I think that often on the internet, especially on social media platforms focused around user-imagery, images of female bodies are expected live up to society’s standards of what is feminine. Powerful, influential women are judged by their looks–female celebrities are constantly fat-shamed because they’re pregnant. Another example is body hair on women, which is shown rarely to never in the mainstream media. If it is shown, it’s considered a vast political statement usually labeled as feminism, which is a bit questionable. Why isn’t it just accepted as an aesthetic, a display of preference?
We spoke about the deleted Sticks and Stones image. It’s believed that it was banned because of pubic hair peaking out from the two models’ bikini lines. It is important to acknowledge that currently in mainstream media the shaved look on women is considered desirable. Beauty standards are always changing. However, for this standard to be encouraged to the point that it is enforced by platform’s regulations seems to only limit women.
Relating to body hair, I heard a rumor that in his Calvin Klein shoot, Justin Bieber had body hair (a happy trail) photoshopped in. Does anyone know if this is true? Because if so, that is pretty insane–that women’s body hair is thought to be undesirable to the point of censoring it, while a young male pop star has had his lower-abdomen body hair intentionally included? I have never seen a female Calvin Klein model with any kind of body hair. Calvin Klein depictions are not nude, but often very provocative. How is a picture of an oiled up Eva Mendes in tight jeans and t-shirt, a look of ecstasy on her face any less provocative than two models in swimwear, a bit of pubic hair protruding?
All of this discussion makes me think about what, as a society, we consider to be sexual.
I think that it is important not to conflate nudity with sexuality. Everyone has different standards of what is sensual, so who is to say there is a universal standard of sexuality. Why does nakedness = sexuality? Why is a woman’s breasts inherently sexual, when a man’s bare chest is considered to be perfectly normal and acceptable? Lots of people find male nipples provocative. These sorts of ideas are the focal points of the “Free The Nipple” campaign, posting images such as this:
(Source: image source: http://mamasmilknochaser.com/2014/09/30/what-you-need-to-understand-about-free-the-nipple/)
Also in regards to breastfeeding pictures being taken down, the aforementioned blog(ger) makes a great point, saying “People need to see what female nipples are used for, just like female breasts should not only be on display when oiled up in music videos, selling beer, Photoshopped in fashion magazines, and serving as the subjects of “before & after” plastic surgery ads targeted toward adolescents.”
I read a bit about Scout Willis, a woman who walked around New York bare chested to exercise her right to do so. I’ve seen her a few times, which was pretty shocking because I had never seen bare breasts in a public space. I was with some male friends who began to comment on her breasts as if the automatic response was to judge her body. It seemed that everyone around was doing it. Some people made comments, took photos, or veered away form her on the street as if they were worried they’d contract a contagious disease from her nakedness. Willis released a documentary showing her experiences walking in NY, and the film was given rated NC-17, considered to be pornography.
It’s a sticky slope because I honestly don’t want sites like Instagram to be flooded with porn. My nine-year old cousin is a user, which is today’s reality. More and more children will be on the internet at a young age, and realistically some of the first sexuality they will discover will be online porn. I only hope that they will discover something other than intense, often violent porn that is all over the internet. I am not anti-porn in the least, but I do not think it should necessarily be the first glimpse of sexuality that a person is exposed to. I think that there needs to be controls of some sort in these spaces, maybe a “mature content” label that would restrict access. Distinctions need to be made, because without good distinctions, internet platforms err on the side of censorship, ever leaning towards censorship of the female body.