instagram deleted harley weir’s account over period blood
Social media still can't deal with women's bodies.
Photographer Harley Weir's Instagram account has been wiped after she shared an image from her i-D cover shoot Portraits of a Woman, which features model and activist Adwoa Aboah as well as Corey Washington and Alix Vernet, created for The Female Gaze issue
Weir first posted an edit from the shoot that showed Alix Vernet naked, her nipples and vagina pixelated so as not to invoke Instagram's' censoring wrath, which tends to be elicited by the naked female form, but the image was still removed.
After this photo was deleted by Instagram, Weir shared another version, this time of just the lower half of Vernet's naked body — again with her vagina pixelated. It was then that Weir's entire account was wiped. What these apparently offending images share that seems too much for social media to cope with is period blood, smeared between Vernet's thighs. Describing how the image came about, Weir says "Alix, who was modelling alongside [Adwoa] happened to start her period on set, I thought she looked absolutely stunning, so natural sat out in this parched yellow grass. It's a fantasy of mine to walk naked in a desert and let nature do its magic, this scene reminded me of that."
Weir says she didn't receive any negative comments about the image before it was removed, but did get positive ones from both men and women. "My work isn't pornographic and I really believe that images like these are important," says the artist. "It would be more than nice if the beauty in natural things could be seen for what they are, rather than grotesque."
Instagram is well-known for its censorship of women's bodies, from pubic hair protruding out the sides of underwear — which became a topic of international debate after photographer Petra Collins shared just such an image and had it quickly removed — to nipples, which has sparked a global feminist movement. It's not the first time an artist's work has been erased by Instagram over period blood. Last year writer and artist Rupi Kaur shared a photo of herself in bed wearing period-stained trousers. After it was removed she put out a statement challenging the misogyny of a platform (and a society) that has no qualms objectifying and commodifying the female body, but gets squeamish about menstruation in connection with a fully clothed female. As the story spread so did support for Rupi Kaur, and anger towards Instagram. The social media giant eventually re-published the image, saying it had been removed by mistake.
Responding to the censorship of her work Weir states, "I understand how difficult it must be for Instagram to police such a huge app and I also get the need to have rules regarding nudity, especially as an over 18 app rating would mean a lot less users...but I do feel wronged, Instagram is rife with offensive and masturbatory words and images that are not policed, the lines are very off."
Currently a groundswell of support for Harley Weir is growing across Instagram, with many calling for the photographer's account to restored and questioning both the idea that in 2016 an artist's work is being censored in this way, as well as the attitudes behind the belief that periods are obscene.
Since publication, Harley Weir's account has been reinstated, @harleyweir.
An Instagram spokesperson shared the following statement: "We apologise for the error made here. When reviewing reported content from the Instagram community, we do not always get it right and we wrongly removed this image and temporarily suspended this account. As soon as we were made aware of this error, we restored the content."
Photography Harley Weir