Another take on the Facebook breastfeeding protest

// 4 January 2009

A Facebook group, ‘Hey, Facebook, breastfeeding is not obscene! (Official petition to Facebook)’ is arguing against the social networking site’s policy of removing photos of breastfeeding women. (Abby O’Reilly has written a previous post on this here).

Pictures of women feeding their babies are classified as obscene and

removed, and members are threatened with banning from the site if their photos are reposted.

The group organised a worldwide cyberspace protest on December 27 last year, in which women swapped their usual profile pictures for images of them breastfeeding their babies.

It’s shocking, but not particularly surprising, that this attitude to the female body is still prevalent among Facebook’s organisers. After all, women have been prevented from breastfeeding in public spaces, from cafes to the House of Commons, on the grounds that it is somehow indecent. Our society sexualises the female breast to such an extent that its basic evolutionary function – nourishing a child – is obscured. While anyone can access specifically sexual images of topless models in tabloid newspapers and top-shelf magazines, breastfeeding images remain taboo.

This restriction – which is not limited to Facebook, but reflects a wider social problem – has three effects. First, it promotes the sexual objectification of women’s bodies, by reading a sexual subtext into all images of female breasts. Second, it limits respect for mothers who chose to breastfeed, and leaves them vulnerable to criticism and unwelcome attention. Third, it makes breastfeeding appear ‘weird’ and leaves new parents unfamiliar with the practicalities of breastfeeding. This does no service to mothers or babies, whose health can benefit greatly from breastfeeding.

Facebook is no longer enforcing a sensibly no-nudity policy. It is discriminating against mothers who chose to breastfeed, by diminishing the respect they are accorded and classifying them as obscene.

Join the protest here

Comments From You

Ruth Moss // Posted 4 January 2009 at 7:51 am

Thanks for this – absolutely correct.

Kez // Posted 4 January 2009 at 10:01 am

Hurrah, some sense from the F Word on breastfeeding, at last!

Thank you. :)

Celeri // Posted 4 January 2009 at 12:36 pm

Hi everyone,

I’m sorry but… please don’ t call a Facebook group a protest!

I know we should struggle wherever we are but… why are we on Facebook in the first place?

Facebook is full of ads, it’s about the death of privacy…

It’s the fake world where everybody is your friend….

I hate it… It is useless…

It makes you reduce your thoughts…

Feminists sisters and siblings, I would suggest you hand-write a letter to your friends, not send them a message on Facebook!

xx

maggie // Posted 4 January 2009 at 9:23 pm

While I breastfed anywhere I wanted and never had a complaint, why would you want to post a picture of you breastfeeding your baby?

Can someone explain to me why? I’m not being judgemental. It’s just that I don’t see the point.

Conversely, I can’t see the point of Facebook’s take on banning the photos. What is all the fuss about?

As I see it Facebook don’t want nipples on display (teets to your baby if you breastfeed). I can’t even get from breastfeeding (milky milky) to sex objects (boobs) on this one. There is to me no leap of faith from one to the other. Both are completely distinct.

Now, to get back to my orgininal question. Why would you want to post a photo of you breastfeeding?

And as an adage, why would you want to post a photo of your boobs?

Why would you do that?

Pierrette // Posted 6 January 2009 at 2:14 am

I was victim to facebook’s discrimination.

I posted an image of my son nursing and within 4 days my account got deleted. Some attention was drawn to the image because it was published in a newspaper but that is no reason to cancel my Facebook account.

When I posted the image I was almost expecting a warning from Facebook but not to be banished.

Kez // Posted 8 January 2009 at 9:21 am

@ Maggie – “why would you want to post a picture of you breastfeeding?”.

I can only reply – why wouldn’t you? As was pointed out by several commenters on the previous thread (linked to at the top of this one), when you are breastfeeding a baby (as you are doubtless aware, having done so yourself) this takes up a huge part of your life. It’s not some distinct, separate activity that only takes place behind closed doors. If you’re attending social occasions etc with your baby (rather than sitting in the house for the duration, which is the alternative), it is quite likely that you will at some point be photographed breastfeeding, should these photographs therefore be deemed unsuitable for viewing? I’ve seen some beautiful pictures of mothers nursing their babies (sadly I have very few of my own – photos, not babies!) which it seems entirely reasonable that people should wish to share with their friends.

Personally I haven’t uploaded any pics of me breastfeeding, mainly because I look horrific in most of them and vanity prevents it, but I certainly wouldn’t wish to be stopped from doing so by some arbitrary ban.

If you read many of the comments on the original thread, the arguments are presented much more clearly by various people than I can manage.

Anna // Posted 8 January 2009 at 11:12 am

Facebook’s stance on this seems all the more repugnant when a friend-of-a-friend on Facebook has uploaded a picture of his scrotum, which Facebook seems to refuse to take down.

Kath // Posted 9 January 2009 at 12:31 pm

Well said!

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