The debate over how women choose to nurse their children -- not to mention where they do it, when they do it, and for how long -- has gone virtual.
The latest combattants in the breastfeeding war are moms posting breastfeeding pictures and Facebook. Emma Kwasnica, a 33-year-old mother of three living in Vancouver, said her Facebook account was suspended over the weekend after a photo of her nursing her toddler was flagged as sexually explicit. (This story has been updated. Scroll down for new information.)
"It's such a double-standard: if you type in 'breasts' on Facebook, you can see pages with thousands of members where there are naked breasts," Kwasnica told The Huffington Post. "How is that happening, when at least 30 women I know have had accounts shut down for a single breastfeeding image?"
Kwasnica, a breastfeeding activist, said she has at least 200 similar photos on her page. "Sure it's about sharing a beautiful moment," she said. "But I also want to renormalize breast feeding."
Her theory holds that with repeated exposure, society will just get over it and there won't be all those highly-publicized fights where women are kicked off of buses and out of courtrooms for nursing.
This isn't the first time Kwasnica said her Facebook account has been suspended for breastfeeding photos. It's happened at least four other times in the past five years, she said. One photo flagged in the past featured Kwasnica breastfeeding two of her children -- one age 2, the other 4 -- at once.
Outraged supporters have created a support page for Kwasnica and are posting photos of themselves breastfeeding as their profile pictures.
If Facebook doesn't allow breastfeeding photos, the social networking company can expect a "nurse-in" at its offices around the world on Feb. 6, Kwasnica said. "You don’t want the wrath of mothers," she said.
Facebook has sent mixed messages on the subject. Last month, the company publicly apologized to a North Carolina woman whose breastfeeding photo was removed. According to WCNC.com, Facebook said it was an accident:
"We agree that breastfeeding is natural and beautiful and we're very glad to know that it is important for mothers to share their experience with others on Facebook," a Facebook statement said.
Earlier this week, the Vancouver Sun reported that Facebook's Canadian publicist, Reena Dacdo, said breastfeeding is not exempt from the website's no-nudity standards.
"I recognize breastfeeding is a natural thing to do, but many users want to foster diverse respect so we have come up with a set of community standards," Dacdo said.
Kwasnica said she is puzzled that the standards would be different for Canadian and American women. Besides, she said, the site is not policing sexually explicit photos.
"Someone sent me a friend request today, and the profile photo is just an erect penis," she said.
UPDATE: Jan. 13 -
A Facebook spokesperson contacted The Huffington Post and issued the following statement:
"We agree that breastfeeding is natural and we are very glad to know that it is important for mothers, including the many mothers who work at Facebook, to share their experience with others on the site. The vast majority of breastfeeding photos are compliant with our Statement of Rights and Responsibilities and Facebook takes no action on such content. However, photos which contain a fully exposed breast, do violate our terms and may be removed if they are reported to us. These policies are based on the same standards that apply to television and print media. It is important to note that photos upon which we act are almost exclusively brought to our attention by other users who complain about them being shared on Facebook."
UPDATE: Jan. 23, 7 p.m. -
Kwasnica had a conference call with Facebook but said breastfeeding censorship continues. She issued the following statement:
"It is obvious to me now that Facebook really has lost control of their network, especially when their written policy clearly states they support the sharing of breastfeeding images, yet they say they cannot control the actions of their employees who keep removing breastfeeding images and who block accounts of the users who post them - usually "in error." This is exasperating to me."
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