Instagram's policy highlights gender disparities in society

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By Emma Goodwin

Headline after headline has chronicled the removal of several Instagram pictures of the rich and famous – Chelsea Handler, Miley Cyrus and now Chrissy Teigen – among many others. And all for the same reason: the display of their nipples.

But yet, I can still rewind to a few days ago when Justin Bieber’s bare butt “graced” the screens of millions while he artsily pointed to an island not far off.

While Instagram has no rule about butts, (certain kinds of) nuts or coconuts, it has made sure to delete nip-pics of the female variety.

Many people – including Matt McGorry of Orange Is The New Black – have proclaimed their distaste with this policy on the social networking site itself. Claiming it’s antiquated and sexist, McGorry posted a shirtless picture of himself. Except, instead of his own nipples, he photoshopped the nipples of Miley Cyrus and Chrissy Teigen into the photo.

He said he believes it’s incorrect to say “‘women’s nipples are more sexual than man’s nipples,’” and instead, “it should be up to the individual woman to decide if she wants to show (her nipples) just like men have the choice.” 

And the picture is still up, leaving us with the simple truth that nipples aren’t the problem; the fact that they’re attached to a female body is.

And when it boils down to it, even though the female anatomy is heavily sexualized in many unfair ways, McGorry is right. It’s not fair to ban women from a choice that men have every day. I’m not saying that women should be walking around topless all the time, but I’m saying that if men can do it, women should have the option as well.

During a time of growing social, racial and sexual equality, people have been trying to redefine what it means to be a woman through the feminist movement. Many things that we have been trying to change are things within our control – people’s perception of women, the differing pay grades, job placements, political representation … and so much more.

And sexualization and the things females symbolize fit into that list: They are things people have control over. But the presence of a nipple is not something we can control – in case you haven’t realized. We shouldn’t be penalized or sexualized because we have them. And we should change the changeable – people’s skewed perception of our anatomy – to accept the unchangeable.

If I go to the beach any day this summer, I’ll see nipples anywhere I turn – even though I’m not looking for them. They’re everywhere. Heck, Harry Styles has four of them!

If I scroll through my Instagram or Facebook feed, I’ll see more from body builders or hyper-masculine guys I went to high school with that I’m too lazy to delete. If they can bombard my feeds with pictures of their unearned, nippular freedom, Chelsea Handler should be able to post a picture of her topless on a horse to mock Vladimir Putin.

(Not to mention – when she tried to post the same picture a second time with the caption “If instagram takes this down again, you’re saying Vladimir Putin has more 1st amendment rights than me.” Despite the fighting words, the picture was removed anyway.) 

And if you can’t get aboard the #FreeTheNipple train, try empathizing with one of the many girls in elementary school and high school who are being told to change from tank tops because their clothes are distracting.

It might seem like a stretch – comparing schools that tell girls that any shorts more than three inches above the knee are banned to Instagram ruling female nipples to be taboo – but it’s not.

In every form, it’s body shaming. Policing females instead of holding men accountable or telling them to keep their urges to themselves. And that’s really just not fair. Instagram’s community guidelines aren’t benefiting the community. Especially not the female one.

Women are fighting back – photoshopping male nipples on their own with many of the pictures remaining on the site from weeks ago.

I just wonder when we’re going to be done. When are we finally going to let the female body be as it is, rather than censoring it and teaching shame? The hypocritical rules need to stop. If you want to censor topless photos and nipples – censor them all. But don’t stop women from making statements and say it’s for the best of the “community.” Own up to the sexism these practices represent.

Emma is a junior in LAS. 

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