What Is Up With Facebook And Breastfeeding Moms?

Have you seen the latest news, facebook is at it again – taking down photos of breastfeeding moms. Only this time, it is even more egregious than in the past. Earth Mama Angel Baby – a company dedicated to helping mothers – was the latest target of facebooks attacks on breastfeeding mothers. They received a warning letter from facebook that one of the photos on their facebook page violated the terms of use of facebook and was being removed.

Now facebook does actually have “rules” about decency. And according to their rules, photos that show a woman’s areola are considered “obscene” while photos that show breast but no areola are considered to be “acceptable.” However arbitrary this rule may be, at least it is written down so that we can all choose to play by the rules or break them.

So you can imagine the shock that Melinda (aka Mama) from Earth Mama Angel Baby must have experienced when the photo that was taken down by facebook was this one – a beautiful shot of a mother and baby breastfeeding with NO VISIBLE AREOLA.

Breastfeeding Photo Removed By Facebook

Breastfeeding Photo Removed By Facebook

In the same area of their facebook page is another breastfeeding photo – equally beautiful that DOES SHOW a little bit of areola, however this photo was not taken down by facebook – nor were they given any warning about it.

Breastfeeding Photo NOT Targeted By Facebook

Breastfeeding Photo NOT Targeted By Facebook

Of these two photos, both show beautiful photos of babies and their breastfeeding mothers. In the 1st photo, the baby appears to be nursing and his hand is covering all of his mothers areola. In the 2nd photo, the baby appears to have just finished nursing and a tiny bit of areola is exposed. What is the other difference between these two photos? The first photo shows a black woman nursing her baby and the second photo shows a white woman nursing her baby. Could it actually be that facebook objects to mothers of color breastfeeding their babies or showing photographs of it? If you go by facebook’s own rules, it is the areola that matters and in the censored photo, there is no visible areola.

Have you look at some of other sites on facebook that show graphic photos? Take a look around sometime at Playboy and see the photos that facebook deems appropriate (including the avatar photos for some of the people commenting on the page). Then visit sites like The Leaky Boob, Earth Mama Angel Baby or even our own facebook page which was targeted 1.5 years ago. You tell me the difference. Why is facebook objecting to breastfeeding photos, breastfeeding support pages and breast cancer support pages, but not Playboy and other pages that show explicit photos without a breastfeeding baby in it? Is is really about decency or just making sure that breasts are portrayed as sexual and not a food source? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

In the meantime, Mama Melinda has a link at the bottom of her blog post where you can submit a suggestion to facebook. Please take the time to help out.

UPDATE: Nearly 24 hours after the original photograph was removed from Earth Mama Angel Baby’s facebook page, they sent her this message: “Because you uploaded photo content that violates our policies, you won’t be able to upload photos for 7 days. After this 7-day block is lifted, please make sure any photos you upload follow Facebook’s policies. If you have other photos on the site that violate our policies, be sure to remove them immediately or you could be blocked from uploading content for a longer period of time.” And removed the 2nd photograph. It appears facebook heard our words – only they took them the wrong way – no one could understand why one photo was removed and not the other – so they removed them both – instead of hearing the INTENDED message – THERE IS NOTHING OBSCENE ABOUT BREASTFEEDING FACEBOOK!!

Photographs copyright Earth Mama Angel Baby, used with permission

14 comments to What Is Up With Facebook And Breastfeeding Moms?

  • People say that breastfeeding photos are offensive BECAUSE they’re viewed as sexual. That can’t be true – because look at alllll the other (sexual) filth on facebook that isn’t removed. It’s so sad that boobs can’t be viewed as anything BUT sexual, those breastfeeding photos are beautiful. Thanks for sharing the post and supporting breastfeeding and EMAB! I wrote a post about this yesterday too. <3

  • I don’t know Judy – maybe I’m being cheeky or cynical or both, but I think all the “25 and unders” at Facebook are sitting back and laughing at all of us every time they take down a photo or a whole page or profile and the owner of said images/page/profile gets all up in arms and contacts the media, etc.

    I think it is quite deliberate that they take these images down and yet leave the Playboy images up.

    I think Facebook loves the media attention.

    I think Facebook has NO intention of abiding by their own Terms of Service. Clearly, as you said, the image that was taken down was NOT in violation of their ToS and yet another that was, was left alone.

    I just don’t think they care. Period. They clearly have NO RESPECT for their users. They have the attitude that if you don’t like it, don’t use Facebook. They know they have us in between a rock and a hard place and they love to watch us squirm.

    These incidents are happening at a more frequent pace all the time.

    Maybe in 10 years when some of the people at Facebook start having children, things will change. Or maybe if they speak up, they’ll be made to feel awkward, eventually quit (or be fired) and they’ll hire another subservient sub-25-year-old.

    To be clear, I am not suggesting that we shouldn’t speak up when things like this happen, but I feel we are giving them more credit that they deserve. They are not going to issue a public apology. They are not going to start pulling down images off the Playboy page. They are not going to beef-up the ToS so that it is crystal clear what images are allowed and disallowed. They are total hypocrites.

    That is just the vibe I get.


    P.S. I just went and read the Facebook Terms of Service and found nothing about areolas. This is all I found. Am I in the wrong place?

    7. You will not post content that: is hateful, threatening, or pornographic; incites violence; or contains nudity or graphic or gratuitous violence.

  • Hi Wendy, the comment about the areola was actually cited on the Sustainable Mothering blog – and she linked to a press interview with someone from facebook – unfortunately, the link just goes to a press page now and doesn’t actually point to the interview in question. I did find this article in the Chicago Tribune where they cite the same source, however: http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2008-12-31/news/0812300540_1_breast-feeding-facebook-areola

    But I totally agree with you – they love the publicity – taking down playboy photos just wouldn’t get them the same level of publicity. What someone needs to do is make them hurt where it counts – by coming up with a BETTER social media platform and pulling traffic away from facebook – just like facebook did to MySpace – MySpace used to be huge – now it’s pretty much gone….I’m just waiting for the next great social media platform to take over!

    — Judy

  • Yes, it’s pretty ridiculous that they will take down breastfeeding pictures when people put up pictures of herpes-ridden vaginas and penises and those are left up even after REPEATED reporting of the photos.

    Such a shame.

  • Thanks for the links Judy! @Olivia – I have yet to search Facebook for “other” nudity pictures because I’m afraid of what I’ll find…

  • Andy

    There is a different possible reason for the difference in selection. Typically Facebook only pulls a photo because someone has flagged it as inappropriate, so someone could have flagged the first picture but not the second.

    I think that the real issue here is that people DON’T flag pictures on the Playboy Facebook page but troll the breastfeeding pages. To me this shows that more people are okay with the breast as a sexual item, but not as what nature intended them for.

    Also I believe that businesses like Playboy pay a premium to Facebook so they can have more likes then standard, so that could have something else to do with it.

  • Nicole Ward

    It all has to do with photos that are repeatedly tagged as offensive… It is likely that in the first picture, someone in the “friends” list, or a friend of a friend of this profile, is all up in arms about the perceived”offensive” nature of the photograph. In the second, no one has repeatedly marked it as offensive, so facebook is not aware of it. This might be because she has all her photos set to private, as I do, and no one on her friends list finds the photo offensive…. Or if they do, they mind their own darn business, as that’s their issue, not the photo’s!

    I have never have any of my photos deleted, and probably many of them qualify, but I have it set that they can only be seen by my friends… If one was flagged, I would go on a rampage against my friends list – if someone was to do that, they had better send me a message about it and be willing to discuss it with me, because whether friend or family, that is not someone I would choose to continue interacting with on facebook – or in real life either, as that’s where the “offensive” breastfeeding behaviour actually occurs.

  • Ahmie

    Hmm… makes me want to ask some lawyers some questions (and I have a lot of lawyer friends)… if we are the owners of our content posted (which we have to attest to when we upload it, that we are the copyright holders), and FB says in their ToS that they have right to use or whatever, and WE are abiding by the ToS to the best of our knowledge and ability (no areola) yet they still delete it, then THEY are in violation of the ToS agreement, breech of contract – liability? Especially for businesses that have their pages closed? Real damages could possibly be assessed… just a thought, If you wanna hit them where it REALLY hurts. I am not a lawyer, I just interact with them a lot (and worked in the law school as an undergrad)

  • @Ahmie, that is exactly what needs to happen…wonder how much weight it carries?? Would love to hear what your friends think — Judy

  • Mindy

    That is what is wrong with society! People are perfectly okay with scantly dressed women but the moment they see some side boob from a baby eating, its all of a sudden gross! I hope I live to see the day that breastfeeding is prized by ALL!!!!

  • Sara

    It makes me sick and broken hearted that breastfeeding is considered obscene. Breastfeeding is meant for babies to LIVE. The milk is their sustenance, their nutrition, what they need to help them grow.
    Breastfeeding can also be extremely difficult for new mommies. Anyone who breastfeeds should be applauded for their efforts, for their willingness to push through pain, blistering, engorgement, mastitis and every other challenge breastfeeding brings, simply for the sake of nourishing their babies. It is not by any means sexual. It is a mommy feeding her baby. Pure and simple. I’m shocked at this day and age that there is any stigma attached to breastfeeding at all. Congratulations to all mommies who breastfeed or who have attempted breastfeeding! You are amazing!!!

  • Jas

    it IS viewed as sexual when the child is FIVE. I will fight that till the end.. that is ABUSE. as for breast feeding infant<<I'm for it! but keep the ABUSIVE pictures off-line!

  • […] received a comment on one of my blog posts about facebook and photographs that were taken down of breastfeeding moms. I received this comment on January 11th, after I had linked to this blog article on facebook in […]

  • Hi Jas, I have written a response to your comment. Please visit http://blog.mothersboutique.com/when-support-isnt-really-support/.

    We support all moms on this blog and we do not judge. We hope that you will do the same.

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