Not Just #Curvy: Instagram Goes After Women A Lot

by Emma Cueto

In one of the more bizarre pieces of news in the social media world, it turns out that #curvy is a banned search term on Instagram. Weird, right? As strange and baffling as this turn of events is, though, it certainly isn't the first time that Instagram has banned things that most people take no objection to.

So what's with the ban on #curvy? According to BuzzFeed, Instagram explains that they've made the term unsearchable because "it was being used to share images and videos that violated Instagram’s community guidelines around nudity." That's fair, I guess; however, Buzzfeed also points out that numerous related terms, including #curvybabe, #skinny, #fat, #fatpig, and even more explicit terms like #clitoris or #vibrator are still searchable, though some carry warnings. That's where the problem lies: In the fact that so many other hashtags, many of which are more explicit or offensive, are left alone, while #curvy — itself an innoccuous word — is shut down. If #curvy really was being used to share nude photos, why not issue a warning and monitor the tag instead of getting rid of it all together?

The questions, they mount. But then again, Instagram has a long history of objecting to rather surprising things. Like many social media platforms, their community guidelines are vague enough to allow them discretion about what they allow in practice and what they take down; as a result, there have been quite a few instances in which Instagram has used that discretion to target seemingly harmless photos — and in some cases, that targetting is still ongoing.

Here are six times Instagram has gone after some surprising targets. Or maybe not so surprising — you might note that they all involve women.

1. Rupi Kaur

Despite being fully clothed, Instagram took down artist Rapi Kaur's photo because it depicted her sweatpants stained with period blood. The site eventually put the photo back up after public outcry, but the implication that they initially thought period stains were in some way "mature content" remains pretty ludicrous.

2. Samm Newman

Plus-size blogger Samm Newman found her entire Instagram account deleted by the social media site after posting photos of herself in her underwear — something that thousands of thin women do every day, including some of the most popular Instagram users like Kim Kardashian. But apparently semi-nudity is only questionable when #curvy women do it? I know — it makes no sense. The lack of consistency as to when these rules are enforced and when they're not is a huge part of the problem.

3. Breast Feeding and Mastectomies


After much public outcry and a lot of backlash, Instagram finally removed their de facto bans on photos of breastfeeding mothers and women who have undergone double mastectomies, changing their terms of service to explicitly allow such photos. It's still pretty outrageous that they were ever deemed inappropriate in the first place, though. There is nothing inherently sexual about breastfeeding or about cancer, last I checked.

4. Megan Tonjes

Samm Newman isn't the only plus-sized blogger targetted by Instagram over underwear photos. Megan Tonjes's also had a photo of herself in her underwear deleted by the site, though they eventually restored it.

5. Sticks and Stones Magazine

It seems that, even if your lower half is adequately covered, you're still considered obscene if you also have visible pubic hair, as Sticks and Stones magazine found out. Instagram deleted a photo from the site of two models in bikinis who both had visible public hair. This, of course, despite the fact that there are thousand of bikini pics without public hair that are left alone on Instagram. No, as we all know, women's bodies are obscene in their natural state and must be altered in some way to become acceptable.

6. Women's Nipples

Instagram still doesn't allow any pictures that include a woman's nipples — though men's nipples are just fine, something people have been pointing out by Photoshopping men's nipples over topless women. Why do they consider the same anatomical feature on men to be acceptable while on women to be inappropriate? It can't be because women's nipples are attached to breasts or else they'd be censoring all the photos that include side boob. Very mysterious.

So what does it mean that most Instagram controversies seem to involve women's bodies? There was that memorable time that they blocked searches on the eggplant emoji, but on the whole it seems to be women who are most often censored. Coincidence? Or part of a patriarchal culture that seeks to objectify and police women's bodies? I'll let you be the judge.

Images: Samm Newman/Instagram; Getty; Meghan Tonjes/Instagram