Remember that shirt depicting the menstruating vagina that got a lot of buzz a couple of weeks ago? Well, the artist behind it, 20-year-old photographer Petra Collins, caused another stir on the internet after she posted a photo of herself from the waist down wearing bikini bottoms. This photo led to Instagram deleting her account.
Why? Good question.
Why did this photo, out of the thousands of other photos of bikinis, get enough negative attention and reports to cause Instagram to slam down the ban hammer? Collins thinks she knows why: The image in question revealed her unshaven bikini line. Basically, there were pubes for days up in that photo, leading to cries of disgust and dismay.
In an op-ed for The Huffington Post, Collins said, “What I [had] was an image of MY body that didn’t meet society’s standard of ‘femininity.’ …I had obviously seen and felt the pressure to regulate my body, but never thought I would literally experience it.”
For the record, Instagram’s Terms of Service states, “You may not post violent, nude, partially nude, discriminatory, unlawful, infringing, hateful, pornographic or sexually suggestive photos or other content via the Service.”
I don’t know about you, but if these are the rules that Instagram has in place, then they’re doing a crappy job of maintaining it. How many times have you seen a photo of your friend wearing a bikini (partially nude) on Instagram? Just last week, Nicki Minaj posted a photo of herself wearing pasties over her nipples and some jewelry and nothing else and it is still up. I love Nicki, but it’s pretty obvious that her photo shows a lot more nudity than Collins’… and I’ve seen other photos on Instagram that have more nudity and sexual content than both of those photos combined.
Sure, we can say that other revealing photos just weren’t reported, but then we have to ask ourselves why? Why did this harmless photo of an unshaven bikini line draw so much ire? Why are we so disgusted by a woman having the nerve to wear bathing suit bottoms without shaving or waxing her body ahead of time? I mean, think about it! How many of us adhere to this fear of having people see a trail of stubble along our inner thigh at the beach? I know that I wouldn’t dare, but that’s because I’ve been conditioned to view visible pubic hair as unsightly, unattractive and inappropriate. Same with hairy arm pits and hairy legs and hairy faces.
Look, I’m not saying that all women need to stop shaving or anything like that. I’m going to keep shaving my armpits, removing my facial hair and wonder how many days in a row I’ll go without shaving my legs this month (answer: until I start to feel like a ’70s porn star). But I think that it is worth it for us to confront the unhealthy ways that we’ve been programmed to feel disgust towards our own bodies when they do things that they’re supposed to do.
At the end of the day, people weren’t disgusted that Collins’ posted a photo of herself wearing a bikini. They were disgusted that Collins’ posted a photo of herself wearing a bikini without preparing her body it in a way that allowed us to objectify her the way we’ve been conditioned to objectify women.
What do you think of the photo? Do you think that Instagram was right to ban Collins’ account? Tell us in the comments!