There is a storm surrounding feminism: what it means to be a feminist and what it means to live in a feminist society.

At the end of last year, Facebook had 1.35 billion users and Instagram 300 million, making social media potentially one of the biggest catalysts in raising awareness of important issues.

However, they are now at the centre of debate surrounding feminism because of their arbitrary censorship of the female form. Lina Esco, the force behind the #freethenipple campaign argues: “An average American child sees over 200,000 violent acts including 16,000 murders on television by the age of 18. But that’s cool so long as they don’t see a nipple on Facebook or Instagram.”

Celebrities and campaigners have taken to social media to raise awareness of the gaping inequalities in society.

“When we have the power to create our own images en masse, we have the power to create a new narrative; one that flies in the face of what the mainstream would like us to look and act like.” – Jessica Valenti

The ‘Free the Nipple’ campaign, supported by Scout Willis (daughter of Demi Moore and Bruce Willis) Miley Cyrus and Rihanna, is pushing for women to be able to show their breasts the same way a man can show his chest.

Writer and artist Petra Collins had a photograph of herself in a bikini removed and her account disabled for violating Instagram’s terms and conditions because the picture contained pubic hair.

There are countless photographs of women in much less clothing readily available on Instagram, however their hairless images go unchallenged because they seem to fit in with the social conventions surrounding the female body.

According to Facebook’s recently clarified community guidelines: “The posting of violent or graphic content will not be removed if it is condemning it or raising awareness.”

However, “the restriction of some female breasts if they include the nipple,” because “some audiences within our global community may be sensitive to this type of content,” is frankly archaic and is miles away from the overwhelmingly liberal mass body of Facebook’s users.

How many women would be offended more by the sight of period blood, an areola, or pubic hair more than the horrifying images of fatally wounded children, that are deemed appropriate because they are ‘raising awareness.’

In her essay on XOJane website on the reasons behind her decision to walk the streets of NYC topless last year, Scout Willis outlined the issues that women face in modern society.

“Matters like the taboo of the nipple in the 21st Century, public breastfeeding, slut shaming, fat shaming, breast cancer awareness, body positivity, gender inequality, and censorship have found their way into mainstream discussion.”

The internet continues to disseminate this issue to the extent that actress Olivia Wilde is forced to defend her decision to publicly breastfeed her child, and a schoolgirl has her ‘feminist’ t-shirt blurred out by her headteacher to avoid offence; it does beg the question: who exactly is this offending?

In a recent piece for The Guardian, Jessica Valenti wrote: “When we have the power to create our own images en masse, we have the power to create a new narrative – one that flies in the face of what the mainstream would like us to look and act like.”

The end of the discrimination against the female body seems like the first step in the direction of gender equality, giving people the power to decide what they deem acceptable, rather than have guidelines handed to them. We will know then that we alone have the power to create and sustain positive change in society.

 

Featured Image by David Pursehouse via Flickr

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