This article has been updated to reflect Instagram’s decision to reinstate the post.
A cartoonist accused Instagram of censorship after the platform removed a post in which she brought to light the issue with saying ‘not all men’ in relation to violence against women.
Lily O’Farrell, from South London, has racked up thousands of followers on her Instagram account Vulga Drawings, where she shares illustrations that range from the funny and satirical to the serious and hard-hitting.
Following the death of Sarah Everard, who went missing from the streets of London earlier this month, Lily shared an illustration that addressed the issue of the phrase ‘not all men’. The post was based on a TikTok video from YouTuber Kristina Maione, and brought Kristina’s words to life.
You can watch Kristina’s video below:
@kristinamaione##stitch with @ducksdebates instead of complaining about semantics, HOLD YOUR FELLOW MEN ACCOUNTABLE. CHANGE THE NARRATIVE! #menaretrash ##notallmen♬ original sound – Kristina Maione
The phrase ‘not all men’ has been used frequently in relation to violence against women, with people using it to argue that not all men should be blamed for the actions of those who harm women. However, this argument often fails to acknowledge that all women have to defend themselves from men, and that without knowing exactly which men we are supposed to avoid, we have to be wary of all men.
In her video, Kristina likened the phrase ‘not all men’ to warning people to be careful around ticks, explaining that not all ticks carry lyme disease, but humans still generalise the issue.
She explained: ‘When we speak up about women’s oppression and women’s abuse we obviously know it’s not all men. But when one in three women in their lifetime are either raped or physically abused by a man, it is enough men… to make all women afraid.’
Speaking to UNILAD, Lily explained that she decided to illustrate Kristina’s words because they came across as a visual metaphor, and because visuals can help people understand the concept.
Not long after she shared the post on Instagram, Lily began to receive an influx of hateful comments. She described the volume of messages as ‘insane and really sudden,’ and she believes it is these critics that are, in part, to blame for her cartoon being removed from Instagram.
I think there are two reasons the cartoon was deleted from my account.
The first is, it’s where the haters congregate. If enough people report a post, it gets attention and has to be reviewed by Instagram. So I think it was reported by the men who were commenting and DM-ing me about how much they hated it!
Lily is no stranger to having posts removed due to people disagreeing with her take on the world, and she believes this may have also played a part in the removal of the ‘not all men’ post, as Instagram may have already been wary of her account.
Instagram claimed the ‘not all men’ post was removed because it violated its community guidelines regarding ‘hate speech or symbols’, though it’s worth noting that the post has been shared widely across the platform, and consistently remained live on other pages.
A few days after the post was removed from Lily’s account, the platform reversed its decision and reinstated the post. However, the fact that it was never removed across the platform in its entirety further indicates that Lily’s post was deleted due to an influx of reports from people who refused to acknowledge the problems with the phrase ‘not all men’.
Lily made clear that ‘nothing about [the post] violated Instagram’s guidelines,’ and said the explanation given for the post’s removal ‘compared my cartoon to a swastika or a ‘white power hand sign’.’
They said it incited violence, and the irony here is just laughable. This cartoon was raising awareness about violence against women and how scared we feel walking alone outside, and it’s deleted for ‘inciting violence’ against men.
It might be a different story if Instagram and Facebook protected women with the same vigour, but they don’t. A man can privately message me to tell me he wants me to die in a fire, and his account continues to go unscathed.
The cartoonist decided not to attempt to repost the drawing after it was initially removed, having learned from experience that it would likely just be deleted again. She doesn’t want her account to be suspended after she worked so hard to build it, though she admitted she ‘hates that [she’s] under Instagram’s thumb.’
Lily described the removal of the post as ‘censorship’, saying:
I question everything I post which is, on a micro level, silencing myself for fear of being silenced altogether.
I asked everyone else to share the drawing as much as they could, and people really did. They shared their anger in Instagram’s sexist censorship, particularly when only the night before, women were being arrested and assaulted by police officers for protesting the danger on the streets and the lack of care or protection the police provide us.
I felt the more people who shared it, the less Instagram could police it. As long as it’s out there then I’m happy. It doesn’t have to be on my feed.
When she realised her post had been deleted, Lily said she was ‘angry but not surprised.’ She was met with a feeling of ‘complete helplessness,’ and stressed: ‘So many people have felt this way over the last few days.’
She referenced Everard’s death, and noted that violence against women is ‘nothing to do with us or what we do, that’s just the (incorrect) narrative we’ve been fed that it’s up to us to keep ourselves safe. It’s the men who are killing us who are the problem.’
By censoring posts like Lily’s, even if for only a short period of time, the cartoonist believes platforms such as Instagram and Facebook are ‘protecting those in charge and the accused, not the accusers.’
Thanks to those who shared Lily’s post, her work and Kristina’s words consistently remained visible online for people to learn from. Addressing the importance of the cartoon, Lily said she feels it offers a good explanation for women to use when they are faced with someone attempting to use the ‘not all men’ argument.
She noted that the argument ‘applies to so many ‘whataboutism’ arguments like ‘not all white people’ and ‘not all police’,’ adding: ‘When you share your experience with someone, and they respond with ‘well I’m not like that,’ it’s a power play. It’s taking your experience and immediately de-valuing it and denying its existence. The point of this cartoon, and what I took from Kristina’s video, was that she was giving me the confidence and tools to argue back.’
Lily noted the removal of her post isn’t the only instance of a woman being silenced in recent days. She cited the Metropolitan police’s decision to try and shut down the vigil planned for Everard, as well as instances online where women have shared their stories of violence and been met with a ‘not all men’ response.
The cartoonist explained: ‘It’s a silencing tactic. I got messages from men telling me to shut up, and other threats that I won’t include here, that’s a silencing tactic. And then I woke up the next morning and Instagram says I’m inciting violence towards men by pointing out that too many men kill women, that’s a silencing tactic too.’
I think for many men, it’s to do with power and how this power spans across all institutions. I also think in some cases, like domestic violence, women don’t feel as though they can speak about it, for fear of the violence escalating, especially when they don’t have the support of the police behind them.
People are afraid of accountability, uncomfortable conversations and shaking things up.
Though Lily has received a lot of hate in recent days for sharing the ‘not all men’ cartoon, she has unfortunately also experienced abuse previously both online and in the real world. As a result of the trolls, Lily has stopped putting personal information online, which she feels ‘bad’ about because it means she is forced to ‘silence’ herself and ‘double think’ everything.
Still, she knows she has to take the precautions because ‘Instagram won’t protect [her],’ saying this translates to her real life too, explaining: ‘It’s up to me to protect myself because no one else will, and that’s what being a woman is like. That’s why it has to change.’
Thankfully, while many people were reporting and criticising her cartoon regarding the ‘not all men’ argument, there were also a lot of people out there offering support for both Lily and Kristina.
Lily said positive messages ‘outweighed the abuse in both numbers and importance,’ and she was glad to know that people had been able to use her cartoon as a rebuttal to those who used the phrase. Lily believes that it is this support, with people sharing the image and tagging Instagram to condemn the cartoon’s removal, that led to the platform reinstating her original post.
Being able to address problematic arguments such as ‘not all men’ is vital in the wider narrative of addressing why women are forced to protect themselves and the massive changes that need to be made regarding violence against women. Kristina and Lily have offered people a way in which to do so, and ensuring this tool remains available to the public is just as important as the post itself.
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