Our treatment of body hair, whether we trim it, shave it, leave it, dye it, laser it or wax it, it’s all our decision. Hair removal should not be a prescribed behavior for women in order for them to qualify as feminine or beautiful, but that’s what Instagram told women when they deleted Petra Collins’ account. Refer to the above image to see what kind of bikini line images are allowed on Instagram (Petra’s is in the top left corner, the other three remain on Instagram).
You can read Collins’ reaction here to the censorship. I think she interprets it correctly, when she argues censorship of the female bodies represents the hate and distrust we have towards female bodies. In censoring female bodies across the media, we continue to constrain women within society; it’s society’s attempt to keep “femaleness” within set definitions and ideals, as if we’re afraid that if female bodies are to escape such conventions, they pose a threat to society. This type of attitude towards the representation of female bodies is dangerous to living female bodies.
In conclusion, Petra Collins asks,
To those who reported me, to those who are disgusted by my body, to those who commented “horrible” or “disgusting” on an image of ME, I want you to thoughtfully dissect your own reaction to these things, please think about WHY you felt this way, WHY this image was so shocking, WHY you have no tolerance for it.
Collins then concludes,
Hopefully you will come to understand that it might not be you thinking these things but society telling you how to think.
I know that the media tells us what to do with our bodies through what they choose to show us, but I often forget that what is omitted is equally important, which Petra’s article reminded me. In fact, this whole thing reminded me of a couple years ago when a Lane Bryant commercial featuring a model in plus-size lingerie was banned from ABC. I remember watching the commercial and thinking, how is this different than the Victoria’s Secret commercials we see? Okay, I see what’s different, the woman is larger and her breasts are larger than what is typically on television, therefore, it’s deemed indecent. Below are two lingerie advertisements; one is the banned Lane Bryant commercial and the other is Victoria’s Secret.
After watching the two commercials, you realize just how alike they are in everything, but the physical shape of the female body, and just how arbitrary it seems, to deem one appropriate and one inappropriate. But the media does this anyways. Why are we so surprised by the prevalence of harassment such as “fat-shaming” when the media’s censorship of things like the Lane Bryant commercial grants unspoken permission? Petra Collins meditates on this scary and accurate notion that real life imitates the media and even more so, now, online censorship and harassment can lead to real life censorship and harassment. Do you all agree with this thought? What are your personal reactions to either case of censorship? Can you think of other examples of censorship of female bodies?