When it comes to its community guidelines, Instagram seems to have some serious double standards. This was highlighted last week when influencer Celeste Barber posted the same semi-nude photo as a Victoria’s Secret model and only one was flagged as inappropriate. Spoiler: It wasn’t the swimsuit model’s.
Barber has become known for her #challengeaccepted posts on social media, in which she recreates risqué photos of celebrities. Her posts show a more relatable and realistic take, accompanied by a caption that’s guaranteed to make you laugh out loud. The 38-year-old comedian, though perhaps unintentionally, was the pioneer of the “expectation vs. reality” meme, and her latest parody is going viral for an important reason.
Last week, Barber posted side-by-side photos of herself and model Candice Swanepoel. The photos show the side frame of both women, semi-nude in the same pose, clutching a bare breast through an unbuttoned shirt. “When you finally sit down and your kid asks for a drink,” the caption reads, referencing the look of agony on Barber’s face.
As with all of her posts, the likes (over 500,000 to date) and comments started rolling in. “This sums up the struggles of parenting,” one follower commented. Even Swanepoel chimed in, commenting, “How did you know that’s exactly what happened?!” But when fans started sharing Barber’s post, Instagram’s double standards became clear.
The social media platform immediately began removing ‘reposts’ of Barber's photo. “We removed your story because it goes against our Community Guidelines on nudity or sexual activity,” the app alerted anyone who tried to share the original post. This hypocrisy left fans confused and outraged, as the only difference in the photos is the two women’s body shape.
“Hey @instagram- Why is @angelcandice’s original photo is allowed but we can't share this one with @celestebarber?? #bodyshaming much?!” one follower wrote, tagging the app’s official account.
Later, in a series of Instagram Stories, Barber started reposting her fans' complaints, calling on Instagram to respond. She also shared a series of photos of models posing completely nude, writing “Allowed,” before reposting her original photo with “Not Allowed.”
“Hey Instagram, sort out your body-shaming standards, guys,” Barber wrote. “It's 2020. Catch up.”
Apparently, Instagram reached out to Barber to offer an apology. “Instagram emailed me an apology, bless, saying it was an error and that they are working to fix it. They also said that even the people that tried to share my post, will be able to,” she shared in a Story, adding, “They also said that they are going to review the breast-covering policy.”
But Barber isn’t standing down. Today, the comedian tested the platform’s promise by posting a new side-by-side shot, this time of her and supermodel Bella Hadid. In the photos, both women are nude, sitting cross-legged with black boxes added to cover their nipples. However, the box on Hadid’s photo is smaller, revealing some of her areola.
“Oh hi, just out here checking on your double standards,” Barber captioned the post.
Instagram's unclear community guidelines have been under scrutiny for years now, and of course, this isn’t the first time they’ve been called out on their hypocrisy. The app has a long history of censoring photos of bodies that do not fit the heteronormative standard. Racy photos of thin supermodels, influencers, and celebrities seem to be tolerated while average bodies, fat bodies, disabled bodies seem to be unfairly targeted.
Whether or not Instagram is actually working on changing its community guidelines, well, we will just have to wait and see. In the meantime, we love to see influencers like Barber calling out the platform’s double standards on body size and sexuality.
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