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The Vagina Legal-Logs (NSFW if the Vagina Isn’t Art): Why A French Court Interjecting In Vagina Posting Is Bad News?

March 10, 2015

Someone posted a picture of a vagina on Facebook. Facebook responds predictably and shuts the user down. (Question: when does Facebook not shut down users who post about female anatomy? Nursing moms? Breasts? Vaginas anyone?) Not a surprise. For the record, Facebook apparently says they don’t ban breastfeeding photos, only nudity photos, which are tagged while women breastfeed…:

The Huffington Post reached out to Facebook and Instagram for comment. A Facebook spokesperson referred us to the site’s Help Center FAQs, which say that breastfeeding pictures are not banned. Images — for the most part flagged by other users — are sometimes removed from the site for nudity.

Of course, showing a breastfeeding mom is equated with nudity, because breasts must be *gasp* “nude” to feed. Shocking, that. But anyway, back to vaginas. User posts a vagina picture that gets him censored. For the record, this is a bit of teaser, because how is one to know if all vaginas are off the table, or if vaginas as art are allowed, or if vaginas-as-art don’t exist to censors. Apparently vaginas-as-art aren’t recognized by Facebook censors.

The plot thickens. The poster is a French art teacher who has posted a picture of a painting of a vagina. Makes me laugh even writing that, because it is sort of a Catch-22, and well, most people might like it if vaginas were recognized as works of art. Actually, the painting that was posted is a recognized work of art: Gustave Courbet’s Origin of the World, housed at the Musee deOrsay in France.

According to Facebook, Origin of the World is pornographic. According to the French, this vaginal masterpiece is a work of art. The subject is up for debate in a lawsuit:

. The website recently censored an image of the painting posted by a French teacher, then suspended his account for violating the terms of use. Now the teacher, whose name has not been released, is suing, claiming that Facebook violated his free speech—and that French courts should have jurisdiction to hear his case. On Thursday, a Paris court agreed with his second claim, meaning the man will receive a trial in France under French law.

There are two problems with this issue: 1)Facebook stating that the piece of French art is pornographic and censoring it 2)France stepping in to defend its policies on free speech and its art mean that it is stepping in to impose French laws on an American company. Facebook drew first blood by imposing its interpretation of American laws on a French citizen, and now Facebook’s policies are being debated in a French court of law.

So what are the international guidelines for censorship? It’s not like a posting of a painting of a vagina is inciting a riot or promoting hate speech, already recognized in most countries as being illegal. According to a HuffPost article, pretty much whatever doesn’t originate in America shouldn’t be enforced in other countries, because that would be a “nightmare”:

But in reality, Thursday’s decision could clear the way for civil libertarian nightmares down the road. European countries generally take a very lenient approach to free speech, granting the government broad powers to censor any expression deemed hateful. Allowing European courts to monitor the online speech hosted by American companies would ultimately result in punishment of unpopular views and chilling of vital expression. French courts have already tried to forbid Yahoo from permitting the sale of Nazi memorabilia online, and President François Hollande is currentlyconsidering legislation that would hold websites like Facebook and Google accountable for allowing the publication of hateful speech.

Granted, selling Nazi memorabilia might be considered promoting hate, because in countries where Nazis killed thousands of people, that memorabilia was used to mark or impose Nazi rule. What Americans consider memorabilia, mainly because it wasn’t used in our country, might just be considered propagating hate crimes in other countries where “memorabilia” meant loss of lives and religious tyranny, akin to imposing a religious law. What some might consider ISIS “memorabilia,” Americans might consider supporting hate crimes in the name of religious oppression. Who is to say what is memorabilia and what constitutes a very real threat?

As always, with vaginas, it’s never simple. Is it art or is it a vagina, because in America, apparently it can’t be both. One might even consider the painting, in consideration of its title, a political statement, that the world didn’t begin with a male god, but a female body. God might be a Goddess. Are we all so trying to detach from our vaginal origins that we can’t face up to the fact that it takes a vagina to make a person? It takes a vagina to make our world as we know it. (Arguably it takes millions of vaginas-talk about a force of nature…) But, in America, vaginas are nothing more than pornography, and publication of vaginal paintings is punishable, considered deviant by Facebook. And Facebook gets to set the moral standard for America, why?

Just because Facebook is an American company doesn’t mean that it should impose its moral values on other countries, nor does it mean that Facebook should speak for all of Americans’s moral views. It’s the whole idea that we, as Americans, get to set the mores for the entire world? Can’t…get…behind…that. Nope, not even if I try. It’s a bad idea to try this in French courts, because it’s a bad idea for Facebook to set morality standards for the whole world to follow. Vaginas as art. Is it really worth fighting about?

 

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