Wondering why there are naked pictures on your Facebook newsfeed this morning? Apparently, it's Nudity on Facebook Day. The page for the virtual event explains their mission, encouraging users to "post an image of a naked body on Facebook to protest its continuing censorship of artists, curators and critics who have been censored for posting art and images that depict the nude human body." It's a stand not only against the censorship of nudity on Facebook, but on all social media platforms — and, perhaps more importantly, it's a stand against society's assumption that nudity is a bad thing. Bodies are awesome, so why can't we celebrate them?
On the subject of censorship, Facebook discusses nudity specifically in their Community Standards, stating, "We restrict the display of nudity because some audiences within our global community may be sensitive to this type of content — particularly because of their cultural background or age." As a general sentiment, this standard seems reasonable to me; however, there's definitely a murky gray area, especially when it comes to female nudity. Social media sites have a habit of enforcing the rules for some people, but not for others, which is problematic (if you're going to have the rule, have it apply to everyone, regardless as to whether they happen to fit within society's set of arbitrary beauty standards); furthermore, these rules suggest that bodies and body parts are inherently sexual. (They're not.) And even aside from beauty standards and sex, there's a large controversy surrounding the censorship of nudity in art, period.
Nipples in particular remain a thorny topic. While Facebook does allow pictures depicting women breastfeeding, for example, they do not allow pictures of female nipples. On the topic of breastfeeding, Facebook says: "We agree that breastfeeding is natural and beautiful and we're glad to know that it's important for mothers to share their experiences with others on Facebook" — which is great, considering that breastfeeding is a natural and normal part of many parents' lives. However, Facebook does restrict pictures of the female breast if it includes the nipple. There are no such restrictions in place for male nipples.
Now, the female body is sexualized pretty constantly through depictions of women in the media, the pervasive nature of rape culture, and the over-sexualization of women in advertising, to name a few. With movements like #FreeTheNipple aiming to normalize the female body, through both social media presence and topless walks to normalize nipples, decisions to block or remove images containing female nipples feel like a step in the wrong direction.
Let me repeat that for emphasis: Most social media sites' community standards do not censor the male nipple. This reeks of a double standard which, in the end, only contributes to the normality of women as sexualized beings.
Of course, it isn't only Facebook who has come under fire for censoring women's bodies; Instagram has a history of censorship when it comes to women's bodies, as well. Though they have taken steps to rectify their previous policies and even apologizing to women, we do tend to see the same issues of censorship popping up there over and over again, which remains somewhat troubling.
In terms of Nudity on Facebook Day, the aim is to share nudity of both men and women, and there is not an exclusive focus on the female nipple. In my opinion, this is actually a good thing, as the hyper-sexualization of bodies in general can have long-term effects on people of either sex. Studies also show that posing nude can be empowering!
Check out #FBNudityDay on Facebook to see the hashtag in action.
Images: Jairo Alzate/Unsplash