Facebook: where no breast goes uncovered

// 29 December 2008

I’m not entirely averse to taking the odd topless shot of myself (sometimes to sate my boredom, if for no other reason – they’re just boobs, after all), but I would never upload photos of myself, breasts out (flashing nipples and everything), on Facebook. That’s not to say I think that women who choose to do so are foolish or are acting inappropriately; it’s just my personal choice. I was interested to learn today, however, that Facebook’s photograph policies have been causing quite a stir across the pond. The latest criticism levied against Mark Zukerberg’s moneymaking machine has emanated from the executive decision to remove daguerreotypes of women breastfeeding from personal profiles and albums. Nursing mothers and breastfeeding sympathisers have interpreted this as an act of discrimination and sexism, but is this a fair and accurate assessment? I’m not too sure.

The furore was sparked a year ago when one mother received a message from Facebook administrators asking her to remove a picture. She was informed that should she attempt to repost the image she would be banned from the site. This led to the creation of a Facebook group titled “Hey, Facebook, breastfeeding is not obscene!” which currently boasts an impressive membership of over 72,000 people. Furthermore, this anger and displeasure culminated in a protest organised by the Mothers International Lactation Campaign (MILC) on Saturday 27 December 2008, with legions of supporters denigrating Facebook’s ‘no-bare-breasts’ protocol outside their Palo Alto offices. Those who couldn’t be physically present showed solidarity with fellow complainants by simultaneously changing their Facebook profile pictures to display images of breastfeeding. To articulate their collective discontentment Helen Farley, organiser of this “nurse in,” submitted an open letter to Facebook, berating the higher echelons of the social networking site for its “discrimination against breastfeeding mothers” since:

When pictures are removed of breastfeeding and not of artificial feeding, breastfeeding mothers are being discriminated against and a wrongful double standard is set.

Facebook’s defence has always been that the site does not promote the publication of images that could be considered offensive, including those in which the nipple or the areole is fully displayed. There is no explicit reference made to breastfeeding. Any nipple or areole shot has been subject to a cull. Barry Schnitt, Facebook spokesperson, commented:

These policies are designed to ensure Facebook remains a safe, secure and trusted environment for all users, including the many children [over the age of 13] who use the site.

To me, this seems reasonable enough. This isn’t about breastfeeding. This isn’t about seeing breasts as abhorrent or breastfeeding as an obscene function; as something that should be prohibited and hidden.I can appreciate that breastfeeding mothers feel that once they have made the decision to nurse their babies they are in some respects isolated from society, largely because of prevailing social attitudes. This, of course, is unacceptable, but Facebook is not to blame. Facebook didn’t purposely intended to censor breastfeeding, and this hostility seems to be sadly misdirected. It just so happens that female physiology is such that in order to breastfeed one has to expose her breasts, especially her nipples and areoles. Facebook’s actions are about nothing more than determining if the publication of images of partial nudity on a site whose usership ranges from children to pensioners is appropriate. It wouldn’t be. What should Facebook do?

Comments From You

zak jane keir // Posted 30 December 2008 at 12:15 am

Well facebook *could* get over the idea that naked bodies are bad and wrong, full stop. It’s not rocket science to tell people to refrain from posting erect penises, cumshots or fisting on the website, but facebook is not Cbeebies and the glimpse of a nipple or indeed a bare arse is not going to kill anyone.

Rachel S. // Posted 30 December 2008 at 12:39 am

For the sake of clarity, a Daguerreotype is not the same as a photograph or digital image. Daguerreotypes were named after one of the pioneers of photography (Daguerre, no less), who was essentially etching images into tin with mercury and other chemicals — the practice was abandoned because of the mercury and the expense, but the fact remains that Daguerreotypes more closely resemble etchings than they do actual photographs.

Just wanted to point that out. Carry on.

Abby O'Reilly // Posted 30 December 2008 at 1:01 am

Sorry my reply will be quite short as am just about to go to bed but…

Zac: Yep, can appreciate what you’re saying, but I think that (as far as FB is concerned) the concern is where they can draw the boundary. I know there is a difference between a bit of naked flesh and the downright pornographic, but there is a lot that lies between these two extremes and I think there would be tremendous difficulties policing a site of FBs size without something offensive slipping through the net. It’s best not to have anything than risk it. Facebook is not Cbeebies, but there are younger users, and parents of some of the younger surfers may not want their children to see nudity, however partial. Some adults don’t want to see it either, I suppose. And it’s not as if individuals are being prevented from posting photographs of themselves elsewhere on the Internet, just not on FB.

Rachel S: I know what a daguerreotype is – I looked it up a few years back for an essay I was writing. I used the word as I like it (it’s quite unusual), and didn’t feel that it distracted hugely from the premise of the piece. But I concede maybe it was inappropriate and will consider that next time I feel the urge to use it.

Night night xxx

Morgan // Posted 30 December 2008 at 8:41 am

Livejournal did the same thing a few years ago, banning hundreds of users for using 100x100px icons of themselves breastfeeding their children. The Livejournal ban was actually instigated by a (male) troublemaker: annoyed at being ordered by the abuse team to take down his porn he started reporting every icon of breastfeeding he could find as a TOS violation. The abuse team idiotically sided with the troll, even though they must have known his only purpose was to provoke.

We called it “nipplegate” and it was as wrong then as Facebook is now. To extend their anti-porn policy to include images of breastfeeding underlines the ridiculous notion that the female breast has only one function: the sexual. It encourages campaigns to ban public breastfeeding. It declares this natural and necessary act to be obscene. Surely no feminst could support that?

lisa // Posted 30 December 2008 at 8:55 am

I have a completely different perspective – it is important that children (especially teens – the over 13s mentioned by Facebook) do see women breastfeeding. The activity is hidden away in the UK-US to such an extent that many young adults are not only ignorant but squeamish about it. Moreover there is a knack to it and parents need to know a few practical tips to feed their own children successfully. Familiarity with the activity is a great help for their future parenting skills and abilities. Some of the teenage girls using Facebook may well become mothers within a few years anyway and they are the group of mothers least likely to breastfeed (thereby disadvantaging themselves and their children even more than simply by being immature or lacking in resources).

Yet again the UK-US confuses ignorance with innocence. Not only are they different but ignorance often pushes innocence to the margins and-or corrupts perfectly innocent activities (e.g. feeding children) into perverted or obscene taboos.

What next ? No pics of family pet tabby cats feeding kittens ? No pics of children at all just in case paedophiles see them ? or no pics of women just in case hetrosexual males see them ? no pics of people eating in case anorexics see them ? or how about we just forget about Facebook altogether and get on with real life instead ?

Beth R // Posted 30 December 2008 at 8:57 am

But is breastfeeding nudity? In society at large there is an increasing move (long overdue) to accepting that whilst in general taking ones top off on a bus or in a cafe is nudity and not ok, for the purposes of breastfeeding slipping out a boob ought to be ok, and ought even to be a right protected by law. This is not a form of ‘nudity’ which parents have control over their children seeing, unless they lock them in an attic away from all babies and nursing mothers.

If we accept nursing as a valid exception to nudity laws elsewhere, why not on facebook?

Kate // Posted 30 December 2008 at 9:29 am

You’re seriously asking what Facebook should do? Well, perhaps adopt the legal and community standards where it’s based – that baring a breast to feed a child is perfectly acceptable.

Kat // Posted 30 December 2008 at 9:48 am

Sorry but you are wrong. The photos that they are deleting often don’t show any nipple or areole at all. I have two BF pics in my album of photos of my son’s first weeks of life. I’m not showing nipple and I’m very proud of them, we look lovely. I put them there to share with my friends. Facebook would consider them obscene and delete them without my permission, when I am constantly being assailed by images of women in underwear on pages, in group titles etc.

Regarding the ‘protect children’ angle – facebook is only open to children over 13. There is no reason to argue that the sight of a breastfeeding breast would damage a child of any age, if there were, it would be illegal in public (which it isn’t). The law distinguishes between sexual exposure of oneself and breasts being used for their primary purpose – why can’t facebook?

It is EXACTLY like telling BF mothers that their actions, and their breasts, are obscene. It’s hard enough to BF when out of the house without being judged by somebody…and if facebook, essentially a public sphere, tells women they should hide away, what message does that send?

Not to mention that most photos are in people’s personal albums, and it’s the fault of facebook that the default ‘share’ settings are too loose and many people don’t realise they need to actively restrict them if they want to keep the photos between their friends only.

Kez // Posted 30 December 2008 at 10:31 am

“Female physiology is such that in order to breastfeed one has to expose her breasts, especially her nipples and areoles”

…. actually, this is not true. It’s one of the (many) myths about breastfeeding that you have to virtually strip to the waist in order to do it, thus making a general exhibition of yourself should you wish to breastfeed in public. You don’t; it’s usually perfectly possibly to breastfeed discreetly.

Xen Hasan // Posted 30 December 2008 at 10:43 am

Its not that difficult to draw a rough line between breastfeeding and indecency (change the rule to “no nipple or areole except where there is an infant in picture about to feed or feeding” – simple).

If Facebook want to, quite reasonably, have some sort of control over the decency of pictures posted there then I’m sure they can employ someone with the common sense to be able to work that one out. The person deciding on which photos to censor will no doubt have to decide on a much fuzzier line around how much breast is ok to show in pictures that don’t include obvious breastfeeding – is it ok to have topless pics with just small stickers over the nipples, like you see on the covers of porn mags? Facebook is adult enough to cope with questions like that and I’m sure they are adult enough to cope with breastfeeding.

Breastfeeding has been shown time and time again to improve the health of both babies and mothers. Yet as you said, breastfeeding mothers can feel to an extent isolated, or rejected, or pressured to change to formula, to the detriment of their child’s health and their own – surely that is not something Facebook’s family values want to encourage?

And surely that societal control over women’s bodies is not really something you want to defend?

A woman’s choice to breastfeed, for her own and her baby’s health and enjoyment, is very very different to the main reason facebook wants to avoid revalling nipple shots – its about the pressure on women to reveal their breasts for other’s enjoyment – about our need to be able to use our bodies for our own uses, not as other’s commodities.

Ruth Moss // Posted 30 December 2008 at 12:15 pm

I plan to blog about this shortly.

But in the meantime, I just want to make one addition to the debate. The statement “Any nipple or areole shot has been subject to a cull” is not true.

It is only *female* nipples and areola that are censored.

Jen // Posted 30 December 2008 at 2:04 pm

Eh, I don’t think breastfeeding and topless pictures are the same at all. I think by censoring pictures of breastfeeding mothers we are necessarily saying “this is obscene, this is wrong, thirteen-year-olds should be protected from this”. Saying that some of parents may want their thirteen-year-olds protected from this is… a little bit problematic, in my book. We all agree here, I assume, that breastfeeding is not obscene, so why would we support its being censored so as not to offend some crazy person who cannot disassociate breasts from sex? I think Facebook is entirely in the wrong here.

aimee // Posted 30 December 2008 at 3:25 pm

I didn’t breast feed ‘cos I was embarassed. Because it would have meant I would have had to live like a hermit for six months or more; not seeing family or friends, because it would have meant getting my boob out in front of them. Why was I embarassed? Because of incidences like this, where breast feeding and the female breast cannot be removed from connotations of a sexual nature. Defining a woman’s breast as obscene, or even innately sexual is damanging! Facebook should recognise that breast feeding is not an obscene act, and it should not be censored. Sorry to disagree with the post, but perhaps we need to address the issue of why some parents might not want their children looking at pictures of women breastfeeding, not just acknowledge and accept it.

Julia // Posted 30 December 2008 at 3:29 pm

Conversely, why should it be that all non-breastfeeding breasts ARE considered obscene? Not all women are “getting their tits out for the lads”, so to speak, if they choose to expose their breasts in a photograph. Is the Normal Breasts Gallery (http://www.007b.com/breast_gallery.php) filthy and pornographic, or a celebration of women’s bodies in all their forms?

Laura // Posted 30 December 2008 at 3:52 pm

I agree with the other commenters – facebook is totally out of line. Treating breastfeeding as an obscenity is the same as assuming that breasts exist solely for the sexual stimulation of others, and this attitude is responsible for the difficulties and discrimination many mothers face when choosing to breastfeed their child in public.

Redheadinred // Posted 30 December 2008 at 4:05 pm

There is a complete double standard with regard to men and women going topless. For men, they can do it no trouble most of the time. It’s not acceptable in some shops or fast food places, but they certainly wouldn’t be banned from Facebook for doing it. Women’s breasts, however, are sexualised by society to such an extent that it seems we’ve all forgotten what they’re really for! They’ve become a sexual object first and foremost, and you can have almost the whole breast showing with two tiny stars over the nipples on the bottom shelf of the newsagents, but post a breastfeeding photo on Facebook and you’ll be banned. Heaven forbid that a woman might want to use her breasts for something other than male gratification. It’s like the patriarchy has hijacked breasts.

In a way, it’s not surprising that men are not subject to the same standards, because a woman’s breasts and in particular their feeding function are symbols of power and womanhood. It’s a threat to the very conservative-minded that a woman might be able to treat showing her chest the same way as a man would, because women’s breasts are different in that they can symbolise a woman’s power. So they had to make breasts obscene and make ‘getting them out’ about pleasing men. There are women baring their breasts on the Discovery Channel before nine p.m., but the difference is that it’s routine for them. It’s not something they do as a sign of their sexual availability, it just is.

When it comes to these sexualised images of topless women, it mostly seems to be about nipples. There is this attitude that as long as no nipples are bared, it’s all just a bit of cheeky fun, but apparently there’s something hyper-sexual about a woman’s nipples that doesn’t apply to a man’s nipples. Well, that’s hardly our problem! It’s their problem if they think female nipples are obscene but men’s are not.

And I totally agree with another poster who said that it is important for young people to see breastfeeding. It needs to be normalised.

Kez // Posted 30 December 2008 at 4:13 pm

I should maybe clarify my comment above. I wasn’t saying, at all, that I think there’s anything wrong with public breastfeeding. Just that it’s a bit of a myth – and one that unfortunately puts some women off breastfeeding at all – that you have to practically strip naked in order to do it.

Can I use this excuse to offer my top ironic moment of all time – Peter Andre (husband, lest we forget, of one Katie Price, aka Jordan) saying that he didn’t approve of women breastfeeding in public because he didn’t think people wanted to see “that sort of thing” out on the streets….

Oh, my aching sides.

Anne Onne // Posted 30 December 2008 at 4:22 pm

I’m sorry, but I have to disagree.

A person’s profile and the pictures on that is usually private. This often means that someone has to ‘friend’ someone to view the images. Facebook’s fear of having children roving through lots of random breastfeeding womens’ albums seems unlikely to say the least. I’ve browsed through a few networks and the vast majority of people have strong privacy settings, so that it would be near impossible for someone to accidentally come across their pictures. This isn’t representative, necessarily of everyone, but it shows that the main issue is the individual user and how they choose to set their profile.

Unlike outright nudity and porn, which we assume is of a sexual nature and therefore something most people should be warned about before clicking, and have the option to opt out, we don’t see artistic nudity in galleries, or in science textbooks be censored or have blig flashing warning signs on it, because it’s not seen as primarily sexual.

That and breastfeeding is also not sexual. If a woman is happy to put it up on her facebook page knowing that everyone she has friended can see it, it’s her business. Everyone else is free to look away, just like in real life. We don’t believe women shouldn’t be allowed to breastfeed in public, because we believe it is not obscene and that anyone who doesn’t like it can look away, why should facebook profiles which are usually private be any different? It’s not like it’s being broadcast like a shining beacon!

It’s unlikely that children would come across women breastfeeding on their forays in facebook. That and they’re NOT children. They’re teenagers. Many of whom will have seen their mum breastfeed a younger sibling.

Besides, I don’t think breastfeeding is obscene, or to be classed in the same category as porn, which children should best avoid. Altough one must be over 18 to watch porn, and over 15 to watch suggestive sex scenes, children over 13 are old enough to watch films with topless or even naked men and women in them (so long as the scene isn’t sexual, but is say artistic or otherwise not a sex scene) the BBFC and other classifiers are in their rights to award such a film a 12 certificate. The point is that children over 13 are legally allowed to view such material at their own (rather than parents’) discretion, and since breastfeeding is not sexual, it should be classed in the same realms as artistic/scientific nudity.

These children can legally go into a cinema and watch films with nudity in them, or look in a textbook. They are legally considered old enough to view such imagery, so I don’t think Facebook is being reasonable here. They have a duty to stop their users being groomed or viewing distressing images of porn or other graphic things, but to me this rule implies that breastfeeding is by definition graphic and disturbing, which it is not.

I also disagree with your opinion that it’s not about sexualising breasts. It must be, because they’re not making a move to delete pictures of topless men, or scantily clad women, or anything else that is suggestive, as far as we know. I’m not blaming facebook for caving in to society’s view that breastfeeding is obscene and that children need to be protected from it at all costs, but they are defintitely treating it as sexual, as opposed to artistic or scientific.

Mephit // Posted 30 December 2008 at 4:51 pm

Have to agree with many of the people responding to this article, breast-feeding does not necessarily mean exposure of the nipple etc to view.

By banning pictures of it, FB is basically saying that b-fing is obscene.

Anna // Posted 30 December 2008 at 6:47 pm

You’ve got to be thirteen to register on Facebook – or at least say you are. To be honest, if you’re going to be so irresponsible you don’t watch your child online/install software that’ll make it reasonably difficult for the child to go on prohibited sites then you are a pretty poor parent.

The internet isn’t safe, it isn’t nice, and the vast majority of it isn’t child-friendly.

That got me a bit sidetracked, anyway – if thirteen year olds can’t be trusted to ‘cope’ with seeing breasts used for what they’re intended for, as opposed to splashed all over page 3 every day (I imagine the vast majority of thirteen year olds in the UK have) then something is seriously messed up.

tl;dr Facebook is wrong

Cruella // Posted 30 December 2008 at 8:34 pm

Why can’t facebook just adopt the same policies that apply in coffee shops and on buses – nudity be it tits, ass, dicks or whatever is not appropriate but an exception is made for breastfeeding? Seems like they just haven’t thought it through.

Nuala // Posted 30 December 2008 at 9:42 pm

You know, most of the photos of me breastfeeding exist because whatever event was being photographed happened and at some point during it my daughter needed to be fed. Because that’s how breastfeeding works – very like eating or breathing – you do it while you get on with your life. While going to friends’ parties, while reading out loud to other kids, while attending political conferences, while going on holiday by train. Which means, unless breastfeeding women are to be banned from society, it will happen everywhere breastfeeding women and their kids happen to be.

But banning it from newspapers, TV and sites like Facebook results in this part of our lives vanishing from the record. Which makes normalising it harder. Which makes it harder to live your life out in the world.

Which is all I’m trying to do most of the time. It doesn’t seem like an unreasonable request to me.

Natasha // Posted 30 December 2008 at 10:40 pm

Yep, I’d have to agree with most of the commenters here – Facebook is out of line on this one. A photo of a woman breastfeeding her child is not obscene and not in the same category as what most people would probably class as ‘offensive’. It’s sad that in society breastfeeding is seen as obscene because breasts MUST be sexual. It’s not like they can be used for anything except titillation. Except – oh wait – they totally can…

Amy // Posted 31 December 2008 at 1:52 pm

I think Facebook and other such networks should be more concerned about some of the photos young girls post of themselves, as opposed to photos of a completely natural act (breastfeeding).

I mean, seriously, what’s worse? A teenage girl posing in her underwear (or less) trying to titillate/emulating raunch culture (which is damaging to self esteem) or a photo of a woman breastfeeding?!

Saranga // Posted 31 December 2008 at 2:33 pm

@ Amy: We may find the pictures of teenage girls doing raunch worrisome, when older they may look back on it, it may well damage their self esteem. But, facebook and anyone else (including us) have no right to police these girls and disallow them to post these pictures – their bodies, their lives, their choices. It’s not our decision to make.

Kez // Posted 1 January 2009 at 9:20 pm

Just wondering if Abby is going to reply to any of the many comments made on this post, since her original reply considerably higher up the page.

Abby O'Reilly // Posted 1 January 2009 at 9:56 pm

Kez – I just logged in to quickly moderate comments. I will respond again, either later tonight or tomorrow. I just have a few things I need to finish tonight before I can read the comments through again to refresh my mind and respond accordingly.

Ruth Moss // Posted 2 January 2009 at 10:19 am

I’ve blogged a little about this now.

I just wanted to come back and say how made up I am that the comments here very much agree that facebook is out of line.

I’ve come across a strong anti-breastfeeding sentiment before with some feminists, I think partly due to fear that it reinforces the mother as primary carer and also fear that promoting breastfeeding is somehow controlling women’s bodies and anti-choice.

I’m really cheered to see that the vast majority of feminists are still supportive of breastfeeding and the right to breastfeed in public.

As I’ve mentioned on the blog, although I would still disagree with facebook’s policy if it was “no nipple, no areola, EVAR!” it’s actually the case that quite a few photographs of breastfeeding that *don’t* contravene its policy have also been removed. It is an anti-breastfeeding stance they’re taking.

Karen // Posted 2 January 2009 at 7:56 pm

When I first started breastfeeding my daughter I had some problems latching her properly. One thing that helped hugely were step-by-step videos posted on the web of women latching babies on and good and bad latches. Obviously you needed to see the whole breast for this. I wouldn’t have had to find these images if I had ever seen anyone breastfeeding in real life – ie if it was seen as the norm and not something shameful or embarrassing.

I disagree to a certain extent with the comment about it being possible to breadtfeed without showing any nipple. At some point you need to get the baby on to the exposed nipple so until you get skilled at doing this quicly you could indeed flash a bit of nipple momentarily. If you are having problems, especially in the early days you can get the scenario of the baby latching on and off several times until it is comfortable for you both. This happened to me several times at home with relatives in the room who were uncomfortable with it and in cafes. If we didn’t see breastfeeding as somehow sexual or obscene, I would not have had to feel embarrassed or flustered in the way I did as I struggled to latch my duaghter without ‘flashing’. Once the baby is on and feeding well you can of course cover up if you wish to do so (at least until the baby gets older and keeps pulling whatever you are using off or popping off the breast to look around the room.)

Amy // Posted 4 January 2009 at 1:38 pm

@Saranga: I was merely noting a double standard, and highlighting Facebook’s hypocrisy. The point is, it would seem that FB’s alleged ‘no nipple, no areola’ policy seems to be inconsistent, and as has already been noted, detrimental to both the issues of women’s bodies and also the issue of breastfeeding.

Saranga // Posted 4 January 2009 at 9:28 pm

@Amy: OK, my mistake, I read too much into your comment. Apologies.

Jan // Posted 5 January 2009 at 9:26 am

Read this a while ago but didn’t have time to comment. I was a bit surprised by this post, to be honest. The author states that she likes to take topless pictures of herself, but wouldn’t put them on Facebook, and equates this with women who upload breastfeeding pics. However, it is blindingly obvious that on any level except the most superficial, these two situations are completely different.

Breastfeeding isn’t about exposing your breasts for the sake of it, it’s done for a very good reason and any exposure which occurs is incidental to the main purpose, i.e. feeding the baby. Presumably Abby O’Reilly does not go around lifting up her top in restaurants, on public transport, etc, but if you are breastfeeding a young baby and want to have any kind of life outside the home, you do have to do these things. Often it’s possible to do it discreetly, sometimes this may be more difficult.

I’m not sure how much Ms O’Reilly knows about breastfeeding, but in the early months at least, it tends to be a pretty constant occupation. If you want to go to a social occasion, it is highly likely that you will need to breastfeed the baby at some point. (Possibly almost the whole time, in some cases!) If someone happens to take a photograph, why on earth shouldn’t this appear in a Facebook album? It’s hardly the same as getting drunk and waving your boobs at passers-by, or posing in a sexually provocative way for your profile picture.

And yes, it disadvantages breastfeeding mothers, because Facebook would not attempt to censor a picture of an infant being bottle-fed.

Breastfeeding rates in this country are shockingly low, and it’s hardly surprising when attitudes like this are prevalent. As someone said above, it needs to be normalised, so that breastfeeding is seen as the natural, healthy and non-shameful process it is. It’s very very sad that many women are dissuaded from breastfeeding by the perceived “embarrassment” factor. Abby O’Reilly asks “What should Facebook do?” – well, I would suggest taking a more mature and sensible approach which recognises the difference between nudity for the sake of it and breastfeeding. It’s not rocket science. It’s not complicated. It shouldn’t be beyond this hugely successful organisation to take a more balanced and responsible position. Their current stance is simply wrong.

Suzi // Posted 8 January 2009 at 6:55 pm

Wow! Just wow! I was surprised to find such nonsense on thefword, that is, until I saw that it was a piece by Abby O’Reilly.

Abby, maybe it’s time to evaluate the issues you clearly have with motherhood.

thefword, is Abby really somebody you wish to be giving a platform to at the moment?

Regarding the issue at hand, there are some points to make, that have been made already above, but I’m going to say them again.

1) There was no nipple shown in the photos at the centre of this. Funny thing about breastfeeding is that the nipple usually has a baby’s face in the way. So the no nipple rule does not apply.

2) As a feminist site, should we not question why female nipples are the work of the devil, but male nipples are perfectly innocent?

Facebook are way out of line here, both by their own rules, and by the values of most commenters here.

Abby O'Reilly // Posted 8 January 2009 at 10:33 pm

Suzi – Wow! to you too! Having just moderated your comment, I’m amazed that having read my post you suggest I have a problem with motherhood simply because I have an opinion different to your own. It’s absurd. I have written posts on breastfeeding before, and I am in no way anti-breastfeeding – I am in fact pro-choice. Bottle or breast, surely it’s up to the individual mother. But that’s a different discussion. Perhaps if we are taking recourse to self-evaluation maybe you should consider the reasons why you feel it necessary to display such hostility towards someone who, firstly, you have never met, and secondly, has presented her opinions on an interactive forum that encourages discussion? I never once suggested mine was the definitive viewpoint. In fact, if memory serves me rightly Kit has also written a post on this subject. Of course, female breasts have been overly-sexualised as ‘men’s playthings’ and I do not disupute that. Of course this is unacceptable. But I did not feel in this instance that Facebook had set out to be intentionally discriminatory against breastfeeding mothers.

Kez // Posted 8 January 2009 at 10:45 pm

Abby – would it be possible to reply to some of the other numerous people who have posted on this thread, rather than just the one person who got you particularly riled?

I’m not trying to be confrontational here, honestly! But a lot of people have gone to the trouble to comment at length, and made some very good points which you have so far not addressed, although you stated some time ago you would be doing so.


Stephen // Posted 8 January 2009 at 11:02 pm

‘Facebook didn’t purposely intended to censor breastfeeding, and this hostility seems to be sadly misdirected.’

Really? How did they ban those photos then? A person had to decide which photos to remove. That’s the practice or removing breastfeeding photos.

Intent is legally defined as ‘ A determination to perform a particular act or to act in a particular manner for a specific reason; an aim or design; a resolution to use a certain means to reach an end.’

They are intentionally removing breastfeeding photos, plain and simple. Also, they are doing so despite the fact that breastfeeding in public (a childspace) is not illegal.

‘It just so happens that female physiology is such that in order to breastfeed one has to expose her breasts, especially her nipples and areoles’

However, a photograph of a feeding child does not contain either so what are we actually seeing? Part of a breast, some chest and neck? Like any bikini photo.. Oh and on the sexual issue, I’m a 27 year old male and even I know that breastfeeding is breastfeeding, not porn that will warp children’s minds.

‘simply because I have an opinion different to your own. It’s absurd.’

‘display such hostility towards someone who, firstly, you have never met’

Perhaps Suzi is basing her opinion on several posts by you?

I for one can fully understand her tone. A couple of posts by you have done little to inspire my confidence in you or your opinions. Posts such as Handbag Babies for the Geriatric (/blog/2008/07/handbag_babies) and First Time Parents at 70 and 72 years old (/blog/2009/01/first_time_pare) being of particular note. It’s interesting that you seem suprised that your opinions have once more met with some hostility although, admittedly, not as much hostility as your ‘dusty old uterus’ incident.

Abby O'Reilly // Posted 8 January 2009 at 11:38 pm

Hi Kez – sorry, I replied to that comment not becuase it riled me, it just happened to be the most recent I saw when I logged in to moderate. I apologise, I realised I said that I would come back to comment here. I put up another post more recently (I believe I corresponded with you personally during that thread but if my memory is incorrect I apologise) and so have not had time to come back to this. As soon as I can I will address the comments. x

Abby O'Reilly // Posted 8 January 2009 at 11:42 pm

Stephen – you’ll notice the name of a contributor is now displayed at the top of blog posts. You can now chose not to read anything I have written if you so wish.

Kez // Posted 9 January 2009 at 9:34 am

Thanks, Abby. Just one more point. You say, in your comment above, “I am in fact pro-choice. Bottle or breast, surely it’s up to the individual mother.” Of course, that sounds fine and unarguable, and would be were it in fact a free and equal choice. But it isn’t. Breastfeeding is indisputably better for both baby and mother, but it is surrounded by myths and misinformation which serve to both deter women from breastfeeding at all, or deny them the support they need to do so successfully.

Infant formula is massive business worldwide and makes vast sums of money in a way that breastfeeding doesn’t – it’s no coincidence that breastfeeding rates are now so low. There are powerful vested interests at work here. (And yes, advertising etc is strictly regulated – here, at least – but that doesn’t stop the companies trying to get around it any way they can, because a drop in infant formula sales means a drop in their profits.)

Gabrielle Palmer’s “The Politics of Breastfeeding” is a great read and spells out the issues very clearly. It’s not JUST a matter of personal lifestyle choice and I do believe it is an important issue for feminists, and indeed anyone who cares about these issues.

I know you said this is a different discussion, but I’m not convinced that it is. I think it’s relevant, because one of the most pernicious anti-breastfeeding myths (articulated by Aimee further up this thread) is that you can’t or shouldn’t do it in public because this is in some way an obscenity.

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