In a move that quickly enraged the Internet, Instagram banned the hashtag “curvy” because the tag violated Instagram’s policies and was being used inappropriately to share pornographic material. As a follower of Kylie Jenner on Instagram, I casually stumble upon my quotient of unexpected sexy selfies without needing to explore too much, so I can’t comment on what level #curvy has blighted the application’s sterling reputation. For me, one of the great things about Instagram is that it’s relatively safe to scroll through in public, something that can’t be said of contemporaries like Tumblr or Reddit. On Instagram, I can be reasonably assured that when I look through my feed on the train, I’m going to see more artistic pictures of laptops and coffee than I will penises, and I appreciate that. But going the systemic route and blocking #curvy altogether is a really bizarre way to address a legitimate policy violation problem.
Because #curvy was apparently synonymous with naughty pix, I went on Instagram looking to find images that violate their policies. And I have to tell you, I didn’t have to get too creative to come across a fair number of penises and breasts. The individual offending images have been censored here, because unlike Instagram it just made more sense to me to block individual images rather than striking their hashtags from the record entirely.
Despite #curvy being blacklisted, images are still allowed to be tagged with #hot, #boobsfordays (which I mean, is that tag ever taking someone to a relatable Julie Louis-Dreyfus meme?), #sexybeast, and countless others that explicitly imply you’re going to come across pictures of some hot person’s naughty parts. It’s weird how prevalent these graphic images are, because Instagram’s policy on pornography and nudity seems pretty straightforward:
You may not post violent, nude, partially nude, discriminatory, unlawful, infringing, hateful, pornographic or sexually suggestive photos or other content via the Service.
Sure, sounds fine to me. But if you’ve been on Insta lately, it’s pretty obvious the application is cherrypicking when they’re enforcing their policies, and that’s the real crux of the issue. Why make an example of #curvy, a tag that has legitimacy in representing the body positive community on an important social media platform, when #boobsfordays gets to stick around? More to the point, if the issue is the misuse of tags or an effort to filter content that isn’t relevant, why do meaningless tags like #follow4follow have a home there?
What community does #follow4follow represent? Who does it bring together, aside from the Instagram users most desperate to raise their follower count? What message does it send, if any? Despite it’s apparent misuse, #curvy contributed to something important, worthwhile, and good, even though I disagree with the notion that “curvy” is interchangeable with “plus size.” Nevertheless, Instagram is an influential platform, and being able to glorify curvy (plus size, whatever, etc.) bodies there is significant.
I really wanted to give Instagram the benefit of the doubt that this epic ban had nothing to do with body policing, but when I searched #thin, I was surprised by what I found. First of all, I received this prompt on Instagram for the first time ever:
When I finally got to these #thin images that I fully expected to haunt me, I came across the mother load of Instagram porn (which has been censored for this article):
Look at all those images violating the terms! And right under our noses masquerading as #thin! Why would #curvy get tossed, but all this #thin porn remains? You can’t tell me the Official Tag Banners at Instagram didn’t search for related tags before making the decision that curvy had to be expunged for the good of Instagram. Clearly, people are using adjectives that often describe bodies to smuggle porn onto Instagram, and if that’s the case, why not ban all those tags? Curvy, thin, stocky, slender, pear-shaped, lithe–they all must go! Categorically ban them all if they’re so subversive, but don’t single curvy out.
Banning #curvy sends a really icky, crawly message, and gives deference to the idea that curvy bodies 1) first and foremost associated with sex above everything else (which isn’t something that should be assumed of any body type/size, if you ask me) and 2) have less right to be seen than some sexy beasts sharing what their stupid penis looks like with a Ludwig filter or #thin people simulating masturbation. Don’t get me wrong, it’s great that curves resoundingly connote sexiness, but it’s markedly less great (and borderline skeevy) to make a decision based on the presumption that titillation is primary function of curves and furthermore that those curves are somehow more dangerous or less desirable than #thinspiration or all those accounts that tell you how many squats will get you a great butt.
Not cool, Instagram. The next time you take some really weird measure to enforce your policies, do try to keep in mind that hashtags aren’t as precise as the Dewey Decimal system, so #curvy can easily become #curvee, #curvyyyyyyyyyyy, or #curvie, which might indicate you should pursue the individual users who post inappropriate pictures.