In case you haven't heard, Facebook has been removing pictures of women breastfeeding - deeming them "obscene". For more of the details, check this out.
PhD in Parenting has a great post with arguments for why it should allow people to post pictures of breastfeeding. Rather than retread any of that ground, I'll add a perspective that I haven't heard much of in this debate yet. Numerous folks in this debate have talked about "normalizing" breastfeeding. Don't know what that really means? I offer myself up as a classic example.
When I started breastfeeding, I was a little intimidated. I didn't know how long I'd breastfeed, but figured 6 months was a good goal. I didn't really know anyone who had breastfed for longer than that; my own mom used formula in the 1970's for me and my sister and while hugely supportive of my efforts had no advice to give. So I didn't really have any role models. Since I've always been a shy person, I figured that baring my breasts (even a little) in public would be a big disincentive to breastfeeding.
But you know what? After a rough start to breastfeeding, my daughter and I hit our stride at week 6. I surprised myself by exclusively breastfeeding her for 6 months. She'll turn one year old in a couple of weeks and even though I'd revised my goal to think about weaning at 12 months, my daughter doesn't seem anywhere near ready and as the one year mark approaches, neither am I.
And here's the thing about this whole Facebook debate. I think Facebook's actions have a chilling effect. I mean, to someone like me who never really considered "extended breastfeeding," let along breastfeeding for one year, all of this talk about how breastfeeding images are akin to obscenity shakes me up. Makes me wonder what the general public will think when they see me feeding me daughter. Don't get me wrong, I'm not about to stop FEEDING my daughter just because someone doesn't like it (my inhibitions about feeding in public disappeared months ago). However, if all this talk about nudity and obscenity rattles me, I wonder how many other women are affected in some way. How many women make their decision to (dis)continue breastfeeding based on what they think the public perception is because intentionally or not, Facebook has linked breastfeeding and obscenity? I understand that Facebook is a private entity and as such has the right to make policies about use, but I wonder if this is the kind of lasting and social impact Facebook wants to have?
What's the alternative? The alternative is that a powerful social networking tool allows women from all over the world to share and support one another as they work to provide for a basic need for their children. The alternative is that Facebook supports breastfeeding by *not* labelling it as obscene and thereby supports doctors from all over the world who advocate breastfeeding.
Image from Positivemom on Photobucket