#Goddess is Everywhere

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Today I woke up to the news that Instagram has now banned the #goddess tag. What this means is you can use the tag, it just won’t show up in searches- essentially making all content with this tag invisible in search. #bringbackthegoddess as well as #goddesses tags have been used as work-arounds.

Instagram has not explained its reasoning. Women on the platform are guessing there was some kind of “pornographic” images using the tag. Surely if that is the case it would be easier to ban the IP addresses of those accounts abusing the #goddess tag instead of silencing a any pagan, heathen user, anyone who likes to call their friends a #goddess, anyone wanting to talk about history, literature or cultural production of the human race? Would they ban #God, #Allah, #Buddha? And what exactly would happen if they did? If they reinstate this tag but monitor it, what exactly will they be looking for?

Just a few weeks ago Instagram banned the body-positive tag #curvy, only to reinstate it with the warning that all #curvy tags will be monitored for content that Instagram finds offensive. And there is the ongoing nipple fiasco, where male nipples are OK, but female nipples in either a breast feeding portrait or in all their body-part glory will get you banned.

Back in the late 80s when I was a Women Studies major at San Francisco State, we debated stuff like this, as well as how to spell women, who could speak to oppression and other things that at the time seemed so academic to me.  The argument against anti-porn campaigns went something like this– if we demand patriarchal porn to be banned, the first people these laws will be used against will be feminist women working with images of the body. I wondered at the time how this would manifest.  If I could go back in time I could show my younger self this object lesson, except that there are no laws, no platforms for discussion with those in power. We’re subject to the whims of the ones who own our means of communication– I have tried to do with out them, believe me, but it doesn’t work if you have an online business and have friends all over the world.

Like the banning of curvy, this is an attack on women, albeit a stupid, petty one. This morning I feel such outrage, but it is only a reminder of that bit of ancestral memory, of being slowly or violently erased– what women have had to fight against for thousands of years– so much of our ancestors spiritual legacy has been renamed, rebuilt, built over in another God’s name, burned, raized, forgotten. I am under no illusion that the internet is a safe place for women, that it’s democratic or even forward looking, yet I’m not cynical enough for this to be routine.  It’s still met with rage.

Collage from Pagan Reveries blog
Collage from Pagan Reveries blog

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Collages from the Pagan Reveries Blog
Collages from the Pagan Reveries Blog

Censorship on Flickr

Today I received a threatening email from Flickr HQ claiming that I had violated the Flickr terms by posting this video clip of the World Naked Bike Ride in London. It said that if I continued to post questionable material my account would be suspended. I find this totally absurd, and it would be laughable except that increasingly Flickr has become a place of low-grade harassment for me. Other women must also experience this– smarm-spam in your inbox, asking you for pictures, or your own pictures favourited by someone who is collecting women’s bodies. Through looking at these sites one can see all manner of amateur porn, which is often quite voyueristic and disturbing. I don’t wish this content to be banned– I just click away. But I find it very ironic that there is so much of this on flickr and yet my super-low-res footage of nude people riding bikes is deemed so inappropriate that they are threatening to suspend my account. When I was a women studies major we often debated the idea of porn. Since I never looked at porn that often it was totally academic– that is until I started exploring the idea of nudity in my artwork. Suddenly the pro-porn feminist argument that said that anti-porn laws are used first against women doing body-positive things rang true. This is an example of just that. On a cursory level, it’s just (American) stupidity. But go a bit deeper and it becomes obvious this is indicative of a culturally-determined body hatred. It is easy to find pictures of women naked and subjugated on Flickr and across the web. Often women’s bodies have been concocted unnaturally for this kind of display. They are not “real”– they are coded for consumption– tanned, shaved, surgically altered, posed. The images I uploaded of the bike ride are human, playful, fun. It would be a stretch to even claim they are sexual. But looking at them you can’t help but feel the infectious happiness of the event, and even, as one of my friends put it, a little better about your own body. If Flickr is trying to save children from nudity, they are failing. What children will see on flickr are pornographic images which, to a sensitive child, will be disturbing not because of the lack of clothing but the demeaning/voyueristic/taboo aspect of the image. Healthy images of the human body, like the one I uploaded (which you can’t even see the ‘naughty bits’ frankly) are a violation of their code. No wonder children (especially little girls) grow up to hate their bodies.