Why Did This Plus-Positive Instagram Account Get Shut Down?

Screenshot: Courtesy of Charli Howard.
The fashion industry is evolving, much to our collective relief. And especially right now, you might have noticed that celebrating one's unique looks is (finally) paying off. Not-so-shockingly, however, the industry (and those who follow it) isn't as on board with certain aspects of the diversity movement as we'd hoped. The #AllWomanProject, an Instagram account and body-positive hashtag campaign started by models Charli Howard and Clémentine Desseaux, almost skirted naysayers, but was shut down yesterday due to "violating terms of service."

The account, along with its website, was filled with pictures and accompanying inspiring captions. When Howard and Desseaux attempted to log in to their account, they were stopped by an error message that read, "Your account has been disabled for violating our terms. Learn how you may be able to restore your account." The photos reflected real women and real bodies — no nudity in sight.

"By shutting our account down, you're reinstating the idea that the likes of cellulite and stretch marks are something to be ashamed of, which is beyond hurtful," Howard told Refinery29. "If you don't like our photos, then just unfollow us. But don't report us on the same level as porn or violence [for showing] a true representation of women that makes you uncomfortable." And she's right. Reporting violence is one thing, but flagging the account because it doesn't fit your own standards of what something "should" look like is another. Why are people still afraid to confront women's bodies?

Before it was shut down, the account gained recognition fairly quickly, going from zero to 17,000-plus followers in one month. Desseaux wonders if Instagram is a platform for only thin, conventionally beautiful people; a world where differences are hidden purposefully. Thankfully, their followers backed them up, and their personal accounts were flooded with messages of positivity and support.

One comment read: "Wow @bonjourclem! I woke up to your post this morning and feel a real mix of anger and sadness. At the age of 43, I finally feel like I fit my own skin, and accounts like @allwomanproject is what helped me get there. Healthy, yes, strong, yes, fit, hell yes.... Skinny, no, thigh gap no, and seriously, for the first time in my life I'm not chasing that. Please can you let us know what we can do to support getting the project back up?"
As of late last night, the @AllWomanProject account was restored. According to an Instagram rep, the incident was due to a spam filter mistake, which was later resolved by the company's engineers; the account was restored as soon as the company found out about the issue.

That's plausible, but there have been a number of times that women's bodies (and, specifically, female nudity) have been policed or censored on social media. Two years ago, Rihanna's account was deleted after she posted near-nude photos of herself. Instagram later claimed it suspended her account "by accident," but it took the singer approximately six months to make peace with the social platform and reinstate her account. Also in 2014, college student Samm Newman's Instagram account was suspended after she posted a photo of herself in her bra and underwear; the company later apologized. Exposed pubic hair, period stains, a belfie, and even a nude sketch have also resulted in account shutdowns or flagged posts.

We're certainly hoping the body-positive account's suspension was, indeed, an honest mistake. The #AllWomanProject is a safe space, and removing something so important and crucial to a movement that can only help the women who follow it is deeply problematic.

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