Facebook’s No-Nudity Policy & Breastfeeding

by | January 23, 2012
filed under Can-Con, Feminism, Politics, Pop Culture

Breastfeeding Facebook logo

Controversy is brewing between Facebook and women who want the right to post photos of themselves breastfeeding online.

According to Facebook’s terms, the site supports breastfeeding. However, breastfeeding photos posted onto Facebook where the breast is fully exposed and the child is not actively engaged in nursing violate terms and are considered sexually explicit content.

If reported, Facebook’s first response is to delete the pictures and/or block users from accessing their accounts.

The controversy here stems from the fact that breastfeeding in public is a protected right and an exposed breast within the context of breastfeeding is not sexually explicit content. I understand that in our society we are very conditioned to seeing women’s bodies sexualized everywhere we turn, but we need to be able to recognize when something falls outside of this norm – like a woman exposing her breast(s) within the context of feeding her child.

I learned of this issue after seeing one mother in Vancouver, Emma Kwasnica, make headlines with her story. A breastfeeding advocate and instructor, Kwasnica posted pictures on Facebook of herself breastfeeding to help other mothers; they were then deleted by facebook claiming they violated terms.

Kwasnica is calling for facebook to amend its policies and exempt all breastfeeding images from being considered nudity. In addition, she is also calling for a change to the way Facebook responds when photos of breastfeeding women are reported and brought to their attention. They should do an investigation before deleting, not the other way around as is the current practice.

Over 5,000 have joined a Facebook group called FB! Stop harassing Emma Kwasnica over her breastfeeding pics. There, I learned that Facebook has since apologized to Kwasnica saying her photos were removed in error and encouraged her to re-upload them. There was also a conference call set up with Kwasnica and Facebook to discuss policies on breastfeeding. But so far there have been no major changes in policy.

For those who are interested, nurse-in protests are currently being organized at Facebook HQs around the world. See the list here.

-E. Cain

Editor’s Note: An organizer from the Nepal Mother Foundation contacted me to let me know that the logo people are using for the Facebook breastfeeding campaign is very similar to their organization’s logo. I did some background research and it looks like both groups created their logo out of the same stock photo. However, I said I would share a link to their organization for readers who are interested in their work.


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  • http://phdinparenting.com Annie @ PhD in Parenting

    The symbol being used for the facebook protest is actually the International Breastfeeding Symbol. If the organization in Nepal is using it, then I assume they borrowed it from there.

  • jarrahpenguin

    Thanks for that info, Annie. That sounds like what I found out. I just decided I might as well share their link since they asked in case there was any more concern from their group.

  • Kaitlin Burnett

    Wait – so an exposed breast within the context of breastfeeding is not sexually explicit content, but otherwise it is? I think there’s something very wrong with this picture.

    We, as a society, seem to be perpetuating this belief that there is only one purpose for breasts. That purpose has everything to do with babies, it seems, and nothing to do with women. We celebrate breasts when they’re used for feeding infants, but consider them shameful when they’re not. We also stigmatise women who choose not to breastfeed, rather than respect their choices – and, for that matter, their right to bodily autonomy.

    I’m perfectly willing to fight against Facebook’s prohibition on pictures of nude breasts. If they will allow pictures of men’s chests, but not of women’s, that is discrimination. However, I’m not willing to sign on to the idea that women’s breasts are okay, but only in the context of breastfeeding.

  • E. Cain

    Ill admit that I really didnt much think about the larger issue of nudity on facebook when writing this and I appreciate your critique.

    You have raised some valid points. And I would like to clarify that I didnt intend to send the message that women’s breasts are okay only in the context of breastfeeding. I was looking at one specific policy that facebook has which focuses on breastfeeding.

    With that being said, I disagree with your contention that we celebrate breasts when they’re used for feeding infants. I dont think that is true and that is the point of this whole protest against facebook.

    When I was looking into this issue – I was surprised to see so many examples of women still being asked to leave public places when they’re breastfeeding. (Full disclosure – I have no children).

    Also, since writing this post Emma Kwanisca added me on facebook – and she posts almost daily examples of women’s right to breastfeed publicly being violated.

    To me that is not celebration. But thanks again for your feedback. I appreciate it.

  • Kaitlin

    That’s very true; you make a good point. To be completely correct, our society treats breasts as less shameful when they’re being used to feed infants, but still shameful. We have a strange relationship with breasts – we pressure and even coerce women into breastfeeding, and delegitimise other choices, and yet we don’t want to see it. Women should never be asked to leave any single place they choose to breastfeed. Breastfeeding is completely natural, and it is something that should be as acceptable in public as it is in private. The stigmatisation of public breastfeeding is a very real problem.

    I’ll be perfectly honest, I don’t think I’d be comfortable exposing my breasts in public in any context, but support the right of women to breastfeed wherever, whenever, and however they choose. However, I fear any campaign that aims to allow exposed breasts in the context of breastfeeding if it remains silent on exposed breasts in other contexts. This reinforces the idea that the feeding of infants as the only legitimate purpose of breasts, and implicitly leads to the conclusion that procreation is the purpose of women’s bodies and mothering the purpose of women’s lives. I see that as an even more serious problem.