Repost: Podcast on Facebook and Breastfeeding

I’m re-sharing this episode of the Podcast. My friend Gina Crosley-Corcoran (a.k.a. The Feminist Breeder) recently had her breastfeeding photos removed and her account suspended by Facebook, and I’d like to shine a light on this issue again.

Over the years there have been countless stories about mothers having their breastfeeding images removed from Facebook. In some cases, mothers even had their accounts deleted. Over three years ago, in December, 2008, I myself participated in a virtual “nurse-in”. I updated my own profile photo to an image of myself breastfeeding my daughter Hannah and changed my status to say, “Hey, Facebook, breastfeeding is not obscene!” And yet, in spite of the outcry, new stories continue to crop up all the time.

Facebook Breastfeeding Emma KwasnicaEmma Kwasnica lives here in Vancouver, and she herself has had a number of photos removed from the social networking site. She’s also had her account de-activated. Finally, it reached the point where she had enough, and she went public with her story. Media coverage followed, and as it did, Facebook took notice. They held a conference call with Emma, and issued statements underscoring the fact that they welcome breastfeeding photos on Facebook. In part, their policy regarding images depicting breastfeeding reads:

We agree that breastfeeding is natural and beautiful…Photos that show a fully exposed breast where the child is not actively engaged in nursing do violate Facebook’s Statement of Rights and Responsibilities.

The problem, according to Emma (and other mothers whose images have been removed), is that Facebook sometimes removes photos that do not show an exposed nipple that is not engaged in breastfeeding, and which therefore comply with the site’s policy. It has also locked mothers out of their own accounts without warning or recourse. Emma is trying to stop that from happening. She wants Facebook to follow its own rules and regulations. Breastfeeding is not an obscene act, and the Facebook policy agrees. It should be applied properly, and it should be applied in the same way for all users. The question of whether or not an image is obscene should not depend on whether someone else decides to flag your photo or not, and it also should not depend on who happens to be evaluating a complaint on any given day. To reinforce this message, a Facebook page called FB! Stop harassing Emma Kwasnica over her breastfeeding pics was started.

Like Emma Kwasnica, I’m one of the one billion Facebook users worldwide. The odds are pretty good that you are, too. Facebook depends on us for its livelihood. It might be free to sign up, but our presence allows them to sell ads, which make them a lot of money. We have power in this relationship to make our voices heard. To get started, listen to my conversation with Emma, find out how she’s working to ensure Facebook plays by its out rules, and learn how you can take action:

I’m working on an interview for next week at the moment. No matter what happens, I promise I’ll be sharing something worth listening to, so please tune in. Or subscribe to the podcast in iTunes, and you won’t miss a minute! Also, if you have a podcast idea, please share it with me. I’d love to hear your suggestions!

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  1. I am very pro-breastfeeding and would happily do it openly but discreetly in public when my baby/toddler wanted to be fed but I am not sure I’d want to display pics of me breastfeeding on Facebook to my 300 friends. Is the reason for posting the pics to create awareness about breastfeeding? That I understand and could support but otherwise I personally woudn’t post pic of this. Lots of things are very natural and beautiful but I don’t post pics of me in bed with my husband for example. (winky smiley face) Just trying to understand why someone would want to post these pics.

    • I don’t think the question is why people would post these photos, I think the question is whether or not they’re actually obscene. I would argue that they’re not, since breastfeeding in and of itself is not obscene. To use your example, I would not “get romantic” with my husband in the mall food court, but I did breastfeed my babies there. This is because one of those acts actually would be obscene to perform in public (no matter how discreet you are), and the other wouldn’t.

      Since Facebook’s stated policy is that breastfeeding photos are allowed, they should not be removed because one of Facebook’s employees decides that breastfeeding images are obscene, and users should not have their accounts suspended over it. There are plenty of things I wouldn’t post on Facebook that aren’t obscene. So for me the question isn’t whether it’s a good idea to post those photos. It’s whether or not Facebook is responding appropriately when they remove them and suspend a user’s account, and I would argue that it isn’t.

      • Okay thanks, I agree with that. Breastfeeding pics are most certainly not obscene (though in my opinion too personal for general consumption) and if someone does choose to post them then they should be left alone.

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