Driving home at 8pm in September and we stopped to stretch our legs at the beach, there were just dog walkers occasionally and so we decided to strip down to our underwear and brave it. Watching the light change and feeling the temperature drop, leaving as it was almost dark and picking up chips on the way home.
I recieved a notification from Instagram this week, that an image of mine had been removed for not following ‘Community Guidelines’. Fair enough I initially thought,as the image in question was one that I’d taken of my daughter. With furious hands and screaming after being splashed by her brother in the sea. It was momentary and overblown, followed swiftly by a wicked eye and delighted scream as she turned to get him back. A photograph will prolongue that scream and anguish because it freezes it and preserves it, we don’t get to see the other side so maybe it upset someone. Bit of a bummer that it got pulled, but fair enough, I’m not out to make people feel bad.
But we’d had a brilliant and spontaneous evening at the beach and I wanted to catalogue it. So I replaced the ‘removed’ image with the ‘splash’ that kicked it all off and the pre-screaming faces of laughter. More tame I judged.
Then another notfication appeared, ‘We removed your post because it doesn’t follow our Community Guidelines’. So I sat and head scratched for a moment. They’re both covered, i’m not showing nudity here. It’s two of my children splashing in the sea?
Then another notification,
Now, at this point I’d been kind of thinking it but not wanting to say it out loud; Is instagram removing certain images of mine because they show my six year old girl with a bare chest, and in the case of the photograph above -a THREE year old with a bare chest? Is this actually what’s happening here?
Several more images have been removed from my account this week also. None of either of my bare chested sons (aged 2 & 8), but all of my 6 year old daughter. And now, I’m out to break some teeth.
So, before anyone thinks about suggesting that I kit her out in a bikini top let me put this out there: She has no tits. She can’t be arsed with wearing a little tie up top with two triangles covering her tiny little nipples, she’s all about the playing. Because she’s SIX. From my point of view, I’m happy with her NOT wearing a bikini top. I’m not sure why it’s preferable for some people to see a little girl wearing essentially a bra on the beach and not bare chested. This has also been an unconscious decision on both our parts. If she wants to wear a top she can, we own a couple of them, they came with the bottoms she has. -Neither of us have considered it necessary, it’s just stayed in the drawer at home. . Infact ‘It’s kind of funny that they make bra’s for children’ my daughter thinks.
Now, realistically I’m pretty certain Instagram doesn’t have the resource to look at every image that gets flagged as ‘innapropriate’, my guess is that it’s most likely an automated removal. SO, who are the people that are reporting these pictures? Who are these people sexualising my daughter, placing guilt and shame upon her child body, why do they want to see her dressed in a bra top and WHY THE HELL AREN’T WE QUESTIONING THEIR MOTIVES INSTEAD?
Time and time again I see fashion sites advertising swimwear on children. Tousled hair, touches of ‘enhancing’ make up, chin down and eyes wide making sexy to the camera. Female children are doing this, they don’t know why they’re doing it but they’re being marketed and told to behave this way. Their chests, skin tight over ribs with tiny nipples covered by triangles of fabric, padded even, and we let it be. Stand like seals ‘arf afing’ at a beautiful picture, objectifying a young female child. But these pictures stay because somehow society has accepted this as normal and an image of a barechested three year old by a campfire as provocative.
This is the stuff I’m not prepared to pedal. Society is already out to get us women, telling us we’re too fat/too thin, beautiful or not beautiful enough. I’m not fucking listening. -I’m trying to make my daughter as bulletproof to that as I can before it grips her and tries to undermine her worth. Right up until this week I hadn’t considered that allowing her skinny boylike frame to go topless on a beach was ever part of the fight, I’m disgusted that we’ve let it get to this stage. Think on this, and stop feeding it.
I’ve been feeling the need to fix myself somewhere, not knowing where to start. Visiting myself as a child, which moved around too much, and trying to reel back in the spindly roots that have held on to places that don’t remember me; letting my children discover them and somehow trying to bolster the fractions of time spent there, to make them my memories. I feel displaced, that I should let go of false memories; of family bonds and places but I can’t connect with where I’m from because I can’t trace back those threads.
As a mother my fear is to move which sits parallel with my fear that it’s in me to need to move. When I’m alone I think of going, walking out of the door in the clothes on my back and not turning back, feeling excited that that this is possible, feeling terrified that my roots aren’t strong enough to hold me here and us together.
When I was 8 I went to a car boot with my mum and sisters, an American man picked me up and told me my Daddy better have a gun. My roots were flailing all over the place trying to latch on to something so they suckered to this and strangled it; pulsating and feeding off it. This is one of my strongest childhood memories, an omen.
Walking the Downs, carving our way across a train track, past the horses. Through burnt grass, wet grass, snow covered grass. Through the graveyard, down the lane. Greeted with a tin cup of orange squash by a woman I kissed and loved, saw regularly, but never knew. Never alone, always together yet not remembering a single face or word from those walks.