Technology

When Women’s Bodies Get Censored on Facebook: An Artist Responds

My series, “Grace Delving Into Art,” which began in 2012, shows me interacting/reacting with well-known artworks in galleries and museums all over the world: climbing, riding, lying down, or getting tangled up with beloved sculptures from art history and not repressed by the rules of “do not touch museum aesthetics. These exchanges have a whip-like wit and poignancy, often dealing with sexism, ageism, museum policy and the ways we respond to our culture’s obsession with the young slender ideal of female beauty. My intention was to show that by my very presence, the context and meaning of the original artworks are transformed.

Grace Cradling a BrancusiThe self-portrait by the artist, titled “Grace Cradling A Brancusi” (Archival Pigment Print, 2015) removed by Facebook.

On August 9, 2015, I posted a new image on Facebook titled “Grace Cradling a Brancusi” based on Constantin Brâncuși’s famous 1915 bronze sculpture of “Princess X” — a portrait of the French princess, Marie Bonaparte, the great-grand niece of Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte. I am gleefully cradling the sculpture on my lap where, through the mere act of rotation, it is transmuted into a male organ — the gender reversed. Shortly thereafter I receive an email from Facebook saying that my photograph was anonymously “reported,” and that I would be spared any problems if I deleted the image. Otherwise, the work was “under review.” I did not wipe out the artwork. Consequently, it was removed, along with a letter saying that I did not meet Facebook’s Community Standards and that I had to promptly erase all images containing nudity. I was presented with a page of thumbnail vignettes for me to check off as being expunged.

I scoured all of Facebook’s Help Forums and found that I had no means of redress against anonymous “reporters” airing grievances. Furious at what I considered unjust censorship and the threat of an intellectual noose hanging over not only my art but also the many other artists who use this social media platform to share and promote their work, I started a petition to increase awareness of the need for Facebook to deal with freedom of expression and to participate in the democratic process, resolving issues around questionable reporting and accusations.

On the recommendation of a friend on Facebook, I contacted Change.org — an online “platform for change” where one can set up a petition and initiated: STOP BANNING ARTISTS’ IMAGES OF NUDITY ON FACEBOOK WITHOUT ACCESS TO REDRESS!

As of now, almost 900 people have signed the petition and comments have come from individuals living all over the world, writing in different languages, but identical in the passion of their response. I am buoyed by the supportive words and the recognition that my situation is shared by many other artists who feel as strongly as I do. Here is a sample of what these women’s voices are saying:

“I am signing because I know Grace’s work and there is nothing “obscene” about what she is doing as an artist. Personally, I think it’s amazing that Facebook allows the most horrific images of war-mangled bodies and cruelty to animals to be posted while art or other images that celebrate the beauty and wonder of the human body (a woman breast feeding, for example) are censored.” — Renee Stout, Washington, D.C.

“Because bodies are beautiful and completely natural. This double standard against nudity/sex appeal for commercialism is discriminatory against women (if you’re hot and selling something, we want it. If you’re not, shame on you and stay covered!). This contributes to violence against women and a plethora of body image issues. The more we can respect the body, the healthier we’ll all be.” — Carlynn Forst, Springfield, MO.

Whether or not this petition will be seen by those who have the authority to alter the rules, I strongly believe that fighting for a cause that means so much to artistic integrity is vital to my process. I will continue to make art without feeling that I am being suffocated by institutions whose ideas, tastes and politics are challenged.

 

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  • grace graupe-pillard September 3, 2015 at 10:19 am

    Would be wonderful for those who read this article to sign my petition: STOP BANNING ARTISTS’ IMAGES OF NUDITY ON FACEBOOK BY ANONYMOUS “REPORTERS”WITHOUT ACCESS TO REDRESS!
    Click on: http://chn.ge/1EhPO7W
    Thank you,
    grace

    Reply
  • grace graupe-pillard August 29, 2015 at 6:01 pm

    Diane – I was honored to be invited to the Paula Modersohn Becker panel and touched by your words on this series. Your encouragement is heartening.
    Thank you.

    Reply
  • Diane Radycki August 29, 2015 at 2:39 pm

    On the basis of her ground-breaking series Grace Delving into Art, I invited Grace to participate on a panel in a program organized by the New York Public Library. The program series, “An Art Book,” established by Arezoo Moseni (Senior Art Librarian), showcases an art book “and discussions by world-renowned artists, critics, curators, gallerists, historians, and writers.” The book under discussion was my Paula Modersohn-Becker: The First Modern Woman Artist (Yale U. Press, 2013). Grace was my artist of choice because, like the pioneering Modersohn-Becker in 1906, Grace is challenging centuries of representations of the female body and ageism in a new medium for art–and with an attitude that is positive and generous. To deem this work censurable is insulting.

    Grace and her work, by the by, was shoulder-to-shoulder that evening with that of the critic John Colapinto (The New Yorker), the curator Alessandra Comini (whose exhibition Egon Schiele: Portraits was soon to open to an extended run at the Neue Galerie, New York); the gallerist, Suzanne Gerlach, director of the Böttcherstrasse/ Paula Modersohn-Becker Museum in Bremen; and the writer, Marie Darrieussecq, winner of the 2013 Prix Médicis and a finalist for Prix Goncourt for her 1996 debut novel Pig Tales. And the panel drew a standing-room only crowd.

    Reply
  • grace graupe-pillard August 27, 2015 at 11:02 pm

    Roz- thanks but creeping along!

    Reply
  • Roz Warren August 27, 2015 at 10:35 pm

    Just signed the petition. You’re closing in on 1000.

    Reply
  • grace graupe-pillard August 27, 2015 at 11:32 am

    Thank you Franc, Jeannette and Miriam for your articulate words and support. Again very much appreciated.

    Reply
  • miriam brumer August 27, 2015 at 10:54 am

    A really well-written article , Grace, it states your position quite clearly and also has some of the playful humor you display, at times, in the photos. Censorship has something narrow and punitive about it and I think it is really misplaced in connection what you have been doing. The nude has always been a subject in art and it’s been accepted as such for a long time. It’s fascinating to me how images of violence are more easily accepted (in films, TV and print media) than those of nudity.

    Reply
  • Jeanette August 27, 2015 at 8:59 am

    This is the first time ever I’ve responded to anything on line However ur comment on showing the truly horrible things that is going on in our world today complied be to respond. Grace keep fighting I’m 100 precent behind u. Ur devoted student Jeanette

    Reply
  • Franc Palaia August 26, 2015 at 11:43 pm

    I have known Grace for over 40 years and all through her art career she has been bold, independent and fearless and her nude works on facebook are a recent manifestation of is. She has been painting nudes since the first day I met her in 1973. She is a trailblazer by working on facebook as a medium and should be given credit for it rather than punished and censored. She is discreet in covering the naughty bits so let her and other artists use the open public internet as a way to communicate to the world.

    Reply
  • grace graupe-pillard August 26, 2015 at 9:07 pm

    Lara -Love that as usual you get right to the point.
    Karen – Many many thanks for your supportive words.
    Irene – your English is fine – you expressed yourself perfectly.

    Reply
  • Lara Allen August 26, 2015 at 5:49 pm

    Grace, besides your images being playful, celebratory and sometimes wry, they are also subversive. I stand behind you every step of the way.

    Reply
  • Irene Smit Stern August 26, 2015 at 4:34 pm

    Red the article,my english is not good enough to comment, but I agree with the others!
    Go on with what you are doing! Love it dear cousin!

    Reply
  • Karen Kantor August 26, 2015 at 4:06 pm

    As usual your article is poignant and truly captures the meaning of your art. FB should be ashamed of their censor regarding your work. It’s no excuse for FB to not get IT.

    Reply
  • grace graupe-pillard August 26, 2015 at 4:04 pm

    Phyllis – thanks – we all (including models) have less than ideal bodies and I for one don’t mind showing imperfections in my ARTWORK.

    Reply
  • Phyllis Rosser August 26, 2015 at 3:06 pm

    This is a terrific article, Grace. Well written and eloquent about the subject. I completely agree with you about censoring women’s nude bodies. It’s very brave of you to use your less than perfect body for your art and hard to imagine why anyone would be offended.

    Reply
  • grace graupe-pillard August 26, 2015 at 2:26 pm

    Thank you Joyce, Judith, JoEllen, Frank, Suzan, Hillsmom, and Marcia for all your intelligent and passion-filled responses. I am moved.

    Reply
  • Marcia G. Yerman August 26, 2015 at 2:01 pm

    It’s really unfortunate that Facebook can’t differentiate between hate speech, violent images, and art.

    Reply
  • hillsmom August 26, 2015 at 11:26 am

    I signed because I think you are right. However, I’m not on Facebook, so it may not count. When a woman turns sixty, everything drops 6″. What we are not told is that it keeps on going… Hang in…oops, not the right word. Let’s say instead, stand up for your style!

    Reply
  • Suzan August 26, 2015 at 11:15 am

    It seems to be condoned to ridicule, demean and exploit images of women’s bodies but to use them to provoke thought about beauty, age, and nudity in art, well NOW you’ve gone too far, Grace. Keep going!

    Reply
  • Frank Ettenberg August 26, 2015 at 10:58 am

    It hurts to witness what you’ve been going through as an internet- media-interested artist. I believe your series of naked-pictures in an artistic context has lots of meaning and certainly does generate many new ideas and reactions where your viewers are. You’ve taken the bull by the horns and consequently experience the threats of a matador ( perhaps the spelling is different for a female matador? ).

    Reply
  • Judith Hamill August 26, 2015 at 10:56 am

    I think I have already signed the petition, but I will try again to get Facebook friends and non-Facebook friends to sign it, too.
    I must say, Grace, I find your writing as beautiful as your art!

    Reply
  • JoEllen Trilling August 26, 2015 at 10:49 am

    I would prefer to be accused of something someone
    finds offensive in my art work face to face or at least… not anonymously….
    Who should be ashamed … to say what and why? That manner of accusation harks back in history to the rumor of witches and says more about the accuser than they realize.

    Reply
  • Joyce Kozloff August 26, 2015 at 10:39 am

    This work is the opposite of pornographic. It’s funny, smart, and raises provocative issues about women, aging, and what is acceptable to show (in the art world as well as the larger culture).

    Reply
  • grace graupe-pillard August 26, 2015 at 10:11 am

    Thank you Andrea – your comments are really appreciated.

    Reply
  • Andrea August 26, 2015 at 8:29 am

    YOU GO GRACE! I will sign your petition and any others that allow for freedom of expression. I am on Facebook and see all kinds of mind numbing photos of “celebrities” and their butt cracks or as Rene said “horrific images of war mangled bodies and cruelty to animals” I love your Brancusi self portrait and especially your facial expression! Keep expressing!!

    Reply