#FreeTheNipple and Instagram’s Woman Problem

When you search #FreeTheNipple on Instagram, the results range from people actively protesting the ban on nipples by Instagram to requests for women to DM Instagram users to request photos of their dicks in return. But the most common images and videos attached to the hashtag are hardcore pornography.

To that I have this to say: What the fuck, Instagram?

If you want your platform to be some paragon of clothed virtue, but you let porn propagate on your site without stopping it, what I’m seeing is that you really only have a problem with women’s bodies when they are put on display in certain ways. Chiefly, when they are put on display by women in a context that does not involve someone else overtly deriving sexual pleasure from viewing the image.

Let me tell you a little story.

I grew up a girl. Not a particularly sexy or beautiful girl. But a girl. I didn’t bloom early or anything. I actually bloomed late.

That said, I got harassed on the street fairly often as a young adult. And I noticed something important. When I traveled by myself or with other young and femme-presenting people, I received a lot of harassment and unwanted attention from the men around me. When I traveled with masculine-presenting people, the harassment all but vanished.

That’s how I learned that I was safer when men perceived me as being controlled by another man.

When I would date, the men who I would date never wanted to hear about my relationships with other men. They were very keen to learn what my relationships with women were like. For them, my sex with other men was not entertaining. But my interactions with women were. I always refused to tell them anything. But they were very interested in taking control of my past sexual interactions with women.

That’s how I learned that my sex was something that the men I dated would always want to claim and control.

When I was an adult, the men I knew would go to strip clubs sometimes. I would listen to the way that they talked about strippers, how they would slag them off as diseased or slutty. It was as if, because these women were not willing to or interested in fucking them, the men watching them had to take them down a peg.

That is how I learned that the bodies of women put on display by women are bodies covered in shame by society as a means of disempowering them.

As an adult, I still get harassed. It still only seems to happen when I am alone or in the company of other femme-presenting women.

When I look at Instagram and see the way that they treat the bodies of women, I see every nasty and negative thing that I have ever learned about my body and my place in society reinforced. Instagram has a woman problem that I don’t really see changing anytime soon. And I’m not sure whether I will continue to keep up an account there. It’s something I have to think about. I feel like, with all of this, I should just leave that space completely. But I also feel like I should fight back somehow rather than just throwing in the towel. My personal account has not had any problems because I don’t post anything that would show my nipples. And my other account is pet poems, so I am really at a loss as to what I should do to help with this issue other than to send a message to Instagram, which I hope they will receive.

Instagram, you really need to get your shit together or you are going to see a mass exodus of users like me who are tired of watching women’s bodies be policed by you. This shit is not OK.

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