Instagram censored Madonna's nipple. She had a mighty strong reaction, obviously

Instagram's 'legendary' censorship is back in news. Pop icon Madonna posted pictures of herself on November 26 that were deleted by Instagram on the same day. But why?

 |  5-minute read |   29-11-2021
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Instagram's 'legendary' censorship ban is back in the news. The platform has messed with Madonna this time, and well, what happened next was iconic. We'll get to that in a bit.

WHAT HAPPENED: Pop icon Madonna posted pictures of herself on November 26 that were censored and deleted by Instagram the same day. The musician reposted the pictures and explained that Instagram had told Madonna's management that they deleted her pictures because a small portion of her nipple was visible.

Instagram's policy on nudity states, "We know that there are times when people might want to share nude images that are artistic or creative in nature, but for a variety of reasons, we don't allow nudity on Instagram. This includes photos, videos, and some digitally-created content that show sexual intercourse, genitals, and close-ups of fully-nude buttocks. It also includes some photos of female nipples, but photos of post-mastectomy scarring and women actively breastfeeding are allowed. Nudity in photos of paintings and sculptures is OK, too."

Madonna is seen posing on a bed wearing fishnet tights and a bra in these pictures. She wrote in her Instagram caption, "It is still astounding to me that we live in a culture that allows every inch of a woman’s body to be shown except a nipple. As if that is the only part of a woman’s anatomy that could be sexualized. The nipple that nourishes the baby! Can’t a mans nipple be experienced as erotic ??!! (sic)" referencing to the #FreetheNipple movement. Here is the post: 

View this post on Instagram

A post shared by Madonna (@madonna)

The #FreetheNipple movement is a social media campaign that focuses on the general convention of allowing men to appear topless on social media while considering it sexually proactive or indecent for women to do the same. The movement has been supported by celebrities and has been featured in American film and television.


#FREETHENIPPLE IN POP CULTURE: Most recently Freeform's show, The Bold Type featured the movement in their first season. One of the main characters, Kat participates in #FreetheNipple by posting pictures with male nipples pasted onto women's bodies and goes against Instagram's guidelines. Her primary intention is to expose Instagram’s sexist censorship rules. Subsequently, her Editor-in-Chief asks her to withdraw her participation since Instagram had begun to red flag all of Kat's social media activity in favour of this movement. Here are some of the clips from the episode: 

BACK TO IRL: Madonna's post is NOT the first time Instagram has censored pictures that feature women's nipples in any capactity. The photo-sharing platform has censored such posts of celebrities many times in the past. Here are some of them that have faced the delete button: 


Back in 2014, Kendall had posted a picture of herself from the Marc Jacobs's New York Fashion Week show where she was seen wearing a sheer top that showed her breasts. Her sisters, Kim Kardashian and Khloe Kardashian shared the same picture and praised Kendall. Instagram had deleted all three of their posts and Kim ended up tweeting in frustration. Here is what she said: 


Also in 2014, Rihanna posted her Lui magazine cover that showed some nipple and as expected, Instagram censored the image. TMZ reported that Rihanna had received an email that said she 'needed to cover up, or risk losing her account entirely'. In response to the censoring and email, Rihanna posted this meme on her Insragram: 

View this post on Instagram

A post shared by badgalriri (@badgalriri)


The singer posted a black-and-white picture of herself that showed one of her breasts in entirety and captioned it, "Some lame a** deff gonna (flag) dat (s***) but f********k it #practicewhatchupreach #FreeTheNipple #freedats***." Instagram had then flagged this post and deleted it. In response, Miley went on to post more topless pictures of herself. (READ MORE HERE: Miley Cyrus Supports 'Free The Nipple' With Topless Photo)


In August 2021, Instagram censored a poster of Penelope Cruz’s latest film, Parallel Mothers. The artwork featured a lone breast dripping milk in front of a red background. The artist, Javier Jaén, shared the artwork on social media again and wrote in Spanish, “As expected @instagram has removed the poster we made for Almodóvar’s latest film #madresparalelas. I will post it again. Thank you for sharing it.” Here is the poster: 

View this post on Instagram

A post shared by Javier Jaén (@javier_jaen)

At the time Instagram’s parent company Facebook told the Associated Press that the poster was removed for breaking its guidelines, but then issued an apology. The company said in an emailed statement, "We do, however, make exceptions to allow nudity in certain circumstances, which includes when there’s clear artistic context. We’ve therefore restored posts sharing the Almodóvar movie poster to Instagram, and we’re really sorry for any confusion caused."

THE O: Blatant sexism isn't just present in professional and personal spaces but also on social media. Instagram's admancy to censor and 'hide' women's nipples while allowing men to post them however they want is a clear example of it. Instagram and its parent comapny, Facebook, have time and again shown a rapid response towards censoring such pictures and reminding users of its guidelines (interestingly, they fail to do so when confronted with fake news). Misguided priorities? 


Ishita Srivastava Ishita Srivastava @ishitassrivas

Ishita Srivastava is passionate about writing on Politics, Business, Lifestyle and Entertainment. She is a Sub editor at DailyO.

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