Facebook and Instagram have a long history of being uncomfortable with women’s bodies: finding examples of censorship via convoluted interpretations of community standards isn’t hard. So it should come as no surprise that the platforms’ tendency to remove posts involving female nudity has evolved to include advertisers. Both Facebook and its subsidiary Instagram block ads from brands that specialize in vaginal health and grooming, according to a new article from Women’s Wear Daily. These brands include Queen V’s pH-balanced wipes and vaginal deodorizers, VSpot Medi Spa’s vaginal steaming services, Billie’s razors, Dame’s lubricants and body positioning pillows.
It’s unclear why these vagina-centric ads should get cut when everyday I am bombarded with ads for erectile dysfunction medication.
Most of the brands aren’t even sure how or why their ads were removed by Facebook, which speaks to the opaqueness of the company’s terms for prohibited content. “We weren’t able to figure out why [our ad was removed,]” Queen V founder Lauren Steinberg told WWD. “Our theory was it was because there was a combination of feminine wellness products, like vaginal products, and then we had pictures that were suggestive of a vagina. The audio also did use the word vagina.” VSpot Medi Spa founder Cindy Barshop came to a similar conclusion. “Anything that had to do with the word vagina was taken off,” she said.
WWD reports that bots are responsible for flagging ads deemed inappropriate. That decision could be reversed by a human employee, but only after it has already been disapproved. What a system.
Now, these brands could remove the word “vagina” from their ads and work directly with Facebook and Instagram before moving forward with their campaigns, but even that compromise might not work. The cofounder and chief executive officer of Dame, Alexandra Fine, told WWD she worked directly with Facebook “to make landing pages about [Dame’s] lubricant and body positioning pillow, products that aren’t vibrators that are adjacent.” She said, “We made landing pages, we worded it in a way that Facebook said was OK, we made ads that Facebook said were OK, we started running those, we were making money again.” Still, the ads were removed. “Two-and-a-half weeks later, Facebook was like, ‘actually, it’s against the policy because eventually you can get to a vibrator [on Dame’s web site].”
If that’s Facebook’s modus operandi, avoiding any page on the Internet that might eventually lead to a vibrator, these brands are fighting an uphill battle. You’d think a social media service that that recently came under fire for tracking the menstruation cycles of people who use period tracking app Flo—some of whom were not even Facebook users—would tread carefully when it comes to vaginal health practices. But apparently, you’d be mistaken.