I am obsessed with Instagram. If you aren’t obsessed yet, all you need to know is it’s an iPhone exclusive social networking application used to post and share filtered pictures. The application is a democracy; users can elect pictures to the popular page, and comment freely on public profile’s photos whether or not you are “following” each other. Like on twitter, you follow/are followed by friends and influencers, and posts can be captioned with hashtags. Being obsessed with both Instagram and abortion rights activism; I searched the photos for #abortion and #prochoice #prolife images.
#Abortion brought back 555 photos, and Instagram brought up 21 related hashes, only one of which (#abortionrights) was prochoice in nature. The other 20 related hashes were labels such as: #abortionismurder, #abortionholocaust, #abortioniswrong, #abortionisterrible, #abortioniskillingachild. I began looking at the 555 photos that were tagged under #abortion vainly hoping the photos would be a mix bag of positive and negative messages. But no, the majority of the photos displayed under #abortion are gory fetus porn, pictures of messages such as “abortion is murder”, “reblog if you are against abortion” and “NOT YOUR CHOICE” above a drawing of a fully developed fetus in the mother’s stomach. The rest of the anti-choice tags, #abortionismurder etc., were all photos of the regular ol’ anti-choice hate. There are 681 photos #prolife compared to 169 tagged #prochoice. The #prolife tagged photos were mostly the same content as the other antiabortion hashes, except the #prolife photos showed more babies and children, supposedly representing the anti-aborion cause. The #prochoice photos are much more diverse, creative and uplifting, than the repetitive #prolife photos (surprise!), but disproportionate representation is frustrating.
I would have left my search unsurprised at that point, but I became infuriated by what I saw next: In the 21 related hashes to #abortion was #abortiondoctor—it contains one photo. A user posted a picture of a metal statue of a boy holding flowers, commented “#creepymailbox at the home of an #abortiondoctor.” A commenter asks, “Why are you at the abortion doctor” and the user replies, “it’s on my UPS route.”
Beyond labeling this provider as “creepy” for no reason, the user is, perhaps ignorantly, supporting stalking culture and threatening the safety of the supposed abortion provider. What if someone who knows this user were anti-choice, and interested in exposing the location of the provider’s house? Given the information provided, it wouldn’t be that hard to locate the provider’s home.
The relative “outspokenness” of the prolife movement on Instagram (169 #prochoice photos vs. 681 #prolife photos) and the hate speak and even (sadly) the threatening of provider’s safety is par for the antiabortion “activism” course. However, the regularity of hate-behavior towards abortion rights does not make it more acceptable. So, here’s a few things I thought Instagramers can do to counter antiabortion “speak” on Instagram:
1. Post prochoice pictures under the hashtag #abortion and #prochoice on Instagarm. I posted a photo from an abortion doula meeting I hosted last month, and a picture of my prochoice flare-adorned Christmas tree in December.
2. If you’re on Instagram, make and effort to bring new hashes. I could see #ihadanabortion or #provoice tags coming onto Instagram, with positive messages and images.
3. Comment on people’s photos that you find hateful like you would respond to misguided comments on Twitter or Facebook. You can do so with relative anonymity on Instagram, and starting a conversation is better than being complacent.