Saturday, November 17, 2012

Nipple vs. Facebook

I opened facebook yesterday only to be overwhelmed by giant breastfeeding images. They were everywhere. It seemed like nearly everyone had made some comment that resulted in 1000 images of a giant breast next to a baby eating bacon. I don't care what you think about breastfeeding, but any bacon and milk combination is disgusting. In addition to this image was a large image of 10-15 topless women nursing children of all ages on a beach. I love my friends and have breastfed next to many of them but if any one of them suggested i pose on the beach for a group-nurse photo I'd know they'd been smoking. Sorry. Whether planned or impromptu there was nothing "natural" about a large group of ladies posing on a beach with boob out.

I tried quickly to remove as many images as possible of the boob and bacon combo but they just kept coming. Then finally, thankfully, they all went down as did the blogger in question. 

The arguments all over facebook included the following: 

1. Breastfeeding is natural

Hm. I suppose it is. Though to be fair, there was nothing "natural" about the first few weeks of breastfeeding my daughter. There were several times I checked her mouth for raptor teeth or a hidden cheesegrater.. It was a bloody, blistered affair which resulted in my crying most of the time, grinding my teeth and curling my toes in an effort to get her latched without wanting toss her out the window. Natural, I was told. Beautiful, I heard. Painful, only if you're doing something wrong. Ha! We really need more realistic language around breastfeeding. And sometime in this lifetime I'm going to write a pamphlet that I'm going to slip into hospitals called "So you've decided to breastfeed your pirahna." With real language and helpful tips about how not to go blind from the pain and fatigue.

Regardless, yes breastfeeding is natural. And facebook has no issue with breastfeeding. With the woman in the picture. Without nipple as the focus and subject.

2. I'm NORMALIZING breastfeeding.

No. You aren't. You're actually making it more difficult for those of us who do. You're causing eyerolling and (however unintentionally) about breastfeeding, which actually harms the movement.  You're making breastfeeding into an internet meme. You're making women like me, who identify as feminists and breastfeeders have to either defend you or your ridiculous images or seem like bad feminists. You're assuming that lighting up my feed and the feed of everyone on facebook with images that do not contain women, but instead just their breasts as tools, is the feminist way, the only way, to normalize breastfeeding. And I think that's shortsighted, unfair and dismissive.

3. Women have the RIGHT to breastfeed wherever they want

And this is the point most of  loudest are missing. Facebook never has interrupted the process of breastfeeding. No child has gone unfed because facebook has pulled a breastfeeding image. We are not advocating "children's rights" or "women's rights" here. Because no right has been withdrawn or interrupted. You are using a private social media site in a way that violates their terms of service. Terms of service you agreed to when you signed up to promote your blog/business.

In order to ensure that women's rights to breastfeed anywhere are upheld, here is a suggestion of more effective ways to advocate than slamming everyone's facebook wall with nipple and bacon images.

  • Nurse your baby anywhere. I bet no one will notice.
  • Don't ask women who are nursing to move, unless there's a fire.
  • Volunteer as a breastfeeding support person. Many communities offer this work alongside appropriately trained nursing professionals to offer support to breastfeeding moms
  • Put women back into the picture. None of the images my friends have posted of themselves breastfeeding have been removed from facebook. Not a one. Mostly because the subject of the photo was never the breast, it was the woman and the baby. By removing the nipple focus and making it woman-focused, you create a better image altogether.

    If facebook bacon/boob combination photos is actually your hill to die on, then go forth. Just don't act surprised by the backlash.