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One step forward, two steps back

Back in October, I participated in the Breastfeeding Challenge for the 3rd time. This wonderful event is organized raise awareness about breastfeeding and to make mothers more confident breastfeeding in public.

Emma Kwasnica of Montreal also participated in the challenge while tandem nursing her two children and was shown in an article on the challenge in the Journal de Montreal. Now, she is the first person to have had her facebook account completely disabled for posting breastfeeding pictures (read her public letter and plea to facebook here). This is particularly relevant because facebook has said that no major newspaper in North America would publish the type of breastfeeding photos that they have deleted.

So if the Breastfeeding Challenge is supposed to raise awareness about breastfeeding and help mothers feel comfortable doing it in public, what effect do you think that facebook's categorization of these images as obscene will have? Likely the opposite effect, as Coffeegrl explains on her blog Okaasan mommy and more.
And here's the thing about this whole Facebook debate. I think Facebook's actions have a chilling effect. I mean, to someone like me who never really considered "extended breastfeeding," let along breastfeeding for one year, all of this talk about how breastfeeding images are akin to obscenity shakes me up. Makes me wonder what the general public will think when they see me feeding me daughter. Don't get me wrong, I'm not about to stop FEEDING my daughter just because someone doesn't like it (my inhibitions about feeding in public disappeared months ago). However, if all this talk about nudity and obscenity rattles me, I wonder how many other women are affected in some way. How many women make their decision to (dis)continue breastfeeding based on what they think the public perception is because intentionally or not, Facebook has linked breastfeeding and obscenity? I understand that Facebook is a private entity and as such has the right to make policies about use, but I wonder if this is the kind of lasting and social impact Facebook wants to have?

As I explained in my other post on the facebook debacle, facebook has an opportunity here to contribute to normalizing breastfeeding and furthering the acceptance of breastfeeding in public. However, it is likely sending more women into hiding, forcing them to stay home or hide in disgusting public washrooms to feed their babies. Facebook, I'm disgusted.

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Reader Comments (4)

For so long I have been around women that were totally comfortable nursing their children, that I was surprised today to listen to two mothers talk about how they could NEVER feed their baby in public and if it came to that they would switch to formula. I was so shocked I couldn't even speak. Then they asked me when my 20 month old weaned. I stuttered that he hasn't and they didn't speak to me AGAIN! I really though Canada was so far beyond secretive nursing and weaning way early, but I was just hanging out with the "other" crowd.

January 7, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterchelle

Looks a lot like areola to me in the newspaper photo! Has she contacted U.S. news media about this? The evidence directly contradicting Facebook's position should be REALLY useful in (hopefully) getting them to rethink this. I think maybe proposing a specific new policy might be helpful, too--maybe something about no pictures of nipple or areola unless an actual baby is attached. I mean, I do understand Facebook's concerns from a "public standards" perspective--if they allow areola or nipples, then they're afraid of all sorts of truly disturbing stuff being posted (totally unrelated to breastfeeding) and losing their reputation as family-friendly. I think a baby limitation would be a good compromise. I saw one profile picture of a woman expressing milk with her hand into a bottle (for the purpose of providing it to her baby), which is obviously not obscene but would also not be okay under a baby guideline, but I think a baby compromise position would go a LONG way and could alleviate Facebook's larger concerns.

Just a thought.

January 7, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterCarla

This all is making me seriously question my membership at Facebook. By being a member I am silently accepting and condoning what Facebook stands for.

January 7, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterEarthbaby

I want to thank you for all the beautiful pictures and also thank you for the feeling that I am not alone to feel it is okay to nurse my almost four year old!! I thought at three we would be done but when the big day rolled around decided to give it another year. And again when the doctor told me I had to stop to get a mamogram and just tell my daughter if her friends in preschool knew they would surely embarrase her out of wanting to nurse. I started to plan a weakend away but the more I thought about it the more my daughter wanted to nurse so I have a new plan to let nature take it's coarse.

February 18, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterLaura McFarland

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