@sophiemayanne / Instagram

As her powerful Behind The Scars series is removed from Facebook, this photographer asks why empowered, beautiful, un-retouched bodies are being censored

"This is a hit for the project - as it only aims to empower."

17 Jun 2019

Here at GLAMOUR HQ, we swear by the mantra 'your beauty, your rules', which is why we've long been avid followers of Behind The Scars, a photography campaign that celebrates scars of all shapes and sizes, and the incredible stories behind them.

The series was captured by Sophie Mayanne and began in April 2017. Since then, Sophie has captured hundreds of scar portraits and stories - encouraging many men, women and children all over the world to embrace the skin they are in.

Sadly for Sophie, Behind The Scars was removed from Facebook for 'violating their terms and conditions', making her 'ineligible' to use the platform. "As you can imagine, this is a hit for the project - as it only aims to empower, and give those who don't have a voice a chance to share their stories," Sophie told us.

Here, we asked her to pen a letter calling for change, explaining why, in 2019, women's and mens empowered, beautiful, un-retouched bodies should not be removed, or censored from these platforms.

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I deleted the Instagram app off my phone last night (and will probably do so again after posting this - just to give my brain a break) BUT I'm pissed off, so here goes. Facebook has removed the "Behind The Scars" page from its site, along with my personal account too. Citing that we have both violated its terms and conditions and are "ineligible" to use the platform. How? Beats me. The content has never been removed before (it has on Instagram, frequently), and absolutely no warning. It's just really disheartening to have work, stuff you've built completely wiped... plus all your personal stuff too. @ - you bloody suck, seriously. Also I'm annoyed at myself for being so pissed off because it is just social media at the end of the day. BUT THESE BODIES DO NOT VIOLATE ANY OF YOUR TERMS AND CONDITIONS. (P.s let's see how long @behindthescars_ lasts as I'm pretty sure the t+C's are the same.. and all the content shared to FB is synced from @) And I'm sure this will get buried in Instagram's joyous algorithm but hey 👍

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Behind the Scars challenges people’s perceptions. It goes beyond the physicality of the scar to the story and person behind it. It also challenges how we feel about ourselves, our own imperfections and the significance we attach to them. It encourages people to think differently.

The response when the project was first released was overwhelming. People made with me from across the world praising the project and its impact. It became a support network in its own right and its message spread quickly. People responded to its honesty, simplicity and imagery.

Social media has been key in the project's development and reach, as well as its impact worldwide. Recently, however, this has been made more difficult, particularly on Instagram where hashtags have disappeared and images been removed. However, there have been no previous issues with Facebook whatsoever, which is why the removal of my personal and the Behind the Scars page came completely out of the blue.

They gave me no notice of their intention to remove my accounts or any reason for the removal beyond what appears to be a standard issue email response to my appeal stating “I have violated their community guidelines and I am ineligible to use the platform.”

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Hi lovely people, my name is Iesha ( @blvk.velvet ), I’m 24 and preferred pronouns are they/them. I’ll be taking over the insta stories this weekend ! 🎉❤️ - I don’t remember my exact age but I was 12 or 13 when I received 3rd and 4th degree burns to my left arm. On impulse I entered the kitchen to find my niece who was 4 at the time reaching up to pull down a pot of hot oil of the stove. Things went blurry for a while but I came to consciousness to see my brother screaming and my niece crying. When I glance my arm , a wave of excruciating pain came over me. I had managed to push her enough out the way to use myself as a shield. I was in the hospital for almost 2 months. I had to undergo skin surgery, using skin from my left thigh. I had to have intensive physical therapy to regain full mobility in my arm and my leg. For a very long time I struggled deeply with self-acceptance. I covered my body even in the dead middle of summer , wearing turtle necks and jean jackets. Last year when I went to Greece was the first time I had ever worn a swimsuit since the surgery. Being apart of this amazing project has also been a vital part in teaching me how to love myself. It takes accepting your scars and seeing them as more than that , seeing them as stories. Stories that you fall in love with over and over again. Your stories are beautiful , you’re still here , you’re still writing , that was not the end. ❤️

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I share the project both on Facebook and Instagram, where it used to appear regularly on Instagram’s ‘Explore’ page where it was more easily accessible, but is now subject to frequent censorship.

There has been a general clamp-down by Facebook in response to the Health Secretary’s call for social media to tighten up on protecting children from what they consider to be harmful online content, focusing particularly on the areas of self-harm and mental health. They do not appear to have considered individual accounts or projects on their own merits or fully understood the purpose and the benefits to so many of the Behind the Scars project whatsoever. Any self-harm stories have been purely about recovery and destigmatising conversations around mental health.

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#behindthescars Tessa "10 years ago I had an accident with boiling water. This led to me having third degree burns all over my chest, stomach, left arm and upper left leg. I underwent 4 surgeries, 2 of them were very recent - in 2018. I stayed for a month in the best burn hospital in The Netherlands, in Beverwijk. My doctors are true heros. They saved my life, as I almost died right after my accident because of fluid loss and shock, and they made me beautiful again. The plastic surgeons really did an amazing job. I can’t say thay I’m 100% recovered yet, but will I ever be? I still struggle with my breast area, as I regularly have to deal with infections and other difficult things. But I can handle it as long as I have my family and my God. I know I will never be normal, and I will never be what the world calls ‘beautiful’. Social media can be so toxic, it can completely influence your perspective on beauty. What we should do is post more real pictures of real bodies. Let’s show the world some real beauty, the beauty of being yourself and showing your scars without shame." @tessadebora photographed in Hague, Netherlands

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Facebook will not stop me fighting for the project and the people in it. This is not for Facebook to dictate. In this day and age, this page of empowered, beautiful, un-retouched bodies of both men and women should not be removed or censored from these platforms, it should be embraced.

I have appealed Facebook's decision - and I am currently awaiting a response/ explanation as to why the account was removed, and if it will be reinstated.

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Behind The Scars: Saffron “I survived because the fire inside of me burned brighter than the fire around me’. On May bank holiday 2002, I was spinning in front of my living-room gas fire when my dress caught alight onto the flames. I sustained 28% full-thickness burns. I was 4-years- old and spent the next 12 weeks, leading up to my fifth birthday, being treated at the burns unit in Salisbury hospital. A full thickness burn means that all three layers of my skin ( the epidermis, dermis and subcutis) has been damaged. The treatment involved intensive surgery which consisted of removing all the burnt toxic tissue and replacing it with the transplantation of either skin grafts, from a donor area of my own body, or synthetic skin called Integra. My new skin was stapled together in-place until healed which left pin-hole marks and areas of thick scar tissue. Combined, this creates the scar you visually see; my burn, as well as additional skin-graph scars (though these do fade over time!). Scar tissue does not stretch, meaning as I grew I needed continuous amendments to enable the scars to catch up with my developing body. Because I was so young at the time of my accident, It was apparent fromthe outset that there would be many more operations to come. Since then, I have, as expected had several more operations and embarked on a journey of physical and mental recovery. I can finally say that I not only accept, but love the skin that I am in. A longtime ago I realised that my burns will never go, and instead are a part of who I am. – My scars are a beacon of my own strength and the adversity I am able to overcome.” @saffcohen #behindthescars #burns #scars #scarstellastory

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In the meantime, I would like to thank all my Instagram followers, and the Behind the Scars community in general, for their incredible support. A lot are shocked and upset and want to help, a lot are worried as for some it has acted as a lifeline, a place to go and a place where they feel they belong.