Hailey Holmberg was pregnant with her second child when she was diagnosed with an aggressive form of cancer.
The short-haired blonde from Colorado was forced to terminate the pregnancy. Six years later, as a survivor, she was photographed to show her strength in a black bra and underwear as part of Ashlee Wells Jackson’s 4th Trimester Bodies Project, a photo documentary aimed at showing the “beauty inherent” in the changes to women’s bodies by motherhood, childbirth and breastfeeding.
But her black-and-white image is nowhere to be found on Instagram.
Holmberg’s image is one of dozens removed for being deemed inappropriate by the social media site. Other images removed included photos featuring mothers and their naked children.
Holmberg’s photo is one of four images removed that didn’t feature children. Another woman is photographed holding a picture of her stillborn baby. The mother’s face is out of focus, and the camera zones in on the delicate image.
Jackson is outraged at what she calls a double standard. She says celebrities can post pictures of their children naked or breastfeeding. Yet non-celebrities, regular moms, in her project are being censored. And she’s started a change.org petition, which has nearly 20,000 signatures, and a #stopcensoringmotherhood campaign on Twitter.
“It’s frustrating. It’s a double standard. A lot of the reason this problem exists is because women compare themselves to what’s in the media,” said Jackson, of Chicago.
She said Instagram has maintained some removals were made to protect the children featured in the images.
“My work is art — loving pictures of women embracing their children joyfully,” Jackson said. “There’s no way those could be misconstrued as pornography.”
Jackson said Facebook removed an image of herself with her child on her Facebook page for violating its pornography guidelines. And while she says Instagram has removed eight of her accounts, two have been given back without explanation.
She’s most miffed about her first project page with 12,000 followers, being removed. And she says her initial personal account, featuring more than 1,000 personal photos, was also shut down.
“At this point what we want is a policy change. We want them to talk to us. This has been going on for over a year. There has been so much press about this issue. Our lawyer has contacted them. We have a change.org petition. And they refuse to address the issue,” Jackson said.
Instagram does allow breastfeeding images on its site, calling it “natural and beautiful.” On its website, Instagram says it only removes accounts and posts that aren’t following their “guidelines” and “terms.”
“While we respect the artistic integrity of photos and videos, we have to keep our product and the content within it in line with our App Store’s rating for nudity and mature content. In other words, please do not post nudity or mature content of any kind,” Instagram’s website says.
Both sites remove nude or partially nude children for safety concerns, being sensitive to the fact that others might share or reuse the picture.
The guidelines are in place to protect children, according to a joint statement issued to the Sun-Times by Facebook and Instagram.
“We try hard to find a good balance between allowing people to express themselves creatively and having policies in place to provide a comfortable experience for our global community. We have long allowed photos of mothers breastfeeding. Our guidelines do put limitations on nudity, including nude images of children, to help keep kids safe online,” the statement said.
Despite problems with social media, Jackson is continuing on with her projects.
“Things are going amazing as far as the project. We have a publisher for a deal for a series of three books. Aside from the social media problem, things have been going amazingly well.”