Jan. 26 2011 10:46 AM

Men tell Facebook to stop being such a baby

When The New York Times Magazine reported this month that The Leaky B@@b, the popular breastfeeding support group, had its homepage deleted by Facebook, the group Mothers I Like Breastfeeding (MILBF) was outraged. MILBF, an organization of men devoted to the defense of breastfeeding women, founded in 2007 by D.A. Kolodenko, immediately navigated Facebook's complex complaint procedures to inform the site that it must have something better to do than sit around wrecking things for everybody else.

This is not the first time that images of breastfeeding have been deemed “obscene” by the social-networking site. For several years now, Facebook has targeted both groups and individuals who post natural, beautiful images of every kind of mom imaginable totally exposing themselves breastfeeding.

Back in 2007, photos began disappearing from women's profiles. They received e- mails from Facebook warning that they might be banned from the site if they reposted them. One San Diego County woman, Kelli Roman of Fallbrook, in response to Facebook's removal of an image of her nursing her daughter, started the Facebook group Hey Facebook, Breastfeeding is Not Obscene. The group has more than 250,000 members, including—enthusiastically— members of MILBF.

In 2008, Roman told Time Magazine, “I just get so confused [as to] why people make such a big fuss about it. We're just using our breasts for what they evolved for.”

Facebook responded by explaining the big fuss in an e-mail to Time: breastfeeding images were cool, they wrote, just not ones that showed full boob, and they only took the photos down because they'd received complaints.

In response, MILBF's Kolodenko told Presently Tense, “Can you imagine seeing a picture of a woman with her blouse half-unbuttoned, revealing her round, full, milk-swollen breast suckled in the tiny mouth of her baby, and then reporting it to the authorities? Thanks a lot, whoever you are.”

Roman told Time she could “understand where [Facebook] is coming from, but the bottom line is you can't say that you can't show areolas or nipples because some women have very large areolas and even when the baby is latched on properly, it still shows. It's not fair to these women.”

Nor is it fair to men who have absolutely no problem with such images being freely and widely disseminated, argued Kolodenko, who has supported women posting pictures of themselves breastfeeding for more than four years.

“Even women with very large areolas or whatever,” Kolodenko said.

You shouldn't “have to hide it from anyone or be nervous about anyone seeing,” Roman told Time.

“What she said,” Kolodenko added.

Facebook's position is simply to maintain a ban on all nudity, no matter the context, and it has repeatedly said it won't change the policy. With more than 140 million users, Facebook considers it unreasonable to expect its administrators in each case to have to determine whether nudity is obscene or not.

But throughout the battle between breastfeeding advocates and Facebook, the socialnetworking site has been wishy-washy about the policy.

At the beginning of the month, Facebook deleted the awesome breastfeeding advocacy site, leading to a backlash from parenting websites like The Stir (at Cafemom.com) and Par enting.com. Jessica Martin-Weber, founder of The Leaky B@@b, demanded her site back.

Facebook responded by reinstating it, then deleting it again—along with the pages of some supporters—then putting it back up again. Eventually, Facebook issued an apology to Martin-Weber on her site:

“We make an occasional mistake. This is an example…. [W]e restored the Page and reactivated the accounts of the people who were impacted,” Facebook spokesperson Simon Axten wrote to New York Times parenting blogger Lisa Belkin.

But as long as the Facebook anti-nudity-in any-context policy remains in place, this struggle will continue.

On The Leaky B@@b's website (theleaky boob.com), Martin-Weber argues for a change in the policy:

“Facebook has a responsibility… to clearly communicate that they are pro-women by creating a new way to moderate materials flagged as obscene. No doubt the company is overwhelmed with reports of obscenity but surely they are smart enough to develop a system that would allow them to remove the truly obscene materials while those related to breast health including breastfeeding and breast cancer are able to remain.”

MILBF issued a statement in support of the suggested policy change, further questioning whether everyone at Facebook “had been bottle-fed” or “were just the kind of geeky computer dorks who freaked out every time they saw a picture of a breast because they probably never saw a real one before.”

In the same press statement, MILBF announced support of supermodel Miranda Kerr, who last week posted a personal photo on her website of her nursing her newborn son, Flynn: “The picture is one of the greatest ever taken of a woman breastfeeding because it combines the profoundly spiritual and universal image of a mother nourishing her child with the timeless appeal of a halfnaked supermodel on a bed.”

For information on how to join MILBF, write to dak@sdcitybeat.com. Send comments to editor@sdcitybeat.com.


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