Viewers Fuming Over What This BBC Show Says About Women On Instagram

Natalie Gil

The internet is a notoriously dangerous place to be a woman, with misogynistic trolling rife across all social media platforms – from Twitter to Instagram to Reddit – and women famously being the victim of a gendered double standard, whereby they're shamed and judged more harshly for taking revealing images of themselves (remember the 4Chan hacking scandal a few years ago?).

The latter is the subject of a new 20-minute BBC Three documentary, You’ve Been Shamed, which went live on iPlayer this week. It promises a "tough-love approach to making extreme social media ‘offenders’ confront how they’re really coming across with the pictures they post online."

With the help of south-London DJ and influencer Yinka Bokinni and fashion influencer Sophie Milner, it dishes out some harsh truths about the participants' social media presence, before plastering their "worst" and "most shocking" photos over a real-life gallery and asking the public to judge them. "It only takes seven seconds to make a first impression," says the show's narrator in its introduction, adding that if you're posting sexualised photos, "you could be doing yourself a lot more damage than you realise, but luckily we're here to help."

Among the participants is 21-year-old Tara from Glasgow, with 2,800 Instagram followers and a particular penchant for posting photos of her physical assets and an "If you've got it, flaunt it" attitude. But her boyfriend is less keen on her "provocative, racy" posts, and members of the public are shown dubbing her "a desperate tart" and "so overly sexual that it's embarrassing".

The influencers also had a lot to say about her feed. "If you don't want to attract the wrong kind of attention, just think. When you post a picture, anyone in the world can look at it, so have a think about how you want to come across," advises Bokinni.

The show's aim, apparently, is "to take the nation's more unapologetic social media users and confront them with how they're really coming across". An intriguing enough idea for a short documentary, one might think, but many viewers have said the execution left a lot to be desired.

Critics on Twitter said the show simply perpetuated the gendered double standard that sees women judged more harshly than men for posting revealing photos of themselves online, and encouraged social-media shaming rather than tackling the problem.

Some emphasised the view that people should be free to do what they want online without judgement if they're not harming anyone, as Tara was.

At a time when the UK's advertising watchdog looks likely to be ban companies from perpetuating harmful gender stereotypes and body shaming in their campaigns, and the population is increasingly awake to violence against women in our society, it's a shame that BBC Three didn't seize the opportunity to tackle the sexism that underpins online shaming.

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