Tech & The Web

Angry Moms Dislike ‘No Nudity’ Policy

A group of mothers is angry at sites like Facebook and Myspace.  Not because they allow nudity to be uploaded by their users, but because they don’t.

These mothers want to be able to upload pictures of their babies breastfeeding.  They seem unable to realize that showing an exposed breast is not always socially acceptable, particularly on websites that lots of young people visit with little to no parental guidance.

These women are screaming “discrimination,” claiming that policies that ban certain amounts of exposed flesh are arbitrarily enforced and unfairly target women.  Facebook seems to have specific guidelines about what portions of the breast itself should not be shown.

I will agree with them on one point:  breastfeeding is a natural, normal human function.

The trouble with this argument is simple:  The sexual intercourse that fertilized the egg and thereby created the child that eventually needs to breastfeed is also a natural, normal human function.  But we don’t need to see pictures of that, either.

A friend of mine from church just put a picture of her newborn on her Facebook page.  It’s a shot of her looking at her baby, and the baby has the most adorable grin you’ve ever seen in your life.  If you’re even remotely soft-hearted, such an image will just make you smile before you even realize you’re smiling.

While breastfeeding may be a “beautiful” process for the mothers themselves, some of the rest of us aren’t all that comfortable with it.  Especially when it’s just “out there” for the rest of us to look at, whether we want to or not.  It doesn’t have to be a matter of being a prude; imagine the woman who has lost a baby, or the woman who has suffered breast cancer.  While I can’t imagine being in either position, I can imagine that seeing the image of a newborn breastfeeding might be a little torturous for any woman who has gone through either situation.

Sites like Facebook and Myspace own their web spaces.  They have every right to say what is and isn’t allowed; and you can bet that if they didn’t take the liberties of creating some kind of policy about what is and isn’t decent, a lot more parents would be speaking out against them.  If women feel they’re being discriminated against just because they can’t show their entire breast, there are always other sites to look for.

Maybe these angry moms should start their own, where they make the rules about what gets shown and what doesn’t.  It is a free country, after all.  There’s nothing to stop them from making their own site if they don’t like what other people deem acceptable.  They could even require membership, so they can know exactly who’s looking, and why.

One might think such a question might cross their mind before they’d post such things anyway.

In any case, maybe this pseudo-controversy is a good sign:  if this is the kind of thing that’s making mothers irate — if this is the worst of their problems — maybe 2009 isn’t going to be such a bad year after all.


  1. Patrick, when you quoted my comment you may have misunderstood what I was trying to say. The ellipsis was meant to be a continuation of what I was saying when I ended my previous statement with an ellipsis. The fault is entirely mine though by throwing the quote from the story in the middle of the thought.

    I was trying to say that I think it is ridiculous that a photo of a breast is obscene or indecent if, and only if, the nipple is included in the photo. Are nipples that bad in and of themselves? While channel surfing a while back I ran across that The Girls Next Door show. That’s the “reality” show featuring Hugh Hefner’s girlfriends. They were overseeing a Playboy photo shoot of a friend of theirs. There was the photographer snapping away and then we saw the finished shots and in every case the breasts were right out there for the world to see, but the nipples had been erased from the shots like this was a poor young lady who had been born without any. What did “erasing” of the nipples do in terms of cleaning up the images for airing? It just struck me as a little ridiculous that the nipples seemed to be the line between decent and indecent.

    Facebook has taken a similar stance. That breastfeeding and breasts are okay as long as the nasty, dirty, disgusting, immoral nipples aren’t shown. It just strikes me as a little ridiculous. But then again, Janet Jackson didn’t show her nipple during the whole Super Bowl brouhaha (she was wearing a pastie), so maybe I’m missing something.

    But it is Facebook’s site and as a user you agree to abide by their terms of service, no matter how ridiculous they may be. Facebook should have informed the users of how they were in violation of the terms of service (NO NIPPLES PLEASE!!!) and allowed them to substitute “decent” photos instead of just removing the posted pics with no warning.

  2. I do think that gratuitous nudity of a sexual nature is eyebrow-raising, exploitative, and exhibitionistic and inappropriate for children in our culture. I stand by the concept, however, that if it offends you, don’t look.

    I agree with this statement, Cat, and just so that I’m clear, I’d never be the type to complain to Facebook or a similiar site because a mom chose to post such a photo. If I saw a picture of that type that did offend me in some way, I wouldn’t look.

  3. This issue was raised about a year ago (or maybe more – time flies, y’know?) on Livejournal, when profile photos depicting breast-feeding there were removed by the powers that be. I did some reading on the topic at that time, and contrary to some of the opinions expressed here, it seemed to be mostly other women who were complaining. That didn’t surprise me, as I said at the time, “not many men would complain about the opportunity to see a boobie – baby attached or not.” In fact, the bulk of the complaints seemed to be women who objected to the possibility that their sons or husbands might see a boobie in the wild.

    The sexualisation of the breast is to blame here, but I don’t want to see the de-sexualisation of the breast offered as a solution. I like me some boobies, and I wanna keep it that way. No, I think we simply need to contextualise the sexual/natural aspects of the breast. It is possible to separate those aspects in our heads. Why can’t we see a woman on the street or in a restaurant breast-feeding her child and simply say, “how nice?” We don’t need to be all Beavis and Butthead about it, do we?

    (Heh, heh, he said, “boobies.”)

  4. OMG–Rick, I just found your comment. ROFL!!

    Always, always a good policy in life. That should be the first chapter in every manual on public life and etiquette.

    hee hee hee

  5. Just to be very clear, I am not particularly offended by nudity. I got over that in a huge way due to two very challenging things: motherhood (diapers cured a lot of it) and hospitalization for a peculiarly ‘female’ issue.

    I do think that gratuitous nudity of a sexual nature is eyebrow-raising, exploitative, and exhibitionistic and inappropriate for children in our culture. I stand by the concept, however, that if it offends you, don’t look.

  6. It has said that the photos flagged for removal were brought to the company’s attention almost exclusively by user complaints.”

    …which is also pretty ridiculous when you think about it.

    At least Facebook isn’t proactively looking for breast shots. Is it not a little less egregious if other users — the womens’ fellow users — are the ones making the complains rather than Facebook just raiding photos in a search for what may be offensive?

    Right or wrong, this is clearly an issue for some people. (And I get that the clear majority of responses so far indicate that it’s unquestionably wrong. If you were Facebook, would you ignore those complaints completely?

  7. Patrick, the part you left out of the story is the nasty, dirty, disgusting, immoral nipple, which is what Facebook objects to…

    “Facebook has said that it has no problem with breastfeeding, but that photos showing nipples are deemed to be a violation and can be removed. It has said that the photos flagged for removal were brought to the company’s attention almost exclusively by user complaints.”

    …which is also pretty ridiculous when you think about it.

  8. I am a mother of an infant, and I know just how hard our society is on mothers. I am not opposed to breast-feeding in public, but I do think that mothers should make an attempt to be discreet or cover-up in most scenarios. Why? Because, yes, in our society it is taboo to show a woman’s breast in public and it makes me feel uncomfortable to have someone looking at me in that way. But everyone has her own opinion on that, so I’ll stay on topic:

    As far as facebook and myspace, you are right, they have a right to determine what they will or will not allow. If you really want to show your breastfeeding pictures, create a blog and post them there.

  9. Maybe you have to be a woman. In that case (which is the case), you’re forgiven.

    Linda, I’m happy to take the forgiveness and run.

    I do wonder whether the opinions on this issue truly do fall on gender lines. Even if that’s true, it’s ironic that women have no problem with the concept of this type of exposure, while men, who seem to want to see as many bosoms as possible, are the ones who tend to balk at such an idea.

    For the record, growing up the son of an artist, I learned at an early age that there’s nothing inherently “obscene” about any part of the human body, though I will admit that such an understanding does little to help one’s own body image or self-esteem. I do not think the act of breastfeeding is particularly offensive, and I certainly concede that performing the function in a dirty bathroom is a far-from-ideal situation. I do tend to move toward the “at least cover it up a little” middle of the road, and in your example, Linda, I’d never have a problem with a woman who utilizes “a receiving blanket strategically draped.”

    There’s a level of embarrassment that some of us men seem to feel if we walk into a public place and spot a woman feeding her baby “out in the open.” Something in us, and from where it comes, I don’t really know, especially if our mother’s breastfed us, triggers in our brain and tells us we’re intruding. It shouldn’t matter to us if it clearly doesn’t matter to the mother; this doesn’t change the fact that there is some level of discomfort that I can neither explain nor fully justify. Being present as it is happening, on some mysterious level, just feels wrong.

    Are there any women out there who feel a ban on breastfeeding photos is reasonable, or men out there who would argue that it isn’t? It might be interesting to see how someone that fits into these categories might justify their position.

  10. I’m siding with the females on this one. An unscientific observation on my part, having been through the child-feeding experience as a dad, is that the folks most aagainst are (1) single guys and (2) married guys whose wives tell them it’s bad form. Everyone else, by and large, are okay-ish with it – discretion being the better part of valor in this arena.

    As an issue, I think there are bigger things to fight for, especially as mothers. But I don’t have a problem with it at the end of the discussion.

  11. I love you, Patrick, but I’m with Cat on this one. Maybe you have to be a woman. In that case (which is the case), you’re forgiven.

    What’s truly obscene? The nude human body (as God made it) or the bloody violence which passes for news and is broadcast during the dinner hour? Breastfeeding or racism? Nurturing a baby or homophobia resulting in hate crimes?

    We have an enormous appetite in this country for violence–both verbal and physical–but little tolerance for the human body in its natural state.

    Give me nudity any day. Hatred/hate crimes, intolerance, violence (in all its guises) and war? There’s your obscenity worth fighting on all fronts.

    I stand firm. Breastfeeding–anywhere and at any time–is a natural, beautiful, loving human act of nurturing. I may have spent more time than I liked in nasty bathrooms, acting as if nursing my little ones was akin to masturbatiingn public, but I’ll tell you this: In my home, I breastfed my babies when and where I liked–and I didn’t give a rat’s patootie who was here. If they didn’t like it, it was clearly their own form of perversion. They were welcome to leave.


  12. Can you explain to me why seeing part of a breast doing it’s job is more unpleasant and worth banning than seeing more of another breast hanging out of a shirt or blouse?

    Cat, If we were to compare the two as if they’re equal, I’d be fine with people not putting pictures of themselves hanging out of their clothes for the world to see as well. Perhaps the prude in me is showing.

    On the other hand, where is the line defining what is and isn’t appropriate to be placed? Using your example, if you find it offensive to see pictures of clothed people who show too much (though not everything), how is it less offensive to see pictures of people showing even more? It sounds like the “decency curve” isn’t a slant but a bowl: showing nothing is okay, showing everything during a breastfeeding is okay, but showing something arguably “in the middle” of the two trips the meter?

    If it were up to you, where would the line be drawn? Or should there be no line at all? Is “Anything Goes” a good policy to have?

  13. Patrick,

    I must agree with mothers offended by the purely sexually defined breast. For heaven’s sake! Our breasts were not designed by our Maker to titillate the sexual fantasy of the male population! They are MAMMARY GLANDS, designed by God for the manufacture and delivery of milk.

    As a former breastfeeding mother, let me tell you how deeply I resented (and still resent) having to go into smelly, claustrophobic toilet cubicles in public restrooms just to feed my babies. I could not remain at table, talking quietly with my husband and friends, while I fed my babies. No way. Even with a receiving blanket strategically draped over my shoulder, diners found the very act of feeding my baby (according to God’s design) an offensive, sexually provacative act.

    God never designed my breasts for Playboy. He designed them expressly for my babies’ nourishment.

    How sad that women are forced to hide a perfectly innocent, natural and beautiful God-given act of nurture because humankind has redefined the purpose of the female breasts as a sexually stimulative one. It’s disgraceful that human lust can dictate social acceptability.

    We need to grow up as a species and value what God gave us– value it for the purpose He intended.

  14. Can you explain to me why seeing part of a breast doing it’s job is more unpleasant and worth banning than seeing more of another breast hanging out of a shirt or blouse? Why are Victoria’s Secret ads OK, but a seeing baby eating breakfast is too provacative for people with cancer? Hearing a baby giggling is less painful than seeing a photo of a baby nursing to the mother whose baby died?

    I beg to differ.

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Patrick is a Christian with more than 29 years experience in professional writing, producing and marketing. His professional background also includes social media, reporting for broadcast television and the web, directing, videography and photography. He enjoys getting to know people over coffee and spending time with his dog.