An exploration into how women challenge censorship issues through photography in a fourth wave feminist context.

Katie Bywater

This research paper studies female representation in regards to challenging censorship issues on a digital platform. The paper sets a historical basis of feminist censorship issues imbedded in the second wave through using the case study Interior Scroll (1975) by Carolee Schneemann to explore the nude body in art. By focusing on censorship in a fourth wave feminist context the paper looks to the case study Pics Or It Didn’t Happen (2017) to explore the attitudes towards the representation of menstruation on Instagram. The psychoanalytic terms abjection and the uncanny will be implemented to underpin the fearful stance towards female bodily functions. By exploring perceptions of the female nipple in conjunction with feminist theory, the paper also discusses the contemporary feminist artist Ingrid Berthon-Moine and her censored image from Instagram. Throughout this research paper the suppression of the female body and its functions will be discussed with its relation to the fourth wave feminist issue: censorship.


Introduction

Censorship has been a prevalent feminist issue, in Feminism and Censorship, Catherine Itzin states ‘the purpose of censorship from beginning to end has been political: suppression’ (1988:36). The feminist movement has been categorized into waves that depict the main issues confronted in each wave. The first wave involved gaining the right for women to vote with its suffragette agitators (Chamberlain & Evans 2015:399). In the late 1960s came the second wave with focus shifting to the social and personal; women protested for equal pay and the right to determine the fate of their own bodies. The second wave also increased focus on sexual liberation in an attempt to progress beyond the oppressive gendered double standard. The third wave became more prolific in the early 1990s, and unlike the previous waves, it broadened its inclusivity by placing emphasis on the injustice queer and non- white women faced (Chamberlain & Evans 2015:399). The term fourth wave feminism resides in the post-digital where similar issues from each wave are present and fought against on social media. ‘The internet has facilitated the creation of a global community of feminists who use the Internet both for discussion and activism’ (Munro, 2013:23). However, censorship issues are most dominant in a social digital context and therefore making it a fourth wave feminist issue.

This research paper will investigate censorship issues that women have faced by firstly discussing the feminist avant-garde artist Carolee Schneemann and her performance work during the 1970’s, focusing on Interior Scroll (1975). This was a period where many female artists began exploring their feminine identities, raising awareness of the injustice female artists faced from being under represented and neglected by society, in a heavily male dominated art world. By understanding Schneemann’s contribution to the feminist artworks during the second wave of feminism, a historical basis will be given to the ways in which the female body has been oppressed in society. This is due to censorship and the suppression of female sexuality; this issue is still present in a fourth wave feminist context on digital social platforms by the constant removal of images featuring female bodies that are considered unacceptable.

Secondly, the paper will discuss the ways in which female users of Instagram have actively challenged its community guidelines. The book Pics Or It Didn’t Happen (2017) by Molly Soda and Arvida Byström is an archive of banned Instagram images. Many of the images included in this archive feature bodily functions such as phlegm, menstrual blood, and the female nipple. Two images from this book have been chosen for their representation of menstruation that actively challenge censorship issues on Instagram. These images will be analysed through a psychoanalytic lens focusing on the uncanny and abjection to underpin why these images are deemed unacceptable to society and therefore censored from the digital public realm.

Lastly, the paper will look into the contemporary feminist artist Ingrid Berthan- Moine. Her work comments on the absurdity of censoring female bodies that feature natural bodily functions; note her work Red Is The Colour (2009). This chapter will predominantly focus on a censored image by Berthon-Moine that was posted on Instagram. This in-depth analysis will discuss the symbolism of the rejected female nipple.

Throughout this paper each case study will be discussed with its challenge of patriarchal censoring and how this oppresses the female body and what it represents. Psychoanalytic theory will be applied through Kristeva’s idea of abjection and Freud’s interpretation of the uncanny, as well as adopting feminist theory to each chapter to understand the effect of censorship and how women challenge and subvert censorship to create social change.

Chapter 1: Carolee Schneemann and the Second Wave

‘Censorship is thoroughly tied up with the forces which discourage freedom of action and equality in our society, particularly for women’ (Nielson 1988:19). Feminism is a movement which has fought for equality and women’s rights since the nineteenth century, there are many issues that feminists face, one of them being censorship. As history confirms ‘legal censorship was frequently used to suppress books of sexual nature’ (Neilson 1988:24). This added to the sexual ignorance of society, ‘the media shapes our perceptions of each other. It influences our expectations and self image’ (Moore 1988:140). During the second wave of feminism, which arose in the 1960s, many female artists created avant-garde art as a means to express and reclaim their feminine identities transgressively. This was a movement not seen previously due to the patriarchy that favored male artists. ‘Feminist art is a political position, a set of ideas about the future of the world, which includes information about the history of women and our struggles and recognition of women as a class’ (Lippard 1980:362).

American artist Carolee Schneemann is known for her performances on discourses of sexuality, gender and the body. Much of Schneemann’s works have provoked censorious measures (Schneemann 1991:33). This chapter will focus on Schneemann’s performance Interior Scroll (1975). Interior Scroll (1975) was performed by Schneemann in New York at the exhibition Women Here and Now. The artist appeared wearing a sheet and informed the audience that she was going to read from her book, Ce ́zanne, she was a Great Painter. Unwrapping the sheet she then painted her body and face with mud to define its contours. Schneemann then climbed onto a table while she read, simultaneously performing a series of action poses familiar from life modelling. Schneemann then continued to read from a paper scroll that she gradually extracted from her vagina (Johnson 2010:277). The performance was documented by Anthony McCall, Schneemann’s partner at the time.

Schneemann faced a lot of issues for her performative work, while she wanted to raise issues of taboos and social bodies by using her own naked body to communicate her argument; the audience at the time mainly focused on her nude body. Laura Mulvey coined the term ‘male gaze’ and explains ‘pleasure in looking has been split between active/male and passive/female.

 
Figure 1. Interior Scroll Carolee Schneemann 1975


Figure 1. Interior Scroll Carolee Schneemann 1975

 

The determining male gaze projects its phantasy on to the female which is styled accordingly’ (1999:837). Schneemann’s body becoming an object to the male gaze rather than a subject for social change is where issues arose for her art. Sundberg notes that Schneemann 'performing in the nude was a way to try to break down boundaries and to (re-)establish the female body not only as object, but as subject. Taking the role as the active part, she intended to escape being the object to be looked at’ (Sundberg 2011:174). However, if we are to take into account John Berger’s discussion of the naked and the nude, he claims 'to be naked is to be oneself, to be nude is to be seen naked by others and yet not recognized for oneself’ (Berger 1972:54). Therefore by Schneemann appearing nude to the spectators she no longer has control over her feminist message and is therefore reduced to the description of ‘body beautiful’ (Sundberg 2011:173).

Kenneth Clark also formulated the discourse on the nude and the naked in The Nude: A Study of Ideal Art (1956) and discusses how the nude is already assumed as a female gendered term. Lynda Nead applies Clark’s theory in The Female Nude: Art, Obscenity and Sexuality (1992), stating ‘it is in the process of dropping the gendered prefix - the moment when the female nude simply becomes ‘the nude’ - that the male identity of artist and connoisseur, creator, and consumer of the female body, is fully installed’ (1992:13). When applying this concept to Schneemann’s performance, it would be appropriate to assume that the audience became the consumer of Schneemann’s naked body and thus turning it into a nude. ‘The pure and independent aesthetic experience is thus seriously compromised by the nude’ (Nead 1992:13), due to this Schneemann’s activism for reclaiming women’s bodies was compromised by the use of her body. Again, Schneemann could not escape being objectified by Western culture.

Schneemann discusses her transgressive work during the 1960s and 1970s in The Obscene Body/Politic and reflects that ‘[she] didn’t want to pull a scroll out of [her] vagina and read it in public, but the culture’s terror of [her] making overt what it wished to suppress fueled the image; it was essential to demonstrate this lived action about “vulvic space” against the abstraction of the female body and its loss of meaning’ (Schneemann 1991:33). This concept could be linked with Luce Irigaray’s discussion of ‘vaginal passivity’ (Irigaray 1985:23) in This Sex Which Is Not One, Irigaray debates that the subject of the female sex organ ‘represents the horror of nothing to see. A defect in this systematics of representation and desire. A "hole" in its scoptophilic lens. It is Greek statuary that this nothing-to-see has to be excluded, rejected, from such a scene of representation. Woman's genitals are simply absent, masked, sewn back up inside their ”crack"' (Irigaray 1985:26). When Schneemann discusses ‘the abstraction of the female body and its loss of meaning’ (1991:33) this could relate to the absent, genuine representation of female sexuality through means of censorship of books of a sexual nature and censorship of art. A result of years of oppressing women’s bodies has allowed for a suppressive attitude in society, much like Schneemann’s audience when reacting to her performances.

As Schneemann comments on the ‘culture’s terror’ of displaying her genitals in public (Schneemann 1991:33) this notion is discussed by Barbara Creed in The Monstrous Feminine (1993). Creed links the societal fear of the female body with representations of women in horror films and claims ‘that woman's womb - as with her other reproductive organs - signifies sexual difference and as such has the power to horrify woman's sexual other’ (Creed 1993:57). As 'Schneemann draws her words from her body as if giving birth to an artwork’ (Johnson 2010:275) this can construct a fear of the womb discussed in Creed’s The Monstrous Feminine (1993) and would suggest the ‘culture’s terror’ of her displaying such an act in public, this statement is supported when Creed notes that ‘the womb is still represented in cultural discourses as an object of horror’ (1993:57).


Chapter 2: Pics Or It Didn’t Happen (2017): Women of Instagram

According to Annie Blue, censorship controls women by limiting and dictating the conditions of their existence and assigning them to the status of an oppressed class (1988:105). Images of women are regarded as unacceptable to society if they do not conform to the typical way women are portrayed in mainstream media; women who are shaven; thin; and clean. This ideal is supported when society censors images that feature female body hair, menstruation and the female nipple. This chapter will focus on two images featured in the book Pics Or It Didn’t Happen (2017) by Arvida Byström and Molly Soda. This book is an archive of banned Instagram images. The collection of images features mostly women who have been actively challenging censorship, creating a visual dialogue on what society deems undesirable. Many of the images included in this archive represent bodily functions such as menstrual blood, as well as the female nipple.

In the book Volatile Bodies, Elizabeth Grosz writes ‘the body, as much as the psyche or the subject, can be regarded as a cultural and historical product’ (Grosz 1994:187). In Western culture the female reproductive system has always been regarded as a taboo subject, ‘most world religions place prohibitions on and prescribe codified purity rituals for menstruating women’ (Dunnavant and Roberts 2013:121). This attitude, which may have stemmed from religion, has lead to years of censorship of menstrual bloodstains due to the uncomfortable feelings it provokes.

This is evident in Figure 2, as the image was removed from Instagram. The short version of Instagram’s guidelines states ‘we want Instagram to continue to be an authentic and safe place for inspiration and expression [...] post only your own photos and videos and always follow the law. Respect everyone on Instagram, don’t spam people or post nudity’ (Instagram, 2018). The social platform also adds that some images of female nipples are classed as nudity (Instagram, 2018). Therefore according to these guidelines, as long as the image features no nudity, is legal and causes no harm, then there is no valid reason for an image to be taken down. Since the user of Figure 2 has self-censored her nipples by covering them with digital hearts, the image technically conforms to the social platforms guidelines, yet it has been censored and removed from the site.

 
Figure 2. Pics or It Didn't Happen Arvida Byström and Molly Soda 2017

Figure 2. Pics or It Didn't Happen Arvida Byström and Molly Soda 2017

 

One must therefore assume this is because of the menstrual bloodstain. If we return to the reading of The Monstrous Feminine, Creed discusses female characters in horror films; she argues that ‘when [the] woman is represented as monstrous it is almost always in relation to her mothering reproductive functions’ (Creed 1994:7). This revelation suggests how society has viewed the female body throughout history. This also supports the argument that Figure 2 was removed from Instagram as the menstrual bloodstain can make people feel uncomfortable, as it signifies something monstrous. The monstrous representation of women in horror films is a topic that is discussed often. Elizabeth Signorotti explores vampirism of women; 'the female body itself was demonized. According to Sian Macfie, "the function or dysfunction of the female body was juxtaposed with notions of the perceived threat of vampirism . . . [and these notions] were largely based upon a sense of women's association with blood [as a result of menstruation]’ (Signorotti 1996:610). This analysis further pushes the concept that menstruation is a function that should be feared.

Sigmund Freud discusses notions of the uncanny and that it ‘belongs to the realm of the frightening’ (Freud 2003:123). Freud’s underpinning of the uncanny is something that evokes fear of something that was once familiar (2003:124). When relating this with menstruation, it could be argued that due to the constant reminder that menstrual blood is a taboo through religion, films, and other media; it has created a fearful attitude in society that some aspects of the female body need to be censored in order to protect the public. This would conclude why users of Instagram report images that feature menstrual blood and why the social platform removes the images as it could be considered harmful.

Grosz discusses aspects of the female body that derives an uncomfortable response, she states that ‘body fluids have different indices of control, disgust, and revulsion. There is a kind of hierarchy of propriety governing these fluids themselves’ (Grosz 1994:195). Menstruation may be considered one of the most unclean bodily fluids in Western culture, Grosz explains this as ‘dirt, for her, is that which is not in its proper place, that which upsets or befuddles order’ (1994:192). It seems as Figure 2 was removed from Instagram, although it is not breaching Instagram’s guidelines, it could have been removed with the attitude that the menstrual blood is not in its ‘proper place’, meaning it should not be visible in the digital public realm. This argument is highlighted in The Monstrous Feminine when Creed discusses the horror film Carrie (1976), ‘Here, women's blood and pig's blood flow together, signifying horror, shame and humiliation. In this film, however, the mother speaks for the symbolic, identifying with an order which has defined women's sexuality as the source of all evil and menstruation as the sign of sin’ (Creed 1993:14). By society fearing female bodily functions this relates to a fourth wave feminist issue of censorship, as this further suppresses women’s rights to express the female body in a digital context.

It could be considered that women’s sexual desire and menstruation are linked. In The Curse: A Cultural History of Menstruation (1988) Delaney et al found that most women feel their peak of sexual desire during menstruation (1988:22). Freud claims that the origin of menstrual taboos are both a ‘recollection and a denial of an earlier stage in society when woman, like animals in heat, gave off a sexual signal at menstruation’ (Delaney et al 1998:7). Therefore, if we are to support this theory and return to the reading of Irigaray in The Sex Which Is Not One (1985) as she claims that society is ignorant towards female sexuality when she observes that ‘the penis [is] the only sexual organ of recognized value’ (1985:23). From this knowledge it could be understood that female sexuality is neglected by society. Freud also states ‘the psychological quintessence at the root of the dread of menstruating women is... the unconscious attraction they exert on men and the power of the opposite feeling restraining them’ (Delaney et al 1998:7-8). Therefore society and men are not only ignorant towards female sexuality, but also fearful. This would then support the argument that women’s sexual desire being linked to menstruation could explain a fear or neglect to menstruation. Again, censorship is a tool used to take power away from women, such as the removal of Figure 2 on Instagram.

To further understand why representations of menstrual blood are rejected from the digital public realm is to introduce the psychoanalytic term abjection, with its relation to the female body. In the book Powers of Horror, Julia Kristeva defines abjection as neither a subject nor object; ‘it is something that rejected from which one does not part, from which one does not protect oneself as from an object. Imaginary uncanniness and real threat, it beckons to us and ends up engulfing us’ (Kristeva 1982:4). Meaning it is a non-object that remains in the psyche that Kristeva believes is the consequence of repression (1982:2).

If we were to look at Figure 3 it would be apt to analyse the image through Freud’s understanding of the uncanny, and also Creed’s analysis of female representation in The Monstrous Feminine (1994). However it is important to understand why this image was banned from Instagram and appears in the archival book, Pics Or It Didn’t Happen (2017), by discussing Kristeva’s definition of the abject. It is interesting to note that there is no nudity, or menstrual blood, however there is a symbolic representation of menstrual blood by the use of red paint on the users underwear. Kristeva relates abjection to religion and discusses that menstrual defilement is ritually impure and contaminating (Kristeva, 1982:77). Therefore, society and Instagram even censor symbolic representations of menstruation. The Instagram user has also symbolised vomit coming from her mouth in this image, Kristeva also explains that abjection can trigger a nauseas response (Kristeva, 1982:3). Therefore if we were to analyse this image through a psychoanalytic lens, it would appear the user is commenting on the response society feels when facing menstruation. It is this response that causes someone to report an image that represents menstruation. Kristeva explains that we have an ‘unwillingness to have a face-to-face confrontation with the abject’ (Kristeva, 1982:209), this again would explain why society and Instagram censor such images rather than coming face to face with the response triggered from menstruation that causes these feelings of disgust.

 
Figure 3. Pics or It Didn't Happen Arvida Byström and Molly Soda 2017

Figure 3. Pics or It Didn't Happen Arvida Byström and Molly Soda 2017

 

In Figure 3 the user has positioned herself in what one could describe as a shrine, symbolically suggesting that what she represents in the shrine is important and deserves respect. Menstruation is negatively seen in some religions (Delaney et al 1988:19), therefore as the user is displaying a symbolic representation of menstrual blood in a shrine (a religious symbol) this therefore subverts the idea that it should not be censored or feared and rather worshipped, claiming the blood is in its ‘proper place’. Grosz discusses Irigaray’s claims on the ‘disquiet about the fluid, the viscous, the half-formed, or the indeterminate has to do with the cultural unrepresentability of fluids within prevailing philosophical models of ontology’ (1994:195). This image therefore creates a representation of menstruation through religious iconography; suggesting we should not fear menstruation contrary to how it has been perceived in religion or lack of representation.

By further breaking down the symbolic messages in Figure 3 it is interesting to acknowledge the props the Instagram user has utilized to create this portrait, such as cherries. In the article Sexing Up The Cherry (2017) Amy Jeffs and Mary Wellesley discuss the varying symbolism of the cherry throughout history. They reveal that in religion the cherry has symbolized the 'idea of spiritual riches or the hope of riches to come, frequently associated with virginity and the Virgin’ (2017:80). In modern popular culture the cherry is a symbol for sex and more notably female sexuality, supported by the common phrase ‘popping the cherry’ which alludes to a woman losing her virginity. (2017:78). The user in Figure 3 has intentionally placed a cherry in the image; this may be to create a discourse on religious views of female sexuality and bodily functions, similar to the use of the shrine.

 
Figure 4. Cherry Girl Joseph Caraud 1875

Figure 4. Cherry Girl Joseph Caraud 1875

 

The painting Cherry Girl (1875) by Joseph Caraud features a young women wearing a white apron drawing a bowl of cherries towards herself, ‘the threat of staining the apron at the level of her pelvis is suggestive enough [...] the painting reads like a fantasy of the ‘good’ girl with ‘bad’ ideas’ (Jeffs & Wellesley 2017:81). She has a confident gaze fixed on the viewer further connoting a provocative attitude with the cherries symbolizing ‘youth and desire’ (2017:81). In contrast with Figure 3, the users gaze is dead pan, portraying an almost disinterest in the viewer. Therefore Figure 3 could be visually commenting on the fickle attitude of society that celebrates female virtue (symbolized with a cherry) but rejecting female sexuality in regards to her bodily functions through censoring on Instagram.

Although images of menstruation on Instagram are not mentioned in the guidelines, Instagram does mention that it is a ‘safe place’ (Instagram, 2018). Figure 2 and 3 then may be considered unsafe as they were removed due to attitudes of horror and uncanniness. The current attitude towards menstruation is linked with shame, taboos, uncleanliness and fear. Creed notes this in The Monstrous Feminine, ‘as we have seen, the feminine, particularly the maternal, is constructed as unclean specifically in relation to menstruation and childbirth’ (1993:42). To create social change in a fourth wave feminist context this attitude needs to be changed. It is appropriate for women to reclaim their feminine identities on a digital platform, such as Instagram, to comment on the absurdity of censoring and oppressing a bodily function that signifies health and femininity.

CHAPTER 3




Censored on Instagram: Ingrid Berthon-Moine




Fourth wave feminism ‘centers on the opportunities provided by the Internet for feminist activism and political participation’ (Megarry 2018:1074). Contemporary feminist artist Ingrid Berthon-Moine is known for her explorations into gender representation and the body through photography and other media, commenting on similar themes of that of the feminist artists of the second-wave, such as Carolee Schneemann. Berthon-Moine has also contributed to the ongoing activism on the taboo of menstruation with her body of work Red Is The Colour (2009). The title itself leads to the context of the project as the colour red connotates blood and danger (Elliot & Maier 2012:72). These associations with the colour red reinforce the fearful response to menstrual blood. ‘Menstruation is part of a complex and enduring feminist project of loosening the social control of women’s bodies, of working to move women’s bodies from object to subject status’ (Bobel and Kissling 2011:123). Berthon-Moine’s work displays twelve images of women wearing their period blood as lipstick, each image suggesting that a ‘woman’s period is a passport which signals the most intimate individual journey towards feminine maturity’ (Berthon-Moine 2011:247), the work aims to appreciate the health and femininity of menstruation and begins to subvert the notion that menstruation should be a hidden bodily process. Berthon-Moine could be considered a fourth wave feminist as she also displays much of her work on her Instagram account that explores gender issues. However due to the explicit nature in her art there is no surprise that her images are more often that not censored and removed from Instagram, such as Figure 5.

 
Figure 5. Untitled Ingrid Berthon-Moine 2018

Figure 5. Untitled Ingrid Berthon-Moine 2018

 

It is pertinent to question whether this image was removed due to the female nipple or the violence indicated. As it states in Instagram’s community guidelines, the female nipple is not to be displayed unless it is from actively breastfeeding, and images will be removed if they glorify self-injury (Instagram, 2018). It could be argued that this image was censored due to both issues, however it should be discussed why the female nipple is censored and not the male. Sara Ahmed discusses gender issues in her book Living A Feminist Life and considers that 'gender becomes a matter of consequence. The same actions have different consequences for boys and girls. We learn from this: to suffer the cost of a judgment can be about who you are rather than what you do’ (Ahmed 2017:68). This highlights the injustice that women face in a digital context because of their gender; the female nipple is censored, menstrual blood is censored. This constant censoring of the female body takes away women’s control of how they represent themselves on Instagram. Megarry states 'thus, social media platforms actively, but not always transparently, perpetuate patriarchal values’ (Megarry 2018:1074). If a male were to post the same image it would be less likely for the image to be removed due to the gender of the nipple.

Ahmed discusses in her other book Differences That Matter that 'for bodies are never simply and literally bodies: they are always inscribed within a system of value differentiation; they are gendered and racially marked; they have weight, height, age; they may be healthy or unhealthy’ (Ahmed 1998:27). The unjust fact that Instagram only allows a female nipple to be shown on its platform if it represents active breastfeeding or of post-mastectomy scarring (Instagram 2018) therefore determines that the female nipple can only be presented when it is maternal, severed, or removed. This further pushes the idea that maternal nipples are not sexualised by society.

Due to an approved version of the female nipple allowed to be posted on Instagram again suppresses women’s rights to express their differing femininity, this is offensive for society to comment on when a female can be sexualised or represented. This issue has been raised during the second wave that Susan Bordo discusses in Unbearable Weight: Feminism, Western Culture, and the Body where she explains that the ‘“No More Miss America” demonstration was the event that earned [...] the reputation for being "bra- burners’ (Bordo 1993:20). This highlighted the social control on the female body, ‘the deep political meaning of women’s refusal to “discipline” [their] breast, culturally required to be so exclusively “for” the other-whether as instrument and symbol of nurturing love, or as erotic fetish’ (1993:20). This issue is still resonating in fourth wave feminism on the digital social platform Instagram, as breasts still need to be disciplined and follow the rules if they are to be represented.

The act of cutting the nipple in Figure 5 acts as a metaphor of rejecting the female nipple, similarly to how society rejects the female nipple through censoring. Berthon-Moine is representing censoring of the female nipple in a violent manner. James Elkins discusses how we see art in The Object Stares Back and claims ‘the choice has to be made every time a body is represented: Will the pictured body express discomfort or pain, even if that pain is only spiritual?’ (Elkins 1996:136). Berthon-Moine’s choice of scissors as an instrument to communicate the removal of her nipple could express a spiritual discomfort, that many females may feel as it could be considered painful for the female body to be rejected from society, allowing for suppression of the female nipple. Elkins also examines how we cause injury; ‘to deform is to misshape, or to destroy beauty. But there is also “distention” (from distendere, “to stretch”), “dissolution” (from solvere, “to loosen”), “dissection” (from secare, “to cut”), “disruption” (from rumpere, “to break”), and “disjoin” (from jungere, “to join”). It is a bloody list, conjuring violence and injury’ (1996:136). Each of these violent words could describe what Berthon-Moine is doing to her nipple; again this could metaphorically show the violence society creates through censorship to women. Relating back to Carolee Schneemann who wrote about the patriarchal culture creating myths in The Obscene Body/Politic states ‘projection deforms perception of the female body’ (1991:28), from this we could apply censorship to endorse the ‘proper’ female representation, adding to the ongoing misrepresentation of the female body and sexuality. Margaret Whitford discusses female identity in Luce Irigaray: Philosophy in the Feminine and debates that 'the deconstruction of identity continues to leave women in a state of fragmentation and dissemination which reproduces and perpetuates the patriarchal violence that separates women’ (Whitford 1991:123), this argument could also partner with the symbolism in Berthon-Moine’s image, implying that the censoring of women’s images breaks down their identity allowing for more social control over their bodies.

The violence suggested in Figure 5 could also signify the violence women face on a day-to-day basis, such as sexual abuse. In the book The Art Of Cruelty, Maggie Nelson investigates the nature of violence in art and how we react to it. She discusses the movie posters for Captivity (2007) each poster that was billboarded around Los Angeles and pasted on New York taxicabs were 'divided into four panels, each charting a woman’s progress through four possible stages of being: “abduction,” “confinement,” “torture,” and “termination.”' (Nelson 2011:45-6). All of these posters were censored and taken down, apart from the confinement panel, after a public outcry from offended women, and the posters could be described of glorifying sexual torture. (Nelson 2011:46-7). Due to the censoring of the posters, this advertently created interest and publicity due to the controversy of the posters. This therefore encouraged people pay to see the film to satisfy their ‘wonder [of] what other forms of torture they weren’t allowed to see’ (Nelson 2011:48). The face of Captivity served a daily reminder of the cultural and political forces working overtime to normalize - or in this case, make sexualised torture sexy (Nelson 2011:49). Popular films and other media glorifying sexual torture could possibly add to the sexual abuse of women (Nelson 2011:50). However, in Figure 5, as Berthon-Moine is abusing herself, it does not provoke sexual feelings, contrasting to the image posters for Captivity. Therefore it could be debated that Berthon-Moine’s image was not appreciated by society, and therefore reported, as the violence is not sexualised in this context as she is torturing herself.

Berthon-Moine’s use of violence could be considered as a method to raise awareness for the issue of censoring the female nipple. By channeling her feelings towards the censorship of women, she has physically censored herself with scissors. In contrast to this, the user in Figure 2 has self-censored her nipples with digitalized hearts, rather than inflicting injury to herself. It could be argued that the user in Figure 2 is keeping a fragment of her femininity by using heart symbols to censor her nipples, a result of the hearts alluding to where her nipples would be. Contrastingly, Berthon-Moine is completely severing her femininity away from her body. Figure 5 is not conventionally aesthetically appealing due to harsh lighting. This adds a clinical feel to the image, thus reinforcing the medical procedure of cutting off the nipple, the symbol that identifies a female body. This image does not appear staged and therefore has a realistic quality. Returning to the discourse on the nude and the naked, it could be observed that Berthon-Moine is naked in this image, rather than nude. As Berger exclaims 'a naked body has to be seen as an object in order to become a nude' (Berger 1972:54), therefore Figure 5 has not become an object to the viewer, thus this image has the freedom to explore the feminist message ‘free the nipple’ (before it was censored). Unlike Schneemann in Interior Scroll (1975) as her body was objectified by the male gaze; perceiving her body as nude for visual pleasure, therefore overshadowing her feminist message.


CONCLUSION

Patriarchal censoring is a fourth wave feminist issue that has suppressed women’s rights to represent their bodies, femininity and sexuality. In Pics Or It Didn’t Happen (2017) Molly Soda and Arvida Byström explored what types of bodies Instagram considers dangerous and which bodies they regard as safe. They concluded that bodies that were typically subject to digital censoring were ‘photographs of genitalia, bare butts, female nipples, period stains, liquids resembling vaginal secretions and pubic hair’ (2017:16). Ahmed discusses the removal of feminist activism in Living a Feminist Life, ‘feminism is treated as a removal from the world rather than engagement with the world’ (2017:38). This directly compares to the removal of women’s images expressing their bodies, identity and sexuality. Throughout each stage of feminism it has fought to reclaim control of women’s bodies, in a fourth wave context digital censorship hinders feminist activism.

Schneemann added to the discourse of gender differences by exposing the vagina as more than ‘a hole-envelope that serves to sheathe and massage the penis in intercourse: a non-sex’ (Irigaray 1985:23). Although her work was made for social change, her performance was still reduced to her nude body, constructed by the spectator as Berger explains; 'she is not naked as she is. She is naked as the spectator sees her' (1972:50). Much of Schneemann’s work was censored and therefore halting the progressive message she wanted to share through her art. Censorship has been regarded as a tactic to oppress women, Annie Blue stresses ‘only those who possess power – men – have the means of controlling/censoring/limiting those who do not [...] men have economic, physical and social power; women challenge this and name the means by which we are oppressed, we are identifying the acts of censorship which control us’ (1988:105). Censorship in the digital age has posed as a fourth wave feminist issue, it has contributed to visually silencing women when they take control of their own representation, as seen in Pics Or It Didn’t Happen (2017). The women featured in this book could be seen as subverting and challenging censorship issues through methods of symbolization and creative self-censoring, as seen in Figure 2 and 3.

The fearful attitudes to female sexuality and bodily functions have come from taboos, which has been enriched throughout history and religion. ‘In many societies, the menstruating woman is believed to emit a mana, or threatening supernatural power.’ (Delaney et al 1988:7). Due to these beliefs, menstruation became a taboo, ‘taboos exist to protect human beings from danger’ (Delaney et al 1988:7). Censorship endorses this taboo and supports the fear menstruation provokes. This is discussed in The Monstrous Feminine where women are envisioned as monstrous and their evil powers stem from their sexuality and maternal processes; ‘it is woman's sexuality, that which renders them desirable - but also threatening - to men, which constitutes the real problem that the horror cinema exists to explore’ (Creed 1993:5). Freud’s discourse on the uncanny is one way to underpin why society fears female bodily functions as he states ‘the uncanny is intellectual uncertainty’ (2003:125), therefore censorship has lead to this uncertainty of female sexuality and its bodily functions. If we were exposed to representations of menstruation, and other representations of the female body through media (as presented in each case study) then this would allow for society to understand female anatomy, sexuality and its functions, thus diminishing the fear it once provoked.

In Volatile Bodies Grosz explores notions of the rebellious body including how the body is rejected by society if it does not conform to the idealised representation. If a female body does not imitate a ‘proper body, the obedient, law-abiding, social body’ (1994:192) then this is where censorship establishes its power to control how women are portrayed in the digital public realm. Ingrid Berthon-Moine’s banned Instagram image could have been removed due to being considered rebellious. Due to the feminist message the image highlights through the removal of the nipple, this nods towards oppressive censorship that eliminates femininity.

Each case study used in this paper has allowed for an exploration into how censorship has acted as a tool to suppress women, producing ignorance towards female sexuality, and representations of female bodily processes. Fourth wave feminism has allowed for new ways to create visual dialogues on current issues women are facing. Subverting censorship has allowed for a discourse to be made about the absurdity of certain cases of censorship. Pics Or It Didn’t Happen (2017) is a publication that raises this issue and brings attention to this current debate by bringing the banned Instagram images back into the public where digital censorship cannot reach it.



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FIGURES

Figure 1. Schneemann, C. (1975). Interior Scroll. [online] available from <https://fineartmultiple.com/blog/carolee-schneemann-interior-scroll-masterpiece/> [7 January 2019]

Figure 2. Byström, A. and Soda, M. (2017). Pics or It Didn't Happen. London: Prestel, p.147

Figure 3. Byström, A. and Soda, M. (2017). Pics or It Didn't Happen. London: Prestel, p.186

Figure 4. Caraud, J. (1875) ‘Cherry Girl’ in Sexing Up The Cherry. ed by Jeffs, A. & Wellesley, M. Apollo, 186(659), p.81.

Figure 5. Berthon-Moine, I. (2018). Untitled.

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