The social photo-sharing service Instagram has come out in defence of its nudity rules after protests over its removal of images of topless women.
An online debate about women’s right to go topless began last week after Instagram removed an image that included nipples from its site.
Scout Willis, the 22-year-old daughter of Demi Moore and Bruce Willis, had posted a picture of a sweatshirt that she had designed, featuring two topless women. The image was taken down by the website.
In protest, Willis tweeted pictures of herself walking topless in New York, using the hashtag #FreeTheNipple to protest against instagram’s anti-nudity policy.
She tweeted: “@instagram there is no way 2 contact you directly, I would really appreciate response b/c you took a lot of memories from me b/c u h8 nips.”
But now the cofounder of Instagram, Kevin Systrom, has told the BBC that the site’s rules on nudity are fair.
“Our goal is really to make sure that Instagram, whether you’re a celebrity or not, is a safe place and that the content that gets posted is something that’s appropriate for teens and also for adults,” he told BBC Newsbeat.
But the question does have to be asked: why are images of the naked female breast considered by so many to be innapproriate?
Willis did not break any law when she took to the streets of New York topless to protest against the removal of her image – women walking the streets sans shirts is legal under New York state law.
And she is not the first celeb to fall foul of Instagram’s policy, either. Singer Rihanna closed her Instagram account in May after topless photos she had posted were blocked by the app.
Of course, it’s no surprise that instagram is averse to the sight of a female nipple. The service was bought in 2012 by the social networking giant Facebook, which also has a no-nudity policy.
Facebook has famously caused storms of protest in the past for removing images of mothers breastfeeding their babies.
And again the question has to be asked: why, when it’s perfectly OK for men to walk around topless and post photographs of themselves online doing so, is the same not OK for women?
Wouldn’t people much prefer pictures of female breasts to this?
Or even this?
Joking aside, this issue is very much a feminist one. Why shouldn’t women be treated in the same way as men?
Nobody puts the argument better than Scout Willis herself. In an essay that she wrote for the lifestyle site xoJane, Willis said: “In the 1930s, men’s nipples were just as provocative, shameful, and taboo as women’s are now, and men were protesting in much the same way. Men fought and they were heard, changing not only laws but social consciousness. And by 1936, men’s bare chests were accepted as the norm.
“So why is it that 80 years later women can’t seem to achieve the same for their chests? Why can’t a mother proudly breastfeed her child in public without feeling sexualised?… Why should I feel overly exposed because I choose not to wear a bra?
“What I am arguing for is a woman’s right to choose how she represents her body — and to make that choice based on personal desire and not a fear of how people will react to her or how society will judge her. No woman should be made to feel ashamed of her body.”