Instagram faced immediate criticism three weeks ago when it disabled an Australian magazine’s account after the publication posted a picture that showed female pubic hair. The Facebook-owned photo-sharing app restored the Sticks and Stones’ account Thursday and released an apology.
“We try hard to find a good balance between allowing people to express themselves creatively and having policies in place to maintain a comfortable experience for our global and culturally diverse community,” according to the statement. “This is one reason why our guidelines put limitations on nudity, but we recognize that we don’t always get it right. In this case, we made a mistake and have since restored the account.”
The photo in question showed two women wearing bathing suits with some of their pubic hair exposed. Sticks and Stones director Ainsley Hutchensce argued to the Huffington Post that Instagram was exhibiting sexism by objecting to this photo, but not others that showed male pubic hair. “From what I can gather I do feel as though men can get away with a lot more in terms of what Instagram deems to be of a sexual nature,” she said. Critics point to pictures where men’s pubic hair is exposed, like one from Justin Bieber’s recent Calvin Klein campaign, as examples of a gender imbalance in the way society views people’s natural bodies.
Instagram and Facebook have both come under fire in the last year for censoring pictures in which women’s nipples are exposed. A movement using the hashtag #FreetheNipple argues that normalizing female toplessness is a question of gender equality and that topless female photos—like ones of breastfeeding—should be allowed on social media.