There was a protest held in Dublin yesterday. Outraged mothers and their supporters flocked from all over the country (and in many other locations around the world) to protest Facebook's removal of photos of mothers breastfeeding their children from the social networking site. The action triggered an outcry from women advocacy groups and prompted hundreds of breastfeeding mothers to organize "breastfeed-ins" in order to promote the legitimacy and right to breastfeed publicly.
Chris Finn, a representative from Friends of Breastfeeding, an advocacy group in Ireland, said, “We’re here to stand up and say that our nation’s attitude towards breastfeeding needs to change. Why? Because breastfeeding is just the biologically normal way to feed a baby, and the only way to make a change is if we see breastfeeding."
Sorry, but that's two completely different issues.
Facebook's actions were not a political action meant to attack those choosing the breastfeed their children in public. They removed the pictures of mothers who were not "actively feeding" as they were reported to them by other users. In other words, they took out photos that contained women's exposed breasts. It's part of their blanket no-nudity policy: you post pictures of your boobs on our site, we're going to take them down. As they explained in a statement, “These policies are based on the same standards that apply to television and print media. We agree that breastfeeding is natural and we are very glad to know that it is important for mothers, including the many mothers who work at Facebook, to share their experience with others on the site."
I can't be the only one thinking, "Duh!" Firstly, as stated, no one is attacking the action of breastfeeding. It is the natural way of feeding a child, and I don't think anyone would argue that. However, I would consider it to be a deeply personal action between a mother and her child. As such, it is of little interest to anyone outside their closest circle of family members and maybe one or two of their closest female friends.
You post all your pictures privately on Facebook, you say? Yeah, sure, and with Facebook's constantly evolving and vicious privacy policies changing every other day I'm sure those photos never have a chance to escape into the web or end up in the hands of perverts.
But only my immediate family and my five closest friends can see my profile, you counter? I not only guarantee that at least a couple of those listed would really rather not see your engorged ta-tas, but if you really want to share this precious moment, why not invite them over for a breastfeeding viewing session? Gather them all around so they can get an up-close, 3D, interactive experience.
The point is, no one is condemning breastfeeding, but as member of a community (Facebook or otherwise) it's important to be courteous of others. Although one may believe that breastfeeding is a beautiful experience, it takes a fairly mature person to not be unsettled by the sight of a woman's bare chest in public (baby or not).
Honestly, in the spectrum of female issues these women could be protesting, this ranks so low on the list it's shameful. What about the fact that reported rapes to the Rape Crisis Network in Ireland has increased by 23% in the past two years? Or the exclusivity of affordable and available childcare? Or the complete lack of paternity leave in Ireland? Or wage and employment inequality, or lack of equal female representation in government, or a hundred other issues worthy of our attention.
Instead of worrying about public acceptance of how their children feed, these women should look to the future and become active in shaping the world their children live in.