#YouCantCensorMySkin: Censoring Self-Harm Scars and Stigma
#YouCantCensorMySkin is a backlash against Instagram's attempt to censor self-harm scars on the platform. There are many reasons why something might be censored. In the mental health sphere, it's often done in an attempt to avoid negatively impacting others by triggering them. This is especially true for self-harm, but it begs the question of at what point does censorship become stigma?
#YouCantCensorMySkin Leads to the Question: Should We Censor Self-Harm Scars?
This topic has been on my mind as I've noticed the hashtag #YouCantCensorMySkin coming up on Instagram. This is being used by people whose photos are being censored because they have self-harm scars clearly visible.
Instagram does deserve some kudos; the social media platform's efforts to protect users from self-harm triggers and prevent the glamorization of self-harm is incredibly important. I know how sensitive these topics can be and I don't think there's ever a place for romanticizing any mental health struggle. I think self-harm scars, however, are getting swept up in these efforts, but they shouldn't be.
I've written about this topic before in response to Dr. Phil show with a guest who argued for not covering her scars. It felt necessary to bring up this discussion again in the wake of what's happening on Instagram with #YouCantCensorMySkin. It's not just glamorizing images that are being censored, it's everyday photographs of people living life with their scars. That's where the problem lies and where stigma begins.
What Message Censorship Sends to Those with Self-Harm Scars
BBC News recently interviewed some Instagram users affected by the censorship #YouCantCensorMySkin rails against. In the article, they expressed how it's like saying those with self-harm scars don't have a right to live their lives freely and they also brought up how there should be a distinction between photos intended to glamorize self-harm scars and photos of people who just happen to have self-harm scars. 1
I have to say I agree. Although not from self-harm, I know what it is to live with scarred skin and be made to feel like I must hide them. It's taken me years to accept myself with scars and see past the stigma of having them, and I've seen people using #YouCantCensorMySkin expressing the same thing — and now feeling like censorship is saying the acceptance isn't allowed and there's a reason for shame.
For those who are only just learning to accept their scarred skin or who may not even be at that point yet, it can be discouraging both because of this idea of never being accepted and because recovering is essentially being muted.
How to Cope with Self-Harm Stigma Brought on by Censorship
When I've struggled with accepting my scars and feeling comfortable in my skin, looking to those who are already there has both been a helpful reminder that it is possible to be comfortable in your own skin and a source of encouragement to work toward that myself.
With what's currently happening, I'm confident the hashtag #YouCantCensorMySkin can be that for people now. Take time to read what people are saying and see that there is life beyond self-harm, even with the scars and you don't have to be ashamed. People with self-harm scars can and do have families, can go out in public without covering themselves, and, in general, live life. The most important thing to realize is that there is hope and you aren't alone
- "Self Injury Stories, Self Harm Stories"
- "Scars from Mental Illness and Attention-Seeking"
- I" Cut Myself: The Shame and Secrecy of Self-Harm"
- Bramwell, K., "Instagram: 'I Don't Want People to Be Ashamed of Their Scars'." BBC News, May 30, 2019.
Barton, L. (2019, June 3). #YouCantCensorMySkin: Censoring Self-Harm Scars and Stigma, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2020, November 26 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/survivingmentalhealthstigma/2019/6/youcantcensormyskin-censoring-self-harm-scars-and-stigma
Author: Laura A. Barton
I think it's so important to have open, honest conversations about topics like these. While I understand the importance of not glamorizing self harm and self harm scars, I think there are many who feel they are a reminder of their strength and growth and they want to share them so that others can maybe connect with them and learn from their journey. As we have more of these conversations we can begin to clear away the inauthentic and get to the root of these important topics. Thank you for sharing!
I always look forward to your comments when I post, Lizanne. I appreciate your readership! I'm sure you know my stance on having honest conversations by this point, haha. Thanks, as always!