Instagram Blames its Sexist Nipple Policy on Apple

This week, Instagram finally shed a little light on its refusal to shed a little skin. More specifically, its censorship on female nipples. In a Dazed Media conference on Wednesday, Instagram CEO Kevin Systrom talked nipples, censorship, and the apps relationship to #FreeTheNipple.

#FreeTheNipple, for anyone who either lives under a rock or is unfamiliar with the specifics, is a grassroots movement aimed towards gender equality and female empowerment. It stands vehemently against censorship and is dedicated to the de-seuxalization of the nipple in face of continuous oppression and objectification. Furthermore, #FreeTheNipple calls for policy change. As it stands, exposure is a crime in most states. In more conservative states like Louisiana, it can result in up to three years jail time and $2,500 in fines.

Because the movement disseminates its message primarily through film and social media, it’s a no brainer that high volume apps like Instagram and Twitter have been swept up into the controversy.

When questioned on censorship during the event on Wednesday, Systrom attributed Instagram’s nudity ban to Apple, which has extremely stringent regulations. For apps that engage a younger audience, Apple is even more strict. Because Instagram is a 12+ app rather than 17+, users are required to cover the nip or face the consequences. Even so, that hasn’t stopped major advocates like Miley Cyrus and Cara Delevigne from posting their bare tits.


Systrom claims the app faces a tricky position that by no means relates to a pro or anti stance on #FreeTheNipple. In order to house a bigger audience, the app has to sanction a 17+ status and with it all the wonderful nipples of the inter-webs. Really, such a shame.

But does it actually make sense that female nipples are a no-no but men can go nipple-wild and shirtless without any sort of parallel repercussion? Fed up, a number of activists took to their social pages a few months back, posting topless photos with photoshopped male nipples to cover their own. It seems a rather arbitrary decision to just ban female nipples.


It also seems ridiculous to ban a little nip slip when breasts are already largely exposed on the app – even if sans nipple. A full breast is essentially the same thing as a covered nipple, and to distinguish one as appropriate and the other inappropriate gives a false notion of standards, and denotes the nipple as the source of seuxalization. At the end of the day, #FreeTheNipple advocates know that nipples be nipples. They aren’t genitals, and therefore shouldn’t be so explicitly sexualized.

It’s not cool that Apple maintains these rules for its entire menu of apps, but can Instagram really pin it all on Apple? Twitter’s app status is 4+, but you find nipples left and right and even — gasp — uncensored material deemed pornographic. So why hasn’t Twitter gotten the ruler smack Instagram seems so afraid of? Twitter offsets it’s censoring responsibility by asking its users to censor themselves. Tweets can be marked as ‘sensitive’, effectively stripping (pun intended) Twitter of any deliberate offense to Apple. Clearly there are other ways to deal with the issue rather than an arbitrary ban.


Systrom wrapped up the interview noting that there are tons of other sites and nipple-housing mediums, like Twitter, to galvanize momentum. Instagram isn’t the only outlet for campaign support, and it isn’t trying to do the movement a disservice. That being said, given the app’s scope and size, free-reign nipples on Instagram could be huge channel to harness support for change. Maybe it’s time for Instagram to vamp up its settings and show our nipples some love — and some likes.

Photos via Decider and Daily Beast.

Related Stories

New Stories

Load More


Like Us On Facebook