Now, a photographer has had her account suspended after she posted artfully shot images of women's pubic hair. Samantha Casolari, 41, who is based in New York and has worked with the likes of Prada, Nike and the New Yorker, was commissioned by Allure to shoot a series of portraits of women and their pubic hair last year.
The photo story was published last May and shows various women in different states of undress with their pubic hair on show, alongside musings from each woman about her relationship with her pubic hair. Their faces aren't visible and there is nothing overtly sexual about the images. It was a body-positive feature that was well received at the time.
A selection of the images were shared on Casolari's and Allure's Instagram accounts last year – so far so good. However, when the photographer shared more images from the shoot three weeks ago, Instagram disabled her account and she has since been unable to create a new one in her name.
One of the images she uploaded was a repost from Allure's Instagram account, which Casolari says was taken down three hours later. It remained on Allure's account for a while longer but has since also been removed.
The other two shots reposted by Casolari were censored, showing no full nudity, and "nothing that I could even remotely consider improper," she told Refinery29 UK. Indeed, she even put yellow shapes over the women's genitals. Yet Instagram disabled her account the following day for "violating community guidelines".
Casolari described Instagram's actions as "misogynist and objectifying as well as hypocritical". She said: "Censoring an image that shows pubic hair sends a pretty clear message to women – that we have to conform to a very specific body type: shaved and smooth legs and genitals. Pubic hair and body hair are not acceptable in a woman.
Censoring an image that shows pubic hair sends a pretty clear message to women – that we have to conform to a very specific body type
"This is a standpoint that belittles women and their personal choices in regards to their own bodies. We're in 2018 and considering all the lively debate surrounding women and their bodies, it's an extremely bigoted standpoint.
"Considering the endless number of images picturing fake body parts, pornographic poses, violence, guns etc etc, which are all, to me, the real troublesome [thing], I find it extremely hypocritical that they decide to let these up but vehemently prohibit something as innocent and as natural as body hair."
Casolari, who says she needs an Instagram account to promote her work as a photographer, said she has been trying to contact the company for clarification about why her account has been disabled for three weeks but has received no response.
Instagram's community guidelines aren't completely transparent when it comes to female pubic hair, although they are clearer on genitals. "We know that there are times when people might want to share nude images that are artistic or creative in nature, but for a variety of reasons, we don’t allow nudity on Instagram," they read.
"This includes photos, videos, and some digitally-created content that show sexual intercourse, genitals, and close-ups of fully-nude buttocks. It also includes some photos of female nipples," Instagram says, although it says post-mastectomy scarring and "women actively breastfeeding" are fine.
Instagram told Refinery29 UK that Casolari's account was suspended for repeatedly showing nudity and that the images, including the one posted by Allure's account, were taken down for the same reason,
Casolari accepts that Instagram needs to continue censoring images. "However, they have to do some soul searching, especially when it comes to these issues, as I'm not the first person this has happened to. How we – as women – decide to take care of our body and its hair is a personal choice, and no one should tell us what is appropriate and what is not. The fact that women's bodies being natural can be found offensive and in need of censorship is disturbing to me."
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