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Facebook vs. Breastfeeding Mamas: Is Nursing Babies Obscene?

Facebook, the king of all social networking sites, is scheduled for a smack down on Monday, February 6th, when breastfeeding mothers in various locations around the globe plan to protest-- in person-- at several of the site’s corporate office locations. The confrontation has been live on the site itself since 2007, when this petition page was created, but is now scheduled to get personal (as in, off the site and on the ground) just as Facebook is rumored to to file for entry into the stock markets in the coming months.

Facebook’s official policy is pretty vague when it comes to nudity; it states that the site does not allow photos that contain it (“or other obscene content”). The company’s spokespeople say their stance on breastfeeding is that it’s indeed “natural” (presumably implying inoffensive), and that most breastfeeding photos on the site are fine; official statements continue that photos revealing the entire breast, however, may be offensive to certain other users (namely minors) and may be removed by Facebook staffers. Thing is, breastfeeding photos inherently don’t reveal whole breasts-- hello, baby heads!-- and the lines between official company statements and unofficial cultural bias become increasingly blurred when the website’s employees continue removing breastfeeding photos (usually ‘in error’, i.e. removing photos that do not violate the written policy)-- and suspending associated accounts-- while other users’ boob-shots, well, seem to go over just fine.

It’ll be interesting to see if, and how, Facebook remedies the situation. As of yet, the company has told moms that it can’t control employees who continue to remove nursing photos from the site. (Um, yes you can, FB. Hint: what normally happens to people who don’t do their jobs correctly?). Breastfeeding activists meanwhile hope the ‘influential mom demographic’ (that’s y’all!) will gather support and exert pressure on the company by calling out the online manifestation of a very real cultural hangup that persistently rears its head. Everywhere from city buses to department stores, breastfeeding is treated as deviant behavior, while breasts without babies on them are an advertising industry staple. If minors can’t handle something as natural as a breastfeeding mother, they better not catch sight of a tabloid, music video or halftime show, lest their little minds explode. Of course the taboo factor is half the sexy sell, and blowing the top on that by showing breasts feeding babies-- about as straight-forward a function as you can get-- is likely what the haters are really running from.

Let’s evolve, people, and allow breasts to be as multipurposeful as the women who rock them, at the very least in self-representational forms such as photos on Facebook.

What do you think? Should Facebook come up with a new way to classify ‘obscene’ content so that breastfeeding photos are 100% exempt? Have you ever gotten the stink-eye (in person or electronically) for nursing your babies via your breasts?

PS. Want to tell Facebook what you think, too? Click here and send in some feedback.

PPS. Bonus round: Did you know even the uber-progressive children’s program Sesame Street has shown all bottle and no breast since the 1990s? If you want to see all families represented on public television (and to break this weird trend toward shielding minors from images of breastfeeding babies), here’s a petition you can sign.

Many thanks to Désirée Fawn of So Fawned for providing the main image for this post. Désirée is a doula, prenatal educator and la leche league leader in training, and has had several of her breastfeeding photographs removed from her own Facebook page.