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Remember that rant?

How exciting! One of my blog posts from earlier this year has been nominated for Best Blog Post for Blog Awards Ireland 2012. Thank you to whoever nominated it!! Much appreciated!

The post in question is “Breastfeeding is bad for my health“, a little rant opinion piece that I wrote after reading a few unsavory comments across the net following the Friends of Breastfeeding protest outside Facebook headquarters last February.

In honour of the nomination, I’ve republished the post here tonight. If you like it, and feel it’s worthy of a vote, please go to the Best Blog Post page on Blog Awards Ireland, select the Mama.ie post, and click Vote! Couldn’t be simpler. There’s a lot of strong competition on there – be sure to check out the other posts. Some great reading!

Breastfeeding is bad for my health
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I’m beginning to think that breastfeeding is bad for my health! Or at least the debates about breastfeeding in Ireland are! My blood pressure was through the roof this evening because of it!

You may have heard that Friends of Breastfeeding held a protest at the Facebook headquarters in Dublin today. This protest was against a persistent problem on Facebook, where despite having a policy which states that breastfeeding photographs are permitted on the site, Facebook employees persist in removing breastfeeding photos posted by users on their personal profiles and pages, and disabling their accounts or pages. The grounds cited for this are obscenity and indecent content.

Of course the protest isn’t what got my blood pressure up! No, I made the mistake of reading user comments on some of the media articles about the event. If I wasn’t sure about the need for a protest before, I was convinced about it after reading! It’s quite obvious that breastfeeding is far from normal as far as a sizeable portion of Irish society is concerned.

There were several recurring arguments put forward by the most vocal commenters today. So I thought I’d list the main ones that resonated with me and respond to them.

Facebook is a free service so they can do what they like. If you don’t like their policy, you can leave. But you have no right to complain because it is free.
First off, you may not pay a fee to use Facebook, but let’s not pretend for a second that it is some kind of charity. It is a highly profitable and influential business. And their policies matter when it comes to things like classing breastfeeding as obscene. Because if Facebook is allowed to class breastfeeding as obscene and we’re not allowed to complain about it, then that implies that Facebook is somehow right in this classification. Breastfeeding in public is a protected right in Irish society, and Facebook is an online extension of our society. If you are not allowed to discriminate against breastfeeding mothers in Irish society, you should not be allowed to discriminate against them in an online society either.

If Facebook decided that photographs of inter-racial couples were obscene, would you be Okay with them deleting them? Or would you recognise it for the discrimination that it is?

Why would anyone want to post a picture of themselves breastfeeding anyway?
What difference does it make what their reasons are? Perhaps they like the photo and wanted to share it with friends and family? Isn’t that usually the reason why people post photos to Facebook. Perhaps they thought it captured a lovely moment of their baby being fed – plenty of people I know have photos of Daddy giving baby a bottle, or proud Nana feeding baby – are we supposed to accept that that is okay and innocent and cute, but a breastfeeding photo of the same baby is obscene?

For what it’s worth, I didn’t post photos of myself breastfeeding. That was my choice. But I will support 100% the right of another woman to post breastfeeding photos without being labeled obscene. Maybe before asking why someone posts a breastfeeding photo to Facebook, ask why anyone posts anything to Facebook. The reasons are generally much the same.

There are far more important things than this to protest against. These women must have too much time and little to be doing with it.
Since when can people only protest about the MOST important thing. And who decides what the most important thing is? If you feel there are more important things to protest against, then by all means go ahead. But don’t hold it against someone because they find being told that the act of feeding their babies is obscene upsetting. It’s not as though one or two photos were deleted and suddenly a worldwide protest was organised. Other channels of communication have proven ineffective since this problem first arose a few years ago. So this protest is the manifestation of years of annoyance, and indeed anger.

Typical breastfeeding hippies shoving their tits in everyone’s faces.
I’m not sure whether these comments are aimed at the original photos on Facebook or at the women at the protest. A lot of the commenters seem to fancy themselves as telepaths, able to discern exactly what someone’s intentions are when they choose to publish a breastfeeding photo or indeed when they choose to breastfeed in public. If some of the commenters are to be believed, only people with political agendas ever breastfeed in public. The fact that they might just want to feed their babies because they are out and about and the baby is hungry is completely inconceivable apparently. Don’t get me wrong, I have no doubt that some women posted photos of themselves breastfeeding to make a statement, but I don’t think that was the case for the majority of them. Perhaps I’m guilty of being the one projecting here, but I know myself that the few times I breastfed in public (mostly I was too nervous of negative reaction to even attempt it) the only goal I had in mind was to get my baby fed.

I also wonder what people think breastfeeding looks like when they write about “those women slapping their boobs out” – most of the time when a woman is breastfeeding, the only thing you can see is the back of the baby’s head, and maybe a small bit of skin. You generally see a lot more flesh on display if you just look around the street or maybe accidentally wander into Coppers any night of the week. But I don’t generally hear people shouting about obscenity if someone walks around in a tank top.

Cue the breastfeeding nazis…blah blah blah
Usually this, or a comment similar to it is rolled out part way through any conversation about breastfeeding in public or breastfeeding vs formula feeding, or today, breastfeeding and Facebook. Ironically, in my personal experience, the more vitriolic and hateful the statements being made against breastfeeding and breastfeeders, the earlier this statement is likely to be rolled out. It’s a conversation or debate ender as far as I’m concerned. Clearly whoever makes this reference has never heard of Godwin’s law. But I have, and I tend to side with those who believe that as soon as someone has to resort to comparing someone or something to Hitler or Nazis, they have obviously exhausted all their arguments, and they have lost the debate.

I have no problem with breastfeeding but it needs to be discrete.
I would argue that this one is slightly off topic, but it seemed to be a popular argument today, so let’s address it. Breastfeeding does not NEED to be discreet. You would prefer if people were discreet about it. That’s fine. You are entitled to your preference. When I was breastfeeding,I preferred to be discreet about it. That was my preference, but it stemmed but a general sense of being ill at ease with “what people would think.” I wish I hadn’t had to worry so much about negative reaction, but comments like those I read today, make me believe that worry wasn’t misplaced.

People are uncomfortable with things that they are not familiar with. Besides my mother, I only ever saw one woman breastfeeding in real life before it was time to feed my son. Why should that be? Hiding breastfeeding women away feeds into this notion that it is something strange, something shameful, something icky. Allowing images of breastfeeding to permeate society isn’t about forcing obscene images on people. It’s about normalising breastfeeding, and making people realise that it’s not icky, it’s not weird and it’s not just for “hippies”!

There were plenty of other comments that got to me today, but to be honest, I think I’ve said enough. The fact remains, that Ireland has the lowest rate of breastfeeding in the OECD, and having witnessed those reactions today, is it any surprise? After all, who wants to get involved with something that may one day see them labeled as nazis, hippies, or attention-seeking exhibitionists?

Well done to all those who attended the protest today! Thank you for standing up for breastfeeding families everywhere.

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2 Responses to “Remember that rant?”

  1. Ellie says:

    A great (rant) post. Very well said. And you got my vote for the Best Post award too!!
    Ellie recently posted..10 things I now know from climbing Croagh PatrickMy Profile

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