Tag Archives: Facebook breastfeeding ban

More Facebook Flak

I’m doing my postpartum doula training with an organisation called Childbirth International, and through this, I’ve come in contact with passionate and dedicated women who are working in the childbirth ‘industry’. One such person is Emma Kwasnica, who has been at the forefront of some of the Facebook breastfeeding bruhaha. She has asked other CBI folk to pass on this open letter. And so I’ve obliged.

Hello,

My name is Emma Kwasnica. I am a 30-year-old Canadian tandem-nursing mother
living in Montréal, whose Facebook account has now been entirely disabled
over the breastfeeding photos controversy (
http://www.time.com/time/nation/article/0,8599,1869128,00.html). The
official petition group on Facebook, now over 153,000 members strong, is
called Hey Facebook, breastfeeding is NOT obscene! (http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=2517126532).

 I am reaching out becauseI think you may be interested in the Facebook fiasco over breastfeeding
images, and them being classified as “obscene, sexually explicit and
pornographic”. Yes, I said *breastfeeding*. The most loving, selfless act
on Earth.

For the record, my entire Facebook account has now been deleted, with no
explanation from the administrators of Facebook. While they have not
confirmed the reason for disabling my account, I can only suspect it stems
from the fact that, in the days leading up to the disabling of my account, I
had photos of me breastfeeding my daughters deleted, and was given a
“warning” for having had uploaded “obscene” content that renders Facebook
“unsafe for children” (see screenshots here :
http://picasaweb.google.ca/emma.kwasnica/20081011BreastfeedingChallenge#5288261770656740850&
http://picasaweb.google.ca/emma.kwasnica/20081011BreastfeedingChallenge#5288261775340683298
)

Given the amount of obscene, pornographic, and truly disturbing photos,
applications, ad banners, and groups that proliferate across Facebook, I am
stunned that this has happened to me. I am an aspiring midwife/Childbirth
Educator/Breastfeeding Counselor; I run a lively discussion group on
Facebook called ‘Informed Choice : Birth and Beyond’ (
http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=21515708855), and have been sharing
all of my summarised research, studies, links regarding pregnancy, birth and
motherhood with a group of over three hundred people, since July 2008. And
now, everything that I ever wrote, all my photos, all of my
midwifery-related research, has been deleted –right off the face of
Facebook. Furthermore, this does not concern me alone, as many (over one
hundred ?) other Facebook users had their posts deleted, too, since whole
discussion threads were deleted into oblivion, if it was indeed me who began
the thread (which, 80% of the time, it was, since this was my group, me
sharing the recent research relevant to the childbearing/-rearing woman).
Facebook has not responded to the e-mails I sent, politely enquiring why my
account has been disabled. They remain faceless. Hence the reason why I am
now reaching out and going public with my situation. I am desperate to get
my words back, and most importantly, the general public needs to be made
aware of Facebook’s disgusting double standards regarding “decency”. I am
revolted to report that Facebook allows the likes of a group called “Dead
Babies Make Me Laugh”, and yet, someone such as myself, who wants nothing
but to inspire and help women on their journey to birthing healthy, vibrant
babies, has had her whole account deleted.

In the name of normalizing breastfeeding, I have now done several radio
station interviews (a Sakatoon one, as well as Montréal’s 98.5 FM, and now
today, a 40-minute segment on “Maritime Morning” out of Halifax, to which
you can “listen live” this weekend, when the show will be re-aired, here :
http://www.news889.com/station/bios/); I was also interviewed for ‘La
Presse’ newspaper here in Montréal, the article for which appeared in this
past Monday’s edition of ‘La Presse’ (
http://technaute.cyberpresse.ca/nouvelles/internet/200901/04/01-814622-des-meres-en-croisade-contre-facebook.php),
and the English translation for which you will find below. I may be doing
another one-hour long segment on the same Saskatoon radio station at some
point this week, and a second show on “Maritime Morning” in the coming days.
I was interviewed this afternoon by CBC TV media, and appeared on “CBC
Montréal News At Six” this evening (the news hour broadcast will be
available online at CBC’s web site for the next 20 hours, here :
http://www.cbc.ca/ondemand/newsatsix/montreal.asx (you can skip ahead to the
Facebook vs. breastfeeding photos segment, which begins at 48:40).

There is an interesting Canadian perspective to the entire Facebook fiasco,
in that the tireless organisor of the original online protest (
http://www.facebook.com/event.php?eid=39521488436), in which 11,700 people
participated on December 27th, is from Ottawa (Stephanie Muir), the TERA
site that is currently the “safe haven” for breastfeeding photos which have
been deleted by Facebook is a Canadian one (http://www.tera.ca/photos6.html),
and is coordinated by Paul Rapoport of Hamilton, Ontario… and now, the
only (known) person so far to have had their Facebook acount fully disabled
over this issue, as a direct result of the MILC online protest –me, a
Montreal mother.
Please help me by spreading the word of Facebook’s appalling actions (such
as by posting this to your blog), and consider this an official plea to get
the word out ! For the sake of the next generation of babies, people
everywhere need to understand that the larger issue of normalising
breastfeeding is deeply important here. In 2009, it is unacceptable that
women feel shamed, or are sexualised, while providing the most normal, the
most physiologically appropriate food for their babies : breastmilk.

Sincerely yours,
-Emma Kwasnica, Montréal

P.S. Here you will find the full-page newspaper article/image from Le
Journal de Montréal (
http://picasaweb.google.ca/emma.kwasnica/20081011BreastfeedingChallenge#5261616556288520402),
in which I am tandem-nursing my daughters at Montréal’s 2008 Breastfeeding
Challenge. This is particularly relevant, as Facebook has said that no
major newspaper in North America would publish the type of breastfeeding
photos that they have deleted. This simply isn’t true – this newspaper
image is living proof ! If Montreal, a city of over 3.5 million, can handle
seeing this image in a daily newspaper, then why can’t Facebook ?

6 Comments

Filed under Breastfeeding, Lactivism and Doula-ing, Motherhood and Parenting

Thanks for the mammaries

Breasts are pretty good multi-taskers. Biologically, they have a couple of very important purposes: nourishing offspring, and encouraging the male of the species to come help create said offspring in the first place. Culturally, they have a multitude of meanings. They’re some of the hardest working symbols around. I’m quite fond of mine.

I wish that our generic attitude towards breasts was just that, actually: fondness. Instead it is fraught and controversial. The Facebook breastfeeding ban has simply brought that to the fore and perhaps at least one positive has come out of the madness – people everywhere seem to be talking about breasts and their milk-making powers.

Facebook has been taking a lot of hits for the absurd hypocrisy in the way its policies  are enforced. On the one hand, we have the perfectly natural photographs of mothers lovingly feeding their babies and children being removed. On the other hand, we have the terribly unnatural photographs of teenage girls posing seductively for the camera multiplying unabated every day. But… hold on a second – how unnatural are those other photos, really?

Distasteful, worrying, annoying, titillating, misogynistic, misguided, sexy, pornographic, hilarious, pathetic they may be. But unnatural? Notwithstanding silicone and photoshop, breasts-as-erotic doesn’t seem very unnatural to me. At least, it’s nothing new.

In arguing that breastfeeding photos are ‘natural’ and nothing to do with sex or even exhibitionism (aren’t social networking sites temples to exhibitionism?), those against the Facebook ban hope to dispute the ‘obscenity’ label. And yes, Facebook seems to be pretty slow to wake up the fact that breastfeeding is NOT obscene! Of course it isn’t. The notion is ludricous. A lot of people are saying things like breasts were made for feeding babies, men just don’t like their fantasies being disrupted by nature, breasts aren’t sex objects, they’re food. A lot of people have the best of intentions.

But what if they are unwittingly making things worse for women? What’s wrong with a breast being sexual as well as nurturing? Because it would require a woman to be multidimensional? We’d have to see lactation and sex as something other than polar opposites. Not a Madonna/Whore situation, but a reality situation. It would also require us to have the maturity to live with a little ambivalence.

The fact is, some men (and women) WILL find a glimpse of naked breast arousing, whether there is a baby around or not. Some women DO find the sensual experience of breastfeeding arousing (alas, I can’t claim to be one of them). Some people pay good money for lactation porn. Judging by some of the comments from online strangers that participants of the virtual nurse-in have received, there are a lot of people out there who are more than happy to have a bit of milk with their mammaries.

Not that I’m condoning turning a breastfeed into a perving session – quite the opposite. I’m just saying that putting a baby in a photograph doesn’t make a breast - or its owner – into an asexual earth mother, any more than photographing them doesn’t instantly make a thirteen-year-old’s breasts pornographic (yes, even in an art gallery, Kevin Rudd.)

What I am asking for is that I am not essentialised into oblivion. I am not a human milkbar. Nor am I a human amusement park, cleavage at the man-pleasing ready. I am a complex, sentient human being who happens to have breasts. Lactating breasts. Whether I choose to post photographs of them on Facebook or anywhere is not the business of salivating man-children any more than it is pathetic little lactophobes writing site usage policies in California.

Which is exactly why we need more images of breastfeeding in the media and online, not fewer. The more breastfeeding is seen as a normal part of everyday life for many women, the more it will cease to be a freakshow and become - dare I say it – natural – in the eyes of those doing the looking. So thanks is due to those women who participated in the M.I.L.C virtual nurse-in, and those who breastfeed in public every day. And the men who support them. Naturally.

——————

Edited to add some pertinent linkage

  1.  A page with some of the ‘offending’ photos. Some of them do show a lot of naked flesh. Many of them don’t at all. Personally I find none of them offensive. How about you?
  2. This great post by PhD in Parenting is well worth a look, as is her more recent update.
  3. This is in my blogroll as well, but in case you’ve not clicked Jennifer James’ excellent collection of images reminds us that our uneasiness with breastfeeding is new (and largely due to the normalising of infant formula.) Look how far we’ve come.

10 Comments

Filed under Breastfeeding, Lactivism and Doula-ing, Feminism, Musings, Reflections and Rantings