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Social Media: The Next Weapon In Breaking Body Taboos.

By Zoya Pon for Marie Claire South Africa.

In March this year, Rupi Kaur made headlines after posting an image on Instagram of herself lying on a bed, with a small period stain on the crotch area of her pants. After Instagram deleted it, the photo (and media circus surrounding it) got everyone asking why a natural body process needs to be censored.

This incident, once again, made the world sit up and take notice of the general taboos surrounding women’s bodies. Specifically, how little we know and see of women’s bodies who aren’t groomed to conform to society’s monotonous beauty standards.

But Instagram, Twitter, YouTube and other social media channels are not only tools for oppression. In fact, there has been an uprising of female artists who post photos, videos and excerpts which urge other women to question what real body acceptance means. They’re talking about hair – armpit, lip, leg hair and bikini lines. They’re talking about menstruation. They’re talking about stretch marks, cellulite and nipples. They’re talking about the things that happen to many of our bodies – but are censored by society.

Arvida Bystrom and Molly Soda are two social media mavens on the frontline for female body acceptance. Both Molly and Arvida are well known for their unashamed posts in which they explore the links between the nude female body and sexuality. Their photos take you out of your comfort zone by visually cataloguing the female body in a non-sexualized, yet still bare way. They are (among women like Rupi Kaur,Alexandra Marzella and Saerah Lee) helping to push boundaries with regards to taboos surrounding the female body.

We asked Molly and Arvida what sparked their posts, what they’ve learnt, the power of the #selfie and what real body acceptance means to them.

Molly Soda

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Detroit-based digital artist, Molly Soda, 26, works across digital platforms using mediums such as videos, GIFS, vines, photos and tweets. 

Can you give us examples of how society/media censor women’s bodies ?

Women’s bodies are constantly being censored. If it doesn’t fit whatever society deems beautiful – generally hairless, thin and white – then it might as well not exist. Even online, our bodies are policed – photos are removed from Facebook and Instagram for “violating guidelines” everyday. I’ve had photos removed that didn’t have any nudity at all in them – what does that tell you?

What would you suggest to change the conditioning young girls and adult women face? 

Teaching girls to be positive (about themselves and about other women) and to openly talk about their bodies and their insecurities is important. I’ve found a lot of friendship and empowerment on the Internet. Having an open dialogue about why we feel the way we do about our bodies, why we are ashamed, and what we can do to work on that is necessary.

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Women’s bodies have evolved to be synonymous with sex, even if the body in question is not provocatively dressed or displayed. In what ways has this been highlighted by your photos  and what effect can this have on women and young girls?

Evolved? When have women’s bodies not been synonymous with sex? Isn’t it f*cked that over half of the world’s population is seen as an object and there’s not much they can do about it? I’m aware that everything I do, and every photo I post, will be sexualized to some extent – I ignore it but it’s still present.

What is the difference between commercialised body acceptance and real body acceptance?

Commercialised body acceptance – [like] the recent American Eagle Aerie campaign and the very popular Dove campaign – package the female body in this really neat and tidy way. [These girls] still have perfect skin, are gorgeous, really don’t look overweight or that radically different than other models to me.

I am so thankful for the Internet where I get to see and interact with real women. The selfie is so powerful. Women being able to control the way they are portrayed, instead of being packaged and sold to you under this guise of ‘body acceptance’ – is so important.

See Molly’s upcoming solo show, Molly Soda : From My Bedroom To Yoursat Annka Kultys Gallery in London (25th November- 16 January 2015).

Follow Molly on: Instagram Twitter Tumblr

Arvida Bystrom

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Arvidabystrom.se

Arvida is a 24-year-old photographer and artist who spends her time travelling between London, Los Angeles and Stockholm. Arvida caught the world’s attention with her pastel-hued Instagram posts that consist of unashamed and raw selfies exploring sexuality and body norms. Arvida has done multiple projects using film and photography. View her website to see more of her work.

Can you give us examples of how society/media censor women’s bodies ?

If you upload a photo where your nipple is visible, where some of your pubic hair shows or when you are wearing tights with a camel toe, these photos get taken down from platforms like Instagram and Facebook. This teaches us to be ashamed, hide and it is sexualising or deeming these photos as unsanitary.

What would you suggest to change the conditioning young girls and adults are subconsciously embedded with?

It is hard. I am happy porn isn’t on Instagram – there is too much porn out there, usually using bodies in a binary and sexist way. But also, forbidding certain body parts to be on Instagram is sexualising them when they are just like the rest of the body: harmless in itself.

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Women’s bodies have evolved to be synonymous with sex, even if the body in question is not provocatively dressed or displayed. In what ways has this been highlighted by your photos and what effect can this have on women and young girls?

It shows from the photos I put up online that then get taken down. Molly Soda [and I] are working on a book of submission built on photos that have been taken down due to the Instagram guidelines. It is never a good idea to sexualise a body as in the same breath you demonise sex. [This ties] women’s body parts to being only there for sexual pleasure – [It is] undermining a body’s worth.

What is the difference between commercialised body acceptance and real body acceptance?

Always’s ‘Like a girl’ is commercialised. [It] is a company that is trying to cover up periods, not using actual blood in their commercials, but trying to make a feminist point by doing a commercial that is built on feminist ideas. This can never be truly feminist to me. Feminism [isn’t something to] profit from and [neither] is true body positivity.

Follow Arvida on: Twitter, Tumblr, Instagram

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