Instagram takes a smarter stance on the female body, but it still has work to do

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Instagram has updated its community guidelines to make it clear what will be allowed onto its photo-sharing service and what’s likely to be deleted on sight. The rules are similar to before, but an Instagram spokesperson told the Wall Street Journal that the “language is just stronger” than it was in older versions.

The updated guidelines make it clear that Instagram won’t tolerate harassment, and will also take the high road when it comes to weed, allowing people to share images of marijuana without fear of removal. Nothing dastardly there — Instagram also allows images of alcohol or tobacco products onto its service.

Perhaps the most interesting aspect of the new guidelines is how much attention they pay to female anatomy. This is what it says about nudity:

We know that there are times when people might want to share nude images that are artistic or creative in nature, but 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.

It’s refreshing to see a company restrict most nudity without gender bias. And the rule about depicting nudity in photos of paintings and sculptures puts the company in direct conflict with Facebook, which has often removed images in which a work of art features a woman’s “nipple bulges” or exposed genitalia.

As I wrote in a post about Facebook’s policies:

The company actually has a strange aversion to the female body, as it’s demonstrated by censoring everything from a New Yorker cartoon to a charity calendar featuring women instead of men, which the company is apparently fine with posing for semi-nude photographs.

Images of women breastfeeding have also been removed from the service even though Facebook claims that it’s fine with the images being posted. (Apparently women can share images of themselves breastfeeding so long as their breasts don’t happen to be in the shot, which is the weirdest form of circuitous logic I’ve yet to stumble across.)

Instagram has drawn a line in the sand between its policies and Facebook’s. Now all it has to do is intelligently moderate its service — which requires it to have a mature response to an image in which menstrual blood is shown, for example — and ensure the responsible enforcement of these guidelines.

Oh, and it might want to stop making a distinction between male and female nipples. The hypocrisy of allowing male nipples while banning female nipples has drawn ire around the world. Still, at least these rules are a step in the right direction — and maybe Facebook will learn a little something from its subsidiary.

[illustration by Brad Jonas for Pando]

PandoDaily

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