What’s more offensive to you? A picture of a little girl pretending to breastfeed a baby doll or a meme joking about rape via rohypnol? For Facebook, apparently the former. According to the Birth Without Fear blog, the cute and innocent photo above was removed from Facebook for a “violation.”
Breastfeeding imagery (and breastfeeding itself!) is a touchy, complicated, highly personal subject for women and their families, and everyone is entitled to their own feelings on the matter. I am a fierce advocate for women feeding their infant children in whatever way works best for them and yes, my personal brand of advocacy includes full support for breastfeeding in public, as well as for unedited, uncensored images of breastfeeding mothers and babies. Facebook is notorious for removing perfectly innocuous pictures of breastfeeding women, including ones that don’t even include (GASP!!!) nipple. But this picture of a little girl isn’t even a photo of actual breastfeeding. It isn’t even an image of a woman with fully developed breasts. It doesn’t feature any nudity or even any nipple. It’s not a violation.
Facebook’s own policies say that the site supports breastfeeding. The policy reads, in part:
Photos that show a fully exposed breast where the child is not actively engaged in nursing do violate the Facebook Terms. These policies are based on the same standards which apply to television and print media.
But this photo, of a little girl who doesn’t even have breasts, somehow violates the terms? No. Just no, Facebook. This image, this cute image of a little girl pretending to breastfeed a doll, emulating what she has likely seen her mother and other women around her do, isn’t offensive and it’s not inappropriate. As Birth Without Fear wrote:
It’s walking a fine line to say that this is inappropriate because of the child without a shirt on. Should women and girls be hidden away just in case of someone who is inappropriate themselves? Should we be ashamed of what our bodies and our instincts innately tell us to do? Should we cover head to toe so as to give no man any ‘urges’? You see? Saying that this is inappropriate is an issue to begin with because you are saying something so simple, natural and innocent is inappropriate, but you are making it an issue.
To those that would say this picture sexualizes a child and could be fodder for pedophiles, I say that the responsibility for posting or not posting those kinds of photos is on the parent, not on Facebook. Apparently the site has removed images of naked children in the past, but I see naked babies and toddlers on Facebook all the time. It’s up to you, as a parent, whether or not you find it appropriate to put photos of your unclothed child on one of the biggest and most popular websites in the world. If you don’t want people sexualizing children, lock up your account, limit your friends list, or just. Don’t. Post. The. Photo. But let’s not forget that the photo in question showed no genitalia, no “private parts,” not even a naked butt (a body part of young children people seem to think is just fine to share on blogs, Twitter, Facebook, you name it). You can’t see any more of this little girl than part of her leg, her chubby arms, and the top of her chest. What’s the problem, Facebook?
The Birth Without Fear Facebook page has been blocked from posting on Facebook for three days, as have several other people and bloggers who have shared this photo. While it’s truly terrific that Facebook is newly (and finally!) committed to fighting gender-based hate speech on their site, the fact that this completely innocent picture was taken down shows that the site still has a long, long way to go in terms of understanding and policing offensive imagery.
Photo: Birth Without Fear