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Instagram’s Censorship Of A Black Plus-Sized Model’s Photo Raises Concern. Do Its Policies Have A Racial Bias?

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If you’re a wanderer on Instagram, you might have come across #IWantToSeeNyome trending on the social picture sharing platform. ICYMI, the hashtag is a public outrage over Instagram’s censorship of a photo posted by plus-sized model Nyome Nicholas-Williams and captured by photographer Alexandra Cameron which showcases Nyome’s aesthetically shot bare upper-body, covered by her strategically placed arms. Why? Because apparently it is content that features ‘nudity or sexual activity’ and goes against its community guidelines. Now you’d read the description and wonder, “Wait what? But that’s like such a common pose struck by so many users! Every second photo by Emily Ratajkowski is all that and more!”

Well, to answer your question, @emrata looks like this.

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A post shared by Emily Ratajkowski (@emrata) on

And @curvynyome looks like this.

Naturally, she must’ve offended so many people with her body, right?

Also Read: #Inspiration: A Woman Sought Advice On Choosing Between A PhD And Marriage On A Facebook Group. The Comments Prove That Women Choose Education

I’m a plus-sized brown woman, and I can vouch for how much work goes into posting a picture of yourself on social media. For me, at least. I’m obsessed with getting the angle right so that my double chin isn’t visible. I have a good side, and a particular sided hair partition that makes me look hot (I think). I have to suck those cheeks in just a little to make my face more angular, pose my arms a certain way so the flab doesn’t get amplified in the picture. I have to bend forward a little, and stand cross-legged because that is a flattering pose for my body-type. Oh, and sitting for a picture is a complete disaster because belly rolls are not good for the camera roll. I’ve to be the odd one out of all my friends, standing up while they are sitting down, or awkwardly positioning a pillow in my lap at all times to hide my tummy.

Even after doing all that, the final picture is still a gamble. Because, as Monica Geller once said, the camera adds ten pounds. And for someone who has so many already, you never really are sure how you’re going to be perceived.

And yet, despite most women going through this insecurity protocol on a regular basis, there are women like 28-year-old Nyome Nicholas-Williams who have the confidence to flaunt their bodies. The sheer empowerment that one such photo of a real woman and her real body can disseminate! I don’t say it for mere effect; countless hours of browsing the profiles of women like Ashley Graham and other plus size influencers has made me confident enough to wear my swimsuit on the beach and get photographed in it. After years of believing that certain lip colours aren’t suited for darker skin shades, when I see someone like a Lupita Nyong’o flaunt neon lip colours of my wildest dreams, I am motivated to try them on myself.

So obviously, Instagram’s policies that seem to think Nyome’s photo deserves to be taken down feel like a blow to my self-esteem. It means tomorrow, if I were to post a picture like that, and offend the sensibilities of someone who thinks fat and brown is ugly, I could be shut down too. Yeah, that’s not a nice look for a platform that turned its logo black and is asking its users to #ShareBlackStories in its own account bio. Rookie mistake. While I understand that people cannot be stopped from reporting posts like these, Instagram could at least moderate better? Is it too much to ask?

“What is it about a plus-size black woman’s body that is so offensive and so sexualised? The Playboy feed is filled with naked white models and it’s all for the male gaze, which is the opposite of what I do, and they’re allowed to stay,” said Cameron to The Guardian.

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Both of these photos I took. The first is a photo I took last week of @curvynyome and the second is a self portrait, ironically, taken to illustrate censorship. The latter has been on my feed since November 2018, the same place numerous images from mine and @curvynyome session, where she is wearing and covering more than I am in my self portrait, had been repeatedly removed. Although they have now been reinstated on our pages, they’re still being constantly removed from others. My photos of Nyome being taken down is pretty frustrating really, I worked hard on them, I’m proud of them, I think Nyome looks amazing and powerfuI and think they’re important so it’s quite annoying they’re being removed. For @curvynyome these images are literally of her. I cannot imagine Instagram deciding that the way I look is against community guildlines. I can’t imagine how it feels to be repeatedly censored and targeted just for being her. I’m lucky to have some amazing friends who feel as passionate about helping in situations like these and when I reached out to @ginamartin she was STRAIGHT ON IT and started the campaign #IWANTTOSEENYOME Share these images, don’t let Instagram silence us and, most of all, let’s do whatever we can to help stop Nyome being targeted! A lot of you have posted and had the images removed so now know first hand how angry it makes you, now imagine being @curvynyome – let’s elevate her voice! Thank you, from the bottom of my heart, to everyone who has shared these images and spread the campaign. News outlets have reached out and IT IS WORKING. Let’s keep this momentum going!

A post shared by Alexandra Cameron (@alex_cameron) on

And Cameron is right. Those protesting this censorship have one point alone and it is so valid, that it stands on its own. Why does it become so easy to suppress the voices of a particular community especially when we’re aware that it is already hard for them to be heard?

Fortunately, Instagram has admitted that its algorithm needs a relook. Both CEO Adam Mosseri and Vice President of Product, Vishal Shah, have addressed the growing concerns about the algorithmic bias and the need to examine better on case-to-case basis any such requests to censor content. And accepting there is a problem is the first step to solving it, right? And trends like #IWantToSeeNyome serve as ‘gentle’ reminders that change needs to be here soon.

As for Nyome Nicholas-Williams, she is not going to let this Instagram censorship drama bog her down. The influencer/model, who is of Dominican and Jamaican heritage, gets a lot of love from her 37.5k followers for posting content that is drenched in self-love, confidence, mental health and appreciation for her culture. She has already resumed posting her photos, especially since she has found out she isn’t alone in her struggle.

“It does make a difference to be out there as a fat, black woman and be proud. More black women have been getting in touch with me to say the same has happened to them. So I know I’m not alone.”

You do you, Nyome!

Also Read: This Lingerie Brand Casts Its Models On The Basis Of Their Story Rather Than Looks. We Think This “Anticasting” Is What Every Fashion Brand Should Do

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