Saturday, November 17, 2012

Boobs! (Not a Big Deal)

I would like for you to take a good look at that picture for a moment. You see a baby, the top part of a breast, and some bacon. Are you offended?

If you are, I'd like for you to also look at these:

Those are all photos that I've been greeted with when I opened my Facebook page. They're not photos I sought out, and they're certainly not photos I saw by deliberately following a site that is focused on spreading such content. They're photos that Facebook friends of mine shared. They all offended me. One of them offended me so much that I did my first (and so far only) content-related de-friending

But not once have I reported those images to Facebook for violating their Terms of Service by exposing me to them. Do you know why? They don't violate Facebook's TOS. They're offensive, they make me question my friends, but I have many options. I can hide them. I can stop using Facebook. I can delete these friends. I do not tell other people what they can and cannot post on their own Facebook pages, especially when what they're posting doesn't even violate Facebook's own rules. 

Go back and look at that first photo. If you are more offended by half of a breast (with no nipple or even areola showing, I might add) and a baby eating some bacon than you are by the implication that you should look at ugly women's faces to avoid premature ejaculation, I highly suggest you question your own ethical standards. Go ahead. Go spend some time soul searching. You can read the rest of this when you get back. 

That first photo got blogger Gina from The Feminist Breeder banned from Facebook for three days. When she returned, she started a 72-hour protest flooding Facebook with photos of breastfeeding mothers, none of which violated their clearly written Terms of Service (which say that breastfeeding photos are fine as long as the full breast is not exposed). Facebook responded by banning her for an additional seven days. Again, she broke no rules!

What's going on? 

Huffington Post ran an article about the story, and the comments there are telling of the real problem. 

Commenter Stacy Grensberg had this to say:
"you do not need to post pictures of yourself breastfeeding on the internet for God's sake. No one wants or needs to see that. And if you are breastfeeding in public, have the decency to cover up a little bit, whether with a receiving blanket or nursing cover or whatever. You are doing a wonderful thing for your child, but you do not need to flaunt it all over the place." (emphasis added)

Liberal12 chimed in with this:
"this is auto eroticism for these women especially if they can do it in public. It's given the sexual power and makes them feel good about their repressed sexuality. Yet if a man were to expose his baby maker the hens would cry fowl!"
Then, of course, there was the chorus of voices that said no one would post pictures of themselves urinating or defecating or having sex, which really kind of makes The Feminist Breeder's initial point all the more valid.

Why Do We Need Breastfeeding Pictures on Facebook?

A lot of the people in the comments have expressed the idea that it's fine to breastfeed but that they don't want to see it and that they have no idea why someone would want to share it on Facebook.

Here are some pictures that I've posted on Facebook.

Yep. Those are some pictures of meals that I've eaten and my daughter having an ice cream cone. In a world where breastfeeding is normalized, the motivation behind posting those pictures and posting one of myself breastfeeding my daughter would be exactly the same. Breastfeeding is eating. It's not shitting or pissing or fucking. (Sorry. I try to keep my profanity in check on this blog, but in this case I really want to demonstrate the difference in the crassness of the acts we're describing). Your comparison to someone feeding her baby to taking a dump is offensive. Sure, there's no need for me to post a picture of my daughter eating an ice cream cone, but there's no need to do about 99% of the things we do on Facebook. It's a place to share our lives, and for a breastfeeding mother, feeding her baby is a big part of her life. 

Women report social stigma as one of the primary reasons that they stop breastfeeding or never even try to begin with. I know that personally, I never breastfed my daughter without a cover and, even then, I felt like I was making people uncomfortable. Most of the time, I planned my outings around her schedule, went to the car to feed her, or locked myself into a room (occasionally a bathroom) just to avoid making someone else feel weird around my breasts (which, I hate to break it to you, were still right there under my shirt the whole time). 

The Real Issue

I couldn't for the life of me figure out why people care so much about getting these pictures removed. If you don't want to breastfeed, don't. If you don't want to look at breastfeeding, look somewhere else. If you hate people who breastfeed, delete them from your Facebook page. 

I have to ask, though, how many of the people who are so deeply offended by Gina's picture of her adorable daughter would take offense to seeing any of these pictures pop up in their Facebook feeds:

Do these people spend as much time going through and reporting all the offensive images at Facebook pages like Girls in bikinis, Bikini babes, or Bikini Girls? Seriously, every single one of those pictures and almost all of the pics on those sites show more breast than the picture of Gina with her daughter, yet Facebook (and most of society) seems fine with those.

So what's really going on isn't that people are just oh-so-offended at the sight of half a breast. We see breasts constantly, but we see them on women who are sexualized, objectified, and made into modes of pleasure for others' consumption. Ironic then when our breasts are literally being used for others' consumption (cause you know, we're feeding babies), that's not okay. People aren't upset that women are showing their breasts; people are upset that women are showing their breasts without being a sex toy. 

To which I'll respond with yet one more offensive image that I've seen on Facebook.

I saw several women sharing this image in a way that I think was supposed to be empowering. Here's the thing; my body is not for men or dogs. My body is mine. It's just that that concept is such a radical idea that most of us can't even wrap our minds around it. 

It appears the most offensive thing a woman can do is understand that her body, and what she does with it, isn't determined by anyone else. 


  1. May I reblog this post on my site ( It's complete and drives the point home beautifully. The entire banning of The Feminist Breeder has been appalling.

    I will only repost part of the piece and then direct readers to your blog to read the entire piece.

  2. Well said! We have a friend who has historically been the most obnoxious person when it comes to objectifying women. He currently posts scantily clad pictures of women on Wednesdays for hump day (and fills the rest of the week with bible quotes...). Anyway, you wouldn't have believed how freaked out he got when I breast fed my son in front of him. It's ALWAYS those guys.

    On a completely different subject, it did kind of freak me out to see the baby with the bacon picture. And I love bacon. But something about the baby chowing a greasy piece of meat between feedings kind of made me a little grossed out. But that's probably just me.

  3. This is such a great post, brava!


  4. THANK YOU for this. You hit the nail right on the head. The hypocrisy and double standards are just outrageous. Shame on Facebook for allowing the most sexist, racist, prejudiced things on their site and yet a mother feeding her own child is banned. It's just terrible. Thank you for speaking out!

  5. I am here from Feministe, and I agree it is outlandish that breastfeeding is considered shameful or something to be hidden, while grossly misogynist and objectifying images of "hot" women are A-OK.

    I do have one question about your post, and it is surely reflecting my own ignorance of Internet "memes":

    What is offensive about the little girl saying "My favorite animal is carrot"?

    1. The little girl in the photo has Down's it appears and so it is mocking people with developmental disabilities.

    2. Ah. I didn't get that aspect, and thought it was just a cute little girl saying something silly.


    3. Yep, exactly what Alyssa said. I could see how someone could share it without knowing that, but the guy that I saw posting it on Facebook definitely had that malicious intention.

  6. great post - i esp. marveled over that quote from liberal12. It's such a complex admission of how threatening it is for women to "own" their own bodies. With the claim about autoeroticism he expresses both the sense of lost sexual power over breastfeeding women and a profound inability to see women as anything but objects of eroticism (if we use our bodies in a way that makes them sexually unavailable to others, then we must be getting turned on by them ourselves!) that is so pathetic; i'd laugh if it wasn't such a sad indication of how deep some people's ignorance really runs. and btw, you are way nicer than me. i think i'd have to unfriend all of the people who posted those pics. i guess that's why i have about 2 friends on facebook (not too into it).

  7. I found your blog recently, and have been making my way through the last few months of posts... Each and every one has made me clap and cheer (silently, in my head, of course).

    I'm bookmarking this one as a counterpoint to when I teach about sexual objectification in my Sociology class. Watching "Killing Us Softly" doesn't seem to drive the point home for everyone in the classroom. Pointing out what we DON'T see normalized might just do the trick.

    1. Thank you for reading! I'm so glad to hear that you'll be talking about how we normalize sexualization in class. Once they see, they can't unsee, and that's the only way we're going to start to shift these norms.

  8. Thank you so much for writing this! I agree wholeheartedly with everything you have said here and am saddened that others cannot see the difference between sexualized breasts and the breast that brings nourishment to a child being shared on social media. It does seem that there are people that are "grossed out" by a nursing mother's breast because they do not want to see it in any way other than in a sexual way. Thank you for speaking up and showing your perspective. May others join you.

  9. It's a good thing that the Madonna and Child paintings weren't made to be covered. It's a sad day when the powerful bond of a mother breastfeeding her child becomes obscene, while sex and violence are everywhere we look: tv, magazines, news.