Comment Editor Chelsie Henshaw discusses Instagram’s removal of content by plus-size women, following the outrage of model Francesca Perks

Written by Chelsie Henshaw

Censorship has always been an issue on Instagram, with women being censored far more on the app than their male counterparts. Yet, gender is no longer the only deciding factor for censorship, it seems that your weight and the appearance of your body is now considered. Recently, many bigger women have had their bikini and underwear selfies removed from Instagram, despite slimmer women not seeming to face the same regulations. Francesca Perks most recently challenged Instagram as they took down an image of her wearing a set from Ann Summers. Unfortunately, Instagram is riddled with double standards, and censorship of plus-size women is just the latest one.

Whilst Instagram’s seemingly fatphobic guidelines and algorithms have recently garnered much attention, this is not anything new. A simple search on Google reveals articles from 2018, and 2019 with some even from as far back as 2014. Yet, the issue has started to be addressed much more by those on the platform, as many are starting to call out Instagram. This increase of attention most likely correlates with the continuous support shown for body positivity and body confidence campaigns, and the current trend of being ‘real’ on Instagram. But why has it taken us so long to fully address the issue?

Francesca Perks most recently challenged Instagram as they took down an image of her wearing a set from Ann Summers

In society, the narrative surrounding weight, appearance and health is ingrained in the subconscious and is, therefore, truly damaging. No matter how far back in time you go, there is always an overt emphasis on the appearance of women. Women are consistently told that their value is derived from their appearance, and that ‘flaws’ devalue them. Girls are taught from a young age what societies expectations are. Open up a magazine and you will be overwhelmed with pictures of society’s definition of beautiful. Likewise, with many products on improving female appearance saturating the market, it is no wonder that girls and women struggle with body image. Everywhere you turn, there is something telling you to change. More positively, some are fighting the battle against the feeling of needing to change and promoting realness, yet they are being censored by Instagram.

Francesca Perks is the perfect example of this. She has embraced her body and encouraged her followers to do the same. Perks, among many others, is working to make Instagram much more inclusive. This is imperative for the many impressionable young girls who use Instagram, they should see unedited photos, photos in a natural ‘pose’ and everyday photos of bigger women, to normalise all bodies. Otherwise, we further maintain the slim body as the norm, which is damaging for so many.

The removal of such posts simply reinforces society’s ridiculous beauty standards

Another example of this censorship comes for the account @curvesbecomeher. Instagram deleted an image of three women wearing swimsuits and Aarti Olivia Dubey, owner of the account @curvesbecomeher, hit back saying ‘do 3 fat girls in swimsuits equate to gore, porn, racism, sexism? Or is it that people only want to see slim girls in swimsuits?’ Dubey’s response raises pertinent questions, because why are bigger women routinely censored over slimmer women? The only difference between the two is seemingly weight, and, therefore, the removal of such posts simply reinforces society’s ridiculous beauty standards and demonstrates the double standards of Instagram.

Recently, I read Invisible Women by Caroline Criado-Perez which discusses how algorithms can be biased towards men. Upon reading this, it seemed to me that Instagram’s algorithms themselves could be inherently fatphobic, which is extremely dangerous. Fatphobia is extremely detrimental to not only mental health, but also physical health. Many horror stories exist on the Internet about clinically overweight and obese people being misdiagnosed and not taken seriously because of their weight. This is often the case with eating disorders as society demands you fit the stereotype of appearing underweight for your experience to be validated, yet often those who have eating disorders appear to be a ‘normal’ weight or are in fact plus-size. The stereotypes surrounding eating disorder are an issue of their own, you can learn more about these here. People need to unlearn the prejudices society has taught them, otherwise those who are plus size will suffer the consequences.

Pictures of plus-size women have reportedly been shadow banned

Not enough light is being shed on this issue; I could not find a single article online about the censorship of Francesca Perks. Why is this issue not being reported on? Especially when it affects so many, with the average clothing size in the UK for a woman being a size 16. Society needs to stop telling women what they must look like, we do not need criteria telling us how to alter our appearance to be more appealing. The idealisation of women’s bodies needs to stop; women deserve to feel comfortable in their own appearances.

The issue of shadow banning is also one that affects many on the platform. Pictures of plus-size women have reportedly been shadow banned. Shadow banning is Instagram’s way of ‘hiding certain contents from its users.’ The fact that shadow banning seems to disproportionately affect plus-sized women further feeds into Instagram’s double standards. Instagram’s policy suggests that plus-size bodies should be hidden from the general public and perpetuates the idea that bigger bodies are undesirable.

More inclusivity is needed to combat the ideals of society which are so ingrained in the subconscious

Whilst the body positive campaigns on social media are certainly a right step in the direction, more needs to be done. We need to fight for equality for women and appreciate all shapes and sizes. The idea of ‘perfection’ and the resulting fatphobia is dangerous, it excludes plus-sized people, much like Instagram seems to be doing; plus-size bodies should not be censored. More inclusivity is needed to combat the ideals of society which are so ingrained in the subconscious.


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