Should Instagram Stop Classifying Images Of Childbirth As Pornography?

Hate speech, violence and... childbirth.

A woman sits on a rock nursing her pregnant stomach.
Photo by Camila Cordeiro on Unsplash

Because even in the year 2018, Instagram social media sites still remove images of women during childbirth on the grounds that they’re akin to pornography. Categorised as offensive material alongside hate speech, threats of violence and porn, the Empowered Birth Project’s Instagram account consistently falls victim to Instagram’s rigid categorisation habits.

While the Empowered Birth Project is attempting to force a change of heart in the social network powers-that-be, they’re also trying to influence the mainstream, insisting that the removal of images is straight up censorship and plays into the long-held social belief that a woman’s body is only acceptable and desirable in a certain state.

The project

The movement was started in 2014 by Katie Vigos, an LA-based nurse who rallied to allow uncensored photos of childbirth on Instagram. The project currently boasts almost 285,000 Instagram followers and consistently posts images that are intended to inspire, educate and most importantly, normalise childbirth in the public eye.

After delivering her three children in different ways, the Empowered Birth Project was born just a few hours after her second son, following a life-affirming home birth that, to Vigos, represented “a spiritual awakening, a rite of passage, and a rebirth as a stronger and more powerful woman.

The overarching mission of the project is a change in perception. This is broken down into smaller goals on the project’s website:

  • To stimulate positive dialogue and change in birth culture
  • To guide individuals and their families to reclaim birth as a rite of passage
  • To reconnect society with postpartum practices
  • To advocate for women, children, and their families
  • To provide education, resources, and relevant tools for empowered birth, reproductive health, and social justice

Seems more than fair enough, amiright?

The battle

The issue at hand is Instagram’s zero-tolerance policy towards nudity and genitals regardless of context. The community guidelines state “we don’t allow nudity on Instagram. This includes photos, videos and some digitally created content that show sexual intercourse, genitals and close-ups of fully nude buttocks.”

In conversation with The Guardian, Vigos argues that these mis-informed guidelines “come from a social belief that the female body is only desirable and acceptable in a certain state, that vaginas are only OK when they’re clean, tight and hairless. Not only is this backward-thinking, it is also harmful, and upholds the taboo and stigma surrounding birth. It’s sending a message to women that your power to give birth is offensive and obscene, and should be hidden.”

The fight is one that women have endured, and won, before. A decade ago breastfeeding in the public eye was largely frowned upon, and social etiquette dictated that women simply couldn’t talk about menstruation. Well, the tides are a-turnin’, girls. 

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