A new Instagram account is using closeup images of nipples to test the photo-sharing app’s notoriously strict policy on female nudity. The account, @genderless_nipples, publishes user-submitted photos of both male and female nipples, drawing attention to what many see as a clear double standard in Instagram’s moderation policy.
“Men are allowed to show their nipples, women's get banned,” the account’s bio reads. “Support ALL genders! Let's change this policy!”
Instagram and Facebook have come under strong criticism in recent years for aggressively censoring female nudity — sometimes to the point of absurdity. Facebook has used its policy to censor famous works of art, historical images, and photos of women undergoing mammograms. Instagram, which is owned by Facebook, even removed a photo of a cake because it looked like female breasts, as The Daily Dot notes.
The social media sites are entirely ambivalent about male nipples, however, as activists have been quick to point out. A 2015 campaign encouraged women to photoshop male nipples on their topless photos, in a test of Instagram’s censorship policy, while the #freethenipple movement calls on women to post topless photos in an ongoing effort to destigmatize the female breast.
All of the photos on @genderless_nipples are closeups, with submitters’ names and genders remaining anonymous. From this vantage point, it’s nearly impossible to distinguish male from female, which is entirely the point.
In an email to The Huffington Post, the account’s creators, Morgan-Lee Wagner, Evelyne Wyss, and Marco Russo, said they decided to launch the page during the US presidential election. (The account was originally launched under the @genderlessnipples handle, which was later hacked. It has since been restored.)
“During that period, so many horrible things were said by candidates, and their supporters, about woman rights and gender equality, that we decided we should do something about it,” the students wrote. “And what better way to start spreading a message of gender equality than pointing out the rules of social networks?”
It appears that the effort has already run afoul of Instagram’s community standards. A post published on Monday to @genderless_nipples said that one of its images was removed from the site. According to the account, it was a photo of a male nipple.
“Instagram, you can't even tell the difference between male and female nipples; who could!?” the caption reads. “So why even bother banning female nipples if they can be so similar?”