(This post has been updated)
First Southwest airlines and now Facebook. Nicole has already written a very eloquent post about how Facebook is problematic, and now it seems Facebook is jumping on the morality train. Jezebel.com reports:
Facebook has began taking down pictures of women breastfeeding their children and in some cases, even banning users for putting the photos up in the first place. The claim is that such imagery is “obscene content.”
Breastfeeding is considered “obscene?” The Lactivists (an activist group that fights for the right to breastfeed in public) is fighting Facebook on the decision. They’re also questioning the logic of removing the photos (and banning users) by citing the fact that there’s no nipple exposure in the pics. Facebook’s response? “Photos containing an exposed breast do violate our Terms and are removed.” The Lactivists are encouraging people to to join their new Facebook group “Hey, Facebook, breastfeeding is not obscene!”, which currently has over 7000 members.
I’ve really wanted to blog about the politics of breastfeeding in public ever since some pictures of Maggie Gyllenhaal breastfeeding while having coffee with friends made the rounds. The photos (which were often tagged as NSFW) sparked a pretty active online debate about whether or not it was “appropriate” for her to engage in such behaviour, especially if she knew people photograph her often. While most people seemed supportive of the act, calling it natural, others likened it to going to the bathroom on a city street. From what I understand breastfeeding has to happen every couple of hours, so if doing it in public is obscene, mothers would never leave the house.
Interestingly enough, there’s a piece published today announcing that Maggie G “has posed in handcuffs and sexy lingerie for a new underwear campaign,” which, no doubt, will not be deemed as obscene as her breastfeeding. (Not that I think it’s obscene, I’m just saying.)
The reason the debate is interesting from a feminist perspective is because of how we, culturally, view, well, boobs. Facebook has deemed boobs obscene in general, even if they’re being used for their “intended purpose.” (I really can’t see how feeding a baby qualifies as obscene content.) And if they’re being used for their intended purpose in public (especially by a celebrity) a debate errupts about what is appropriate. I’m curious to find out what readers think aout Facebook’s decision, and the public display of breastfeeding in general.
UPDATE: The Lactivists organized demonstrations in 30 states to protest Applebee Restaurant’s decision not to allow breastfeeding. Check out the comments section of Feministing.com’s post to get an idea of what I mean when I say this is a highly debated issue: a woman’s right to breastfeed her child comfortably vs. a restaurant patron’s right to eat a meal without having to see it.