Facebook was once the playground for Harvard students. Then came along all college students, employees, regional citizens, high school students, politicians, celebrities, and grandparents. Like many social networking websites, Facebook will only grant user membership if a person agrees to their terms and agreements. Way back then, you checked off a box that meant you saw eye-to-eye with what Facebook expects from you and what you can expect from Facebook. And from there, you were on your merry way. But the lactivists were not.
Thousands of outraged Facebook users began joining the group, “Hey Facebook, Breastfeeding is not obscene!”, as soon as mothers had pictures removed from their profiles and photo albums. Protesters picketed outside Facebook headquarters in Palo Alto, California and changed their profile pictures to them breastfeeding.
Before we point the finger at Facebook for not accepting a natural part of child rearing, there are some things to bring at the table. First, Facebook does not allow content that is obscene, pornographic, or sexually explicit. Is it possible that breastfeeding can be any of those things in the eyes of conservative people or online perverts? Second, many of the photos taken down were flagged by other Facebook users. Regardless of whether or not Facebook finds pictures of breastfeeding mothers obscene, pornographic and/or sexually explicit, it can be said without any doubts that there are users on Facebook who think so.
Does this mean that Facebook has to delete every picture of a guy showing off his six pack?
In a world where double standards do not exist, that would probably need to happen. The fact of the matter is that we live in a society where seeing a topless man does mean the same things as a topless woman. Topless man = Matthew McConaughey jogging on the beach with his dog. Topless woman = a woman who objectifies herself for attention and/or money, i.e. a stripper or Janet Jackson.
And even if something is not sexually explicit like feeding a baby, there is nudity involved. The only similar scenario that I could think off is that mothers and fathers don’t put up photos of themselves changing diapers. It’s a natural part of caring for a baby but we don’t see any of that. How and why does society just know that, that is inappropriate? What differentiates this from breastfeeding? Perhaps this debate is not about whether breastfeeding is taboo. Perhaps like Jack Balkin, mentioned in “How Rights Change: Freedom of Speech in the Digital Era”, there is now a cultural clash regarding what people choose to participate in. We see here that Facebook has created new communities of interest (of breastfeeding mothers) that pits itself against existing groups (of people who think breastfeeding is taboo). This heated controversy of breastfeeding once had a forum that included state senators and state legislation. But with further technological change and digital revolution, there is further cultural participation and arenas for debate. Here within lies Facebook.