Social media giant Facebook and Instagram’s community standards policy on nudity, does not permit female nipples but does male. It states: “We remove photographs of people displaying genitals … we also restrict some images of female breasts if they include the nipple.”
A transgender woman named Courtney Demone is challenging that policy through her campaign #DoIHaveBoobsNow? by uploading topless photographs as she transitions, both social media sites have removed her pictures because they do not comply with the sites’ rules.
Demone, from Victoria, Canada told The Guardian, she’s hoping “the experiment will both help challenge the western sexualisation of female bodies and highlight how social networks categorise trans and non-binary people”.
The 24-year-old wonders at what point in her breast development stage is it taboo for them to be out. Since her transition Demone says she already feels “shameful” about having them be seen and believes a woman being unable to be topless in public is a “clear example of the sexism that comes with living in a female body.”
In 2011, booksellers Barnes & Noble and Borders created similar controversy, when they decided to censor transgender model, Andreja Pejic’s topless photo on the cover of Dossier magazine even though she hadn’t transitioned yet. They though worried the picture looked feminine enough to confuse their customers.
When The Guardian contacted Facebook and Instagram about their policy on nudity, they released a statement that said, they understood the importance of an individual’s personal journey (transitioning) and that they do their best to help people express themselves on their sites. But, for women like Demone and others like her who have identified themselves as trans women and use the pronoun she, their pictures are being censored.
Recently, Instagram deleted all pictures of Demone – where she is presenting as female – and flat chested . All except for one, where she presents herself as male.
When Instagram blocks a photo, they send you a message that suggests you review their community guidelines to “help keep Instagram safe.” Shortly after launching #DoIHaveBoobsNow, I received a comment on Instagram in which someone threatened to mutilate me. “I’ll make you a woman. Just give me a knife.” More than any other piece of anonymous hate, this one scared me and I felt sick for the rest of the day. I deleted and reported the comment, but Instagram never responded and their account is still active. The most insulting part of this whole project is that somehow direct threats receive no response, but my nipples make Instagram unsafe.”
On Twitter, Demone said: “It’s so gross that FB/IG spend so many resources policing nipples when threats, abuse, and harassment abound with little recourse”.
Demone’s campaign is an extension of actor and producer Lina Esco’s #FreeTheNipple initiative, which also aims to challenge society’s “censorship of women’s bodies and to desexualise the portrayal of female nipples in western culture”.
Celebrties like, Cara Delevingne, Naomi Campbell, Rihanna, Miley Cyrus and Rumer Willis have all come out in support of the campaign. When searching for the hashtag #freethenipple, users receive a notice informing them photographs under the hashtag have been removed for not meeting their nudity policies.
However, there are a few exceptions in the companies’ nudity policy, which states: “We always allow photos of women actively engaged in breastfeeding or showing breasts with post-mastectomy scarring.” Photographs of paintings, sculptures and other art forms that depict nude figures are also permitted.
Challenging the removal of her pictures on Instagram, Demone posted her pictures on Facebook with the hasgtag #DoIHaveBoobsNow? After which, Facebook sent her a notification that someone has reported her picture (where she presents as female) and that she had violated community rules, but they decided not to remove it, even though Demone’s specified gender is female on the network. A spokesperson for Facebook and Instagram said “this is in clear contradiction” to their policy.
Demone’s next step for her campaign, is to find how Facebook and Instagram reacts to the breasts and nipples of a trans man going through his transition, agencies report.