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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