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Instagram Bans the Hashtag #Curvy

Which is #stupid for so many reasons. Margaret Boykin weighs in.

07.17.15
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Instagram has banned #Curvy from its hashtag repertoire. Protests broke out among users of the photo-sharing platform almost immediately upon discovery, as did objections from body positive activists.

When questioned by Mashable, Instagram commented that #Curvy has been blocked due to the pornographic material the phrase was often linked to. “It was being used to share content that violates our guidelines around nudity,” an Instagram spokesperson responded. “Please note that the block has nothing to do with the term ‘curvy’ itself.”

Instagram’s logic is confusing: #clitoris, #dildo, #fat, #whorebag and #peniseverywhere are still up for grabs. #Vaginaboob is too. So what “social media science” is Instagram using to determine which hashtags stay and go? After all, this is the same company that briefly outlawed searching the eggplant emoji hashtag. That’s right — the purple, friendly-looking nightshade vegetable was used so frequently to tag lurid, phallic content that Instagram deemed it downright improper. Feel safer?

When you do try to unpack the reasoning behind the #curvy ban, it is discriminatory against plus-sized body types. Business Insider quoted Sarah Chiwaya, who blogs about plus-sized fashion and feels that curvier figures are consistently deemed more overtly sexual than svelte ones. “I think what this boils down to is the fact that curvier bodies are simply treated as more obscene than thin bodies,” she said, “even when there is just as much exposed.”

As someone who has always had a curvier figure, I agree: if I’m not careful with my tailoring and layering, an outfit that appears casual on one woman can make me look like I’m about to wash a car in a TRL-era music video.

Physically, fuller-figured women have more prominent hips, thighs and breasts which are more likely to be judged as overtly sexual — but whose fault is that? Curvy women, or the people passing the judgements?

And in this specific Instagram ban, who is being punished more by removing the #curvy hashtag — the lewd users who can jump to any of the other many available sexual hashtags, or the women who have now lost a hashtag used for building a body-positive community?

Neither curvy women nor the administrators at Instagram can control what words people attach to inappropriate images. The internet is a dark, dark place, and people’s brains work in mysterious ways. (I mean, eggplant emoji). To go about this hashtag policing part and parcel, banning various words in an effort to lock up a dictionary of inappropriate terms is a fool’s errand and a misstep for Instagram.

Their removal of #curvy serves as a good reminder that as it stands in America and within giant, corporate owned applications like Instagram, a woman’s body is still not really her own, but rather subject to the mercy of labels others bestow upon her.

Follow Margaret Boykin on Twitter.

Illustration by Elizabeth Graeber. Follow her on Instagram @elizabeth_draws.

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  • Elizabeth Tamkin

    This is one of my favorite Pop Culture pieces we’ve written. It’s absolutely mind-blowing what “censorship” entails. The line is always drawn in the wrong places and whose fault is that? The corporation? Our own for exploiting a term in inappropriate ways? Margaret Boykin, well done.

  • AlexaJuno

    “fuller-figured women have more prominent hips, thighs and breasts which are more likely to be judged as overtly sexual — but whose fault is that? Curvy women, or the people passing the judgements?”

    The people. This is absurd.

    • Aydan

      YES! But it happens all the time. It’s time for a gen public consciousness shift…I hope we get there.

  • Lua Jane

    As someone who has and will have curves at any weight I was and will be, and who was perpetually shamed, and eventually ashamed of them I find this offesive and absurd. Society has thousands of ways of convincing us our bodies are someohow wrong, unfit, shamefull, and this is probably the silliest, but yet so powerful of ways. #curvy means a certain shape. Nothing dirty, wrong, perverse. I think it’s a very wrong move of instagram.

    • SAME.

      I don’t even know how else to describe my body. I have the butt and breasts that women pay for. I have a body that I hated for years because I felt my gender was androgynous. I tolerate sexual harassment several times a week in NYC – even this morning during my run.

      I can take back the power from all the people that have objectified me through words and pictures I choose to post – until Instagram decided a word I used is pornographic.

      • Lua Jane

        Exactly. I know that exact feeling. Maybe, nowadays through the existence of Kardashians, Nicky Minaj and others, curves have become mainstream. But in the early 2000 they were mostly something to be ashamed of, or ridiculed for. There were options of hiding them in a frumpy clothes, being catcalled, and objectified by men, or being called fat by women even if you were definitely not. I struggled with it for a long time as a teenager, and feel very, very angry at someone deciding that one word that to me represents acceptance of what I was born as, is in some way pornographic. It’s plain stupid.

      • CLS

        ” I have the butt and breasts that women pay for. I have a body that I hated for years because I felt my gender was androgynous.”

        YES, THIS.

        I think although in the last 5-10 years curves have become more desired/mainstream via Kardashians/Nicki Minaj, they are almost exclusively seen, objectified or manipulated as being sex. Just walking sex. And that is the problem with the way we [are told, encouraged, manipulated to] think; curves = sex

        • Lua Jane

          Exactly, and with the discourse that says curves=sex=shallow=shamefull, we’re even today made feel like less fully human then super slim women. Look at even mainstream fashion? I love it and follow it passionatelly, but am continuously reminded that it’s not meant for me or the likes of me, because we don’t look certain way. That’s one of the reasons I really appreciate seeing every katie Sturino post here. She is gorgeous, with great style and in size and shape that more people can identify with.

  • dexter

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  • Jackie @ Kleiden drew

    Honey, baby, thank you so much. There are people who don’t like labels at all. Why should there be #curvy or #fireabs or any other hashtags? It gives others a reason to define our bodies yet again. I understand that. But if someone or a group of women choose to celebrate what they are #curvy #skinny #fit #justrightforme #Iloveme, etc. that’s awesome too. I am so OVER the idea that we are responsible for others hating or shaming our bodies. (Unless we promote unhealthy means to achieve any shape. I’m not cool w/that.) I know a young lady who is 6’1″ with hips that are disproportionately larger than the rest of her. Cake, ok? She got ’em honest from her dad! But her aunts tell her that it isn’t appropriate for her to wear leggings or stretchy pants because “men are going to follow her everywhere and won’t respect her”. Makes me furious that they blame her for the actions of others. And won’t give her ownership of her body and her style. Girl, you done got me started. I’ll stop here. I’m going to share this article with the young lady in question.

    • huff. Puhleez! I’m so irritated by the mentality that what a woman wears determines whether she is objectified or not. A man can objectify a woman wearing a baggy burlap sack–a three-piece pantsuit–a muumuu—overalls…. No skin-tight clothing necessary for objectification. At this point I just take it for granted that some dude somewhere will look at me as a sexual object without human thoughts, feelings, needs, or motivations. Because really, that’s the dude’s problem. Not mine.

  • Mary Stuart Baker

    THANK YOU!!!!

  • fashion is another way of art,please agree

  • Hereshoping Themayanswereright

    I would circumvent the ban by using #curvaceous

  • Maria Parker
  • How rude! There’s almost no hashtag I search (ex: #fashionblogger, #coffee, and #midwest) on Instagram that doesn’t contain nudity/sexual content to some extent. Maybe if they had some real grounds to back up their claims, I’d be slightly more willing to go with it (but probably not..).

    It’s a shame they had to target a word that actually was actually being harmless. #LeaveCurvyAlone

    Hannah | The Outfit Repeater

    • As I said in the Business Insider article, I’ve literally seen penises in the #puppies hashtag. Banning the tag is not the solution.

  • kip

    stupid for sure BUT their business ,Their rules , dont like then dont use , not rocket science

  • Kim Freedman

    I am a curvy woman. I resent what the word is being used to represent

  • NGL, doing a little happy dance because I was quoted on Man Repeller. *Insert 200 dancing lady emojis here*

    So glad to see MR covering this issue – this ban is part of a wider problem with objectifying and sexualizing women’s bodies. I haven’t tagged my own photos #curvy in years, but so many girls found body positive community via that hashtag, and I hate to see it squashed while tags like #dildo and #clitoris stand.

  • María Belén

    This is such a good piece. Sometimes I wonder how is possible that we hace grown so much as society to really, fully accept transgender women (whom are beautiful, and I totally support). But we still shame women for their bodies. It just baffles me.

    • good point. I don’t find it so coincidental that transgender people who identify as female (and may have been born and lived as males) are considered real human beings but people born female are not.

      • María Belén

        Yeah! I was actually also thinking that but I didn’t know if it was a stretch. Maybe deep down the sexism still prevails.

  • Aubrey Green

    #curvy