By Magretta Sowah
Twitter – @bohomags
According to Oxford Dictionaries, in ‘transit’ means to pass across or through an area. We are in transit, socially speaking, when it comes to identity. Maybe we always have been. Social media is a wonderful thing. Freedom of expression and freedom of speech!
All social platforms have guidelines. The Do’s and Don’ts of most sites is simple; no pornographic content involving minors or threatening to post intimate images of others #WasteHisTime2016.
This picture, posted on AMFAM Instagram, was banned because it didn’t meet their guideline requirements. But the requirements mention nothing about bare chests. The picture is of a woman – a transgender woman. It is here that we have a problem. The #freethenipple campaign started as art imitating life, with Lina Esco’s comedic drama centred around activists fighting their right to bare nipples –“Why is seeing my nipple more offensive than a mass murder?” A great point. What does baring a nipples have to do with identity? More than you realise.
You show me yours
I must admit, I’m not a huge Instagram user. What I do love about this platform is the curated and filtered visual porn – lets be very clear; I mean anything intended to cause excitement. I am not here to call out hypocrisy (I enjoy my job far too much) but we continue to dance on the line of acceptability. The world is filled with almost 7 billon people. There will definitely be times we don’t see eye to eye or hand to gun, as the news regurgitates hourly. This is why identity is so important – to know who you are and your relation to the external world. But we are talking about law enforced guidelines on Instagram, not existential problems of the self and universe.
2014 was the year Facebook lifted its ban on women who shared pictures of breastfeeding their newborns. What they didn’t do was lift the same ban on women who weren’t breastfeeding but had their girls out. Any other contexts apart from nursing was forbidden, according to mic.com. Facebook was not prepared for the roar of loosened bra straps at the hypocrisy.
Lina Esco, the mastermind behind the #freethenipple movement and satirical movie, stated in 2013; “When I started my online campaign, Facebook and Instagram banned the photos of topless women that were taken on location, faster than we could put them up. Why can you show public beheadings from Saudi Arabia on Facebook, but not a nipple? Why can you sell guns on Instagram, but yet they will suspend your account for posting the most natural part of a woman’s body?”
This campaign was evelated to a femisitic-super-nova level when Feminist writer and activist Soraya Chemaly rallied the troups, sending more than ‘60,000 tweets and 5,000 emails opposing the inequitable way images of women’s breasts are regarded.’ Soraya Chemaly told Mic mag, “Women’s breasts are not the problem. Sexual objectification is the problem. There’s a difference between sexualization and sexuality. Breasts don’t hurt children, breasts feed children, and it’s the sexualization of women’s bodies that’s actually hurting children the most.”
Sex sells because it reminds us of the familiar. When we see a sexy image we are tempting the deepest parts of ourselves – the kind of llifestyle we hate to see but love to be (if only for an episode of your favorite reality show). Bringing it back home, we at AMFAM were not impressed with Instagram. We believe the picture was banned because she has very feminine features. Gorgeous hair. Ajar lips. Fresh and hydrated skin. Cheeky demure. This screams female all over – am I right ladies?
The model doesn’t appear threatening or erotic. The issue? Her nipples were visible on a flat chest. Is it fair that male nipples are socially acceptable damn near anywhere? But this isn’t a picture of a quote on quote ‘man’. Is the line still relevant when the stiletto is on the other foot?
Who makes the rules?
We share a pack mentality; kind of like the ‘cool kids’ club. There’s nothing overtly dangerous with this – we need order and hierarchy for pretty things to flourish. The problem is when the majority is wrong and yet still rules. Over-sexualisation has taken over our world – even as a writer. It’s not hard to turn a mispronounced word, unintended movement or a well-placed object into a double entendre. See what I mean? Very naughty of you.
The titillation of #freethenipple is largely due to sex-coloured glasses. Female breasts are seen as sexual objects – funbags, to be captialised solely for pleasure and aesthetics, instead of their actual use – for nurture. There always will be disgruntled right/left wing conservatives who hide behind tradition – what’s tried and true will come through, right? What about the power one holds to change and evolve, regardless of social norms? Why are models allowed to showcase next to fabulous nothing to sell a product/lifestyle but women on the street who are less provocative, perhaps even breastfeeding their child; or horror of all horrors, braless while wearing a white shirt, in the middle of a rainstorm. Why some things accepted but others aren’t?
Can beauty be censored?
The rules of beauty should be individually defined as we go forward into the future. Beauty is a universal social construction on the senses. It is felt more so than seen, which is why many industries are thriving on capturing beauty in its natural (curated) habitat. These companies edit beauty. Then sell it back to us in a real life context.
Instagram’s rule to ban our image had more to do with perception in real time than capturing beauty in its natural (curated) habitat. We felt because this model had identified as a woman her nips violated their platform guidelines and laws.
The line of approval and self acceptance is a long drawn out process. It will probably be a selfie at a time. We can start by understanding their rules and then breaking them in morally acceptable ways (and legal, of course!). Morality and socialism will always butt heads. To put it differently, what is good for social platforms is not always good for brands.
With that said, let’s blow the cover on real hypocrisy – starting with one titillation at a time.