You’re killing us!
It sounds dramatic, but it’s true. Who are we? Oh, we’re the artists you’ve been toying with like a cat plays with mice. You cut us some slack just to pounce on us over and over again until we either give up or you finally claw our lights out.
This has become an abusive relationship, Instagram. You’ve isolated us, pushed our other friends away so they become paler in comparison to your so-called might and we believed you – trying to find a way to make you happy, abandoning our friends in turn, leaving our other social media accounts to suffer and weaken. Oh, we’ll go crawling back to those we’ve left behind eventually, devastated and poorer from this whole experience; starting almost from scratch in our bid to build ourselves back up. We’ll have to go back to our other social media streams… because you keep threatening to delete us from existence.
And why? Because we have the audacity to acknowledge that we have bodies. It doesn’t matter how much we censor or how carefully we use hashtags – you will insist that we are soliciting sex. We are not sex workers or pimps – we are artists.
The great artists throughout history used courtesans to create their masterpieces depicting nude bodies – Da Vinci, Botticelli, Gauguin, Buonarroti, Waterhouse… the list is endless. The paintings of these artists are seen as beautiful to most of the seeing world – how do you feel about them Instagram? Horrified by the suggestion that women have nipples, I should imagine. But it’s not just nudity you have a problem with, is it Instagram? You also don’t like women who aren’t size zero thin. Are the voluptuous paintings of the greats also offensive to your sensitive eyes?
When you remove the body positive posts of artists trying to promote body health, mental health and sexual health, you reinforce the unhealthy standards we are already hobbled by. When you tell us we are soliciting for sex and don’t comply with your standards when we are doing everything we can to stay within the limits you have provided, you are proving yourself as the shallow, commercial platform you are – doing anything you can to fill your pockets and enabling the rich celebrities and big companies to thrive while making sure the small, independent businesses are kept at the bottom of the pile unable to climb the ladder and reach more people.
But tell me something else, dear platform – why are there artists on Instagram who get away with posting any kind of art? One in particular stands out for me – an artist who depicts highly sexual paintings of sexual acts; spread-legged, bound, gagged and sitcky women; entire breasts with nipples on display, wide-open vaginas proudly exposed; erect penises; penetrations… Why is this artist allowed the freedom you’ve given him when we’re struggling to get our heavily censored art out there? Is it because he has 350 thousand followers? Or is it, perhaps, because he is a man? Is it unfair to bring gender into this argument? Because it seems that female bodies are what you have a problem with, and women you are trying to silence. Tell me why male nipples can be shown, but female nipples are seen as a means to solicit sex.
You use the argument that children might see our horrifying bodies and feel something we don’t want them to feel, but as an artist, I’ve been attending life classes since I was 13. Life drawing classes are essential to an artist – they’re imperative to the study of anatomy and movement. Not all nudity is sexual, Instagram. Bodies are just bodies – it’s the onlooker that makes the subject sexual. We are made through sex, born nude through vaginas and we suckle nipples to survive in our early days. At what point should we say to children: “You didn’t see anything! Got that?!” At what point should we tell children to be ashamed of their bodies? It’s a genuine question, Instagram – I’d really like an answer from you. You seem to be the authority on shame, after all.
Speaking of sexualising subjects – you keep removing a pencil drawing I did of some sheep quoting your sexual solicitation rule. Beastiality is a niche fetish, Instagram. Children’s books are rife with sheep. We take children to petting zoos and farm shows. Sheep are widely accepted as unsexual entities. You’re really showing your true colours there, Instagram. Beastiality is not just niche – it’s illegal!
But there’s so much more to this toxic relationship than just your own oversexualisation of non-sexual subjects. You regularly gaslight us – telling us to promote our art and then rejecting our requests to promote the very posts you told us to advertise. We’d love to give you some money, Insta. Love to be able to promote our products and our services and our messages of positivity. Never, not once, has any of us tried to solicit sex, I must reiterate that. But we are unable to advertise through your platform now, even when the posts we want to promote are in no way sexual, contain no nudity, display no fat.
We’re so confused by the rules – you said it yourself, Instagram:-
“For a variety of reasons, we don’t allow nudity on Instagram. This includes photos, videos, and some digitally-created content that show sexual intercourse, genitals, and close-ups of fully-nude buttocks. It also includes some photos of female nipples, but photos of post-mastectomy scarring and women actively breastfeeding are allowed. Nudity in photos of paintings and sculptures is OK, too.”
And yet, despite censoring, our art is removed. We lie awake at night worrying about whether our accounts will still be there in the morning. Because, as I said above, we rely on you now. Our fate lies in your hands and, like any psychopathic partner does, you just love that power, don’t you?
We want this to work, Instagram. We still love you, in a wary way. But we are beginning to despise you for what you’re doing to us; for what you promised to be.
You’ve let us down.
The artists of Instagram
Appendix – A Small Handful of Artists Affected By Instagram’s Bizarre Fear of Nudity
Celeste Barber (7.6m followers) had a photo banned in 2020. She posed in the exact same way as a supermodel and put the photos side by side. Because she wasn’t as thin as the model, the photograph was removed. In fact, every time it was shared, it was removed. Celeste is a comedian who recreates videos and photos of impossible beauty standards in her own way. You can find her at https://www.instagram.com/celestebarber/
Carina Shero (544k followers) is a plus size model and body positivity advocate. She regularly has posts removed despite there being no nudity in her work. Instagram has a problem with fat. Fat is still a feminist issue. Carina lies awake at night worrying that the empire she has built up on Instagram will be deleted. You can find her at https://www.instagram.com/unskinnyshero/
Leila Leiz (77.9k followers) is an awesome comic artist specialising in pencil and ink depictions of fictional characters. She’s been banned for nudity in her art, which completely undermines what she’s trying to achieve. You can find her at https://www.instagram.com/leilaleiz/
Gabrielle Steberis (5,600 followers) is a body positive model and photographer. She has such a human approach to her work – it’s accessible, it’s raw and it’s incredibly touching. Instagram has removed her posts and threatened to delete her several times, despite the fact that she blurs out any hint of those pesky nipples. You can find her at https://www.instagram.com/gabriellesteberis/
Moon (311 followers) is an artist who creates wonderfully atmospheric seascapes in oil and the occasional nude in pencil. Her work is whimsical and real, and it would take a massive stretch of the imagination to think that she was soliciting for sex. You can find her at https://www.instagram.com/stuck_on_the_moon_art/
Scarlett Paine (2,200k followers) is an artist who specialises in realistic nudes. She creates colour pencil drawings of primarily woman of all shapes and sizes, tattooed and alternative lifestyles. You can find her at https://www.instagram.com/scarletteve_art/
If you’d like your name adding to the list, send me a short synopsis of what happened to you and your art, along with a link to your Instagram account (if it hasn’t been deleted)
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