (usually by males), females are also punished for these same displays and are quick to be labelled by other female peers as “sluts” or “skanks”(2). This perpetuates sexual double standards that reinforce gender stereotypes.” – Sales NJ: American Girls: Social Media and the Secret Lives of Teenagers. New York, Knopf, 2016.- Daniels EA, Zurbriggen EL:
This philosophy is the reason for the scandals that came from Instagram’s rules and regulations page; it is based on a constant digression stimulated by the age of social media which is allowed to perpetuate damaging patriarchal expectations. By media platforms taking away the voice of women no matter the age by telling them what they can and can not post it is only contributing to this mass epidemic. The only way we can work through this social-media virus is by teaching the young men of this upcoming generation what equality is and how it must manifest in public forums. Until this is done, we cannot claim that our social media as we know it is not indeed free and democratic.