So I’ve been mulling over the reason why Kim Kardashian’s explicit “Break the Internet” photo shoot is plastered on all corners of the internet, including social networks like Instagram and Facebook while other photos of women simply being topless or breastfeeding gets taken off by the same services.
At the surface it would seem rational for the opposite to be true. The Kardashian photos were dramatically sexual, with her oiled up body posing and arching with the text “Break the Internet” in big lettering in almost a commanding fashion, while photos of women breastfeeding or just simply bare breasted are just “there”, it can be sexual I suppose, but they are not overtly produced to be so.
An example of this is the Chelsea Handler topless photos, which were more of a political statement than a means to entice. A couple months ago she posted a photo of herself topless riding a horse, mocking the famous photograph of Vladimir Putin riding a horse. Her point? That there is a double standard when it comes to physical depictions of men as apposed to women, in particular, what is consider acceptable and what’s not. Handler’s photos were later banned by Intagram. Another case also involves a celebrity, Alyssa Milano , whose photos of her breasfeed her child was also deemed too much for Instagram. But it’s not just celebrities, women have been complaining for years that pictures of themselves simply topless or breastfeeding (or getting a mastectomy), have been banned from Instagram and Facebook.
So why do social media services act this way? Why does the official Internet in general? My theory is that sexuality on the Internet has become so hyper-realistic that the simulation is become a safe surrogate to the real thing.
There is a hyper-realistic quality to the “Beak the Internet” photos, in which Kardashian takes on an almost plastic quality, a 3D anime character wrapped in the decadence of high art. This type of imagery is more than acceptable to the official Internet (social networks, major online communities), while images of women bodies as part of a biological process (breastfeeding) or more dangerous yet to make a political point is deemed too “real”, too complex to be easily digested by the Official Internet.
Perhaps the depiction of women in the nude or partially nude has been the currency of pornography on the network for so long and in such a massive amount that we (managers and users of the Internet, in particular, male managers and users of the Internet ) do not know what to do when a depiction of women nude in an starkly nonsexual manner comes our way. This behavior is dangerous, for many times these images are presented to inform (like the breast cancer imagery that gets banned from facebook), or as arguments of discourse (the Handler photos), even without any cause, simply banning these photo restricts women and content producers who choose to share this content because they may deem it interesting or important or beautiful, but not sexual, while their banishment is done in the hypocritical cause of protecting the content producers or subjects in the photos from the negative outcome of sexual exposure (e.g, harassment, accusations of indecency).
So that is why I think Ms. Kim should be a bit irritated if not all out pissed that her photos got the Internet “thumbs up” while others are shunned. The Internet pretty much decided the Kim Kardashian is not a real person, but rather a hyper-realistic simulacra, a doll whose flesh and blood origin is wholeheartedly ignored, more art than artist. She didn’t break the Internet, but rather nourished it with quick visual eye-candy. If realistic depictions of women and their bodies were allowed too be distributed on the network, it would not “Break the Internet” either, but perhaps it will slow it down just a little bit for us to have a thought a two about how women are depicted on the network, and perhaps it will start to add real flesh and blood to the objects that has flooded the network for years.