“I’m back on Facebook,” artist Micol Hebron told me on Monday, “but we’ll see how long it takes before they kick me off again.” She was temporarily banned from the social media site last Thursday after images she had posted were reported for violating Facebook’s “community standards” on nudity.
Hebron has been a vocal critic of gender disparity, both in the art world with her Gallery Tally Project, and regarding gender based online restrictions. Last summer she created the Internet Acceptable Male Nipple Template, a humorous attempt to skirt these restrictive internet guidelines. She downloaded an image of a male nipple from Wikipedia and posted it online, offering it to others to cover “offensive” female nipples to make them internet “safe.” The template was picked up by the #FreetheNipple campaign and The Huffington Post ran an article pasting the male pasties onto famous works of art, coincidentally on the same day she was banned from Facebook last week.
Her ban came only a day after she was let back on after a previous one-day ban. “Facebook took off one image from the nipple project and slapped me on the wrist and said ‘you’re banned for 24 hours,’ and then within two hours of being back on, someone reported four of my images,” Hebron said. “Someone must have been trolling my old photo albums and found images with nudity and reported three of those, and then they reported a Nona Faustine article (featuring photographs of the nude artist posing at sites of former slave markets). Meanwhile Justin Bieber’s bare butt standing on his yacht is no problem and PETA has a video of a woman getting airbrushed like an alligator and her boobs are front and center.”
What Hebron finds troubling is the fact that her images were set to the “friends only” privacy setting, so it must have been one of her “friends” who reported her. “Anyone who follows me has to know what my agenda is,” she said. “I’ve been invested in this conversation, and I don’t think I should have to give it up because some people outside the conversation don’t like it.”
As a private company, Facebook is of course allowed to set up guidelines for participants as they see fit, however it is the somewhat arbitrary nature of their policies that frustrates Hebron. “It’s really hypocritical because images of gore and violence are fine, on both Instangram and Facebook. The fat guy wearing a borat kini is ok, but Nona Faustine doing a political protest about slavery is not OK.” Ironically one of the images that was originally censored (even though Hebron is wearing male pasties in it) is still online, presumably since it was also her profile picture.
Hebron contacted Facebook regarding the ban, but says she has not received any response. Their “community standards” do note that “our policies can sometimes be more blunt than we would like and restrict content shared for legitimate purposes.” They also say that they “restrict some images of female breasts if they include the nipple, but we always allow photos of women actively engaged in breastfeeding or showing breasts with post-mastectomy scarring. We also allow photographs of paintings, sculptures, and other art that depicts nude figures.” Presumably this “other art” does not include photography.
Hebron has gotten some criticism from those who say that focusing on nipples is a small matter compared to larger issues of gender inequality. “I certainly agree,” she says, “but not valuing bodies equally is a fundamental issue and when you inherently value a certain demographic less, it leads to all of the other things. It leads to the wage gap, to domestic abuse, to rape. It’s at the core, when fundamental human respect doesn’t play out evenly on the field of images.”
also by Matt Stromberg
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