Everything I never wanted to know about breasts I learned from Facebook
You know I can't pass up a good breastfeeding discrimination story, right? With the "boobs on a plane" and "boobs on the cover" scandals not yet distant memories, and World Breastfeeding Week just last month, of course it's only fitting that now the ultimate model of appropriate social comportment, Facebook (stop laughing), decides to let us all know that breastfeeding is obscene.
Phew. And I thought they were just a networking site! I had no idea they were run by the morality brigade! I mean, if all the pornography there is any indication. Which apparently it isn't.
Let's start at the beginning. Where does any such story start? Why, with someone deciding that a breastfeeding baby is offensive, of course. And no one wants those offensive pictures shoved in their face. You know, shoved in your face on a site you have to join... where the pictures are tucked into a folder labeled "breastfeeding." Right in your face, like that.
You can follow one woman's timeline over at One small step for breastfeeding..., where the actual correspondence between lactivist and Facebook member Karen Strong and various Facebook staff can be read in its entirety. On August 27th, Karen's account was permanently deleted with the following "explanation," if you can call this sort of dogmatic non-information that:
Thanks for understanding,
Customer Support Representative
In the meantime, the Facebook group Hey, Facebook, breastfeeding is not obscene! is nearing 8,000 members at last count. Apparently Facebook didn't get the memo. But they sure are getting talked about.
When's the last time you read a post about breastfeeding over at TechCrunch? Hmmm, how about yesterday? At least writer Duncan Riley related the story with a bit of good humor:
Facebook spokeswoman Meredith Chin said Facebook does not prevent lactivists from uploading photos of themselves breastfeeding, but went on to say "Photos containing an exposed breast do violate our Terms and are removed". Now I might be male so I have no recent first hand experience but I'm confused as to how breast feeding cannot include breasts?
I didn't expect to find much male commentary on this one, but in actuality I discovered there was no shortage of men just as outraged as their female counterparts. John Allsop manages to politely suggest that Facebook may have really stepped in it this time:
I suspect if Facebook don't resolve this one a lot better than they appear to have attempted to do so far, it will cost them billions.
Next to tech geeky types, and perhaps no less so, women with young children, not least of them those who breastfeed, are the most connected, online types I know. This woman is a member of a group of 6000 or more members, which is far from small, but not a group to get offside, would be my advice.
I don't think we'll have heard the last of this.
(Do click through to Allsop's post and read the comments, as they are chock-full of interesting commentary on both sides of the issue.)
Mike Bogle is putting his actions where his opinion is: He's gone ahead and deleted his Facebook account in this face of what he calls "inherently flawed logic:"
[...] even in Western Society the appropriateness of exposed breasts will depend on the context in which they appear. The same pair of boobs would be called art in a gallery, but smut in a seedy porn shop if the manner in which they were portrayed were different.
For normal people it's all down to motives. Apparently not for Facebook.
I have no desire to be a part of an application whose basis for their Terms and Conditions is so incredibly flawed and discriminatory; who are so unwilling to reconsider their own shortsightedness; and one might say so fascist in the iron-fisted nature of their administrative and user management processes.
Shakesville's Melissa McEwan gets straight to the crux of the matter:
Naturally, the only pictures of breastfeeding allowed are ones taken from an angle in which the baby's head obscures the actual breast from which it's feeding. Or a baby blanket has been carefully arranged to cover the breast right up to baby's lips.
The reason I know this, in spite of also having no recent first-hand experience with breastfeeding, is because I am an American woman, and thusly I have been trained since birth to know all the ways in which I am meant to be ashamed of my body and how best to cover its sinful shame. Comes with the territory.
Congratulations, Facebook. The only way you could've driven your point home to Karen Strong any more completely would've been to finish up with "Now get back in the kitchen and make me some pie." And don't you worry -- we all heard you loud and clear. The lactivists, the rest of the women, and all the men who, you know, live in this century. Nice work.