Breast zealots vs Facebook

Ah, those breast zealots – I think I may have invented a word when I called them brealots a while back – again, proving that you can’t keep a good woman down and you can’t keep her breasts off the interwebs if she’s using them for their primary purpose of feeding infants. Now as an adult I appreciate breasts as much as the next heterosexual man and as a baby, or so I’m told, I appreciated them as a food source as much as the next unstoppable screaming shit fountain, so I have no objection at all to them being on the web with hungry babies attached to them. Well, actually just one small objection, which is when their owners demand the right to show their sweater puppies in all their au naturel lactating glory on part of the web they don’t own and have been given access to for free. Something  this opinion piece in The Age doesn’t mention.

‘Shares that contain nudity, pornography, or sexual content are not permitted on Facebook … refrain from posting abusive material in the future.”

This is the standard response hundreds of women have received from Facebook, when photos of them breastfeeding their children were found to be offensive. And it has caused much ado, with a large number of women writing to chief executive Mark Zuckerberg to protest and others staging ”nurse-ins” outside Facebook offices from Tokyo to Dallas to Sydney.

Yes, it’s that again, prompted by the removal last week of a photo of a young woman on her kitchen floor with a baby on one boob and a breast pump on the other. I’d object if you called me old fashioned about breast feeding because I’m perfectly fine with it, but you certainly can call me old fashioned when it comes to property rights as I’m firmly of the opinion that s/he who owns it should get to decide how it’s used. When ‘it’ is a service that’s being provided then that means the owner gets to set whatever terms and conditions they like, and if you don’t like any of those conditions the answer is breathtakingly simple: do not buy that service. Encourage your friends and even complete strangers not to use it either if you like, but if you pay up you accept the terms, end of.

And when it’s a service like Facebook – which incidentally I don’t use and can’t see the point of – that’s being provided to you for free, asking no more than registration and agreement to the conditions of service, I’d say that goes double. It’s like being given free food at the best restaurant in town on the condition you don’t use mayonnaise and then whining that your plate was whisked away when you got a small jar of Hellman’s out of your pocket – yes, sure, it’s a stupid condition but if you didn’t like it you shouldn’t bloody be in there.

Despite the legal right to breastfeed any time, any place, nursing children in public remains inexplicably controversial. Breastfeeding mothers are still being humiliated, asked to leave stores or to feed in toilets.

All true, but since Facebook don’t own these stores it’s irrelevant. Take it up with the store owners, though I’d still say the same thing. Their place, their rules apply – boycott the place by all means, and I’d be inclined to join in, but don’t insist that they change their values to accommodate yours. Let them be prudes and hope they go bust (for the second post in a row, boob pun very much intended).

By definition, the nipple is covered by the mouth of a child when a child is breastfeeding. Every magazine stand in the Westernised world and rafts of advertising images feature a sea of exposed female upper body flesh. See that Vogue cover with the plunging gown? Is it offensive? Now imagine that a baby’s head is covering the nipple, instead of designer silk. Now is the image offensive? Why?

Hey, don’t ask me. I can absolutely see where you’re coming from and don’t find it at all offensive, but if you pushed me on whether breast feeding is offensive I’d say that even though it doesn’t offend me, yes, it is offensive. It must be because the Righteous have seen to it that for something to be deemed offensive it’s only necessary for one person to actually take offence. Not my rule, but if it’s true for all the other examples of ridiculous offence seeking then it must also be true for anything else, breastfeeding included.

It’s not the skin we have a problem with, but the act of breastfeeding itself. And that response has been taught to us.


Children do not find breasts offensive or sexual until we teach them to, and the complaints of people like Dorman, or those who report breastfeeding images on Facebook, reveal a learnt bias that may ultimately be damaging. What is the signal being transmitted here about breastfeeding? Since when did the natural way of feeding your child come to be seen as offensive or controversial?

I get what the author is saying, though I’m not at all convinced that boys who aren’t bothered by breasts grow up to be men who find them sexually appealing do so only because they’re taught. Are you telling me that any boys who grow up raised only by their mothers find breasts meaningless through puberty and are shocked by their first porno, or even by their first girlfriend, involving breasts in the fun? I really, really doubt it.*

Look, as I wrote before, there’s simply no getting away from the fact that as well as being where babies’ earliest food comes from breasts also have a sexual function.

Obviously in an ideal world everyone would just be able to look at breasts very functionally and mothers could simply feed whenever and wherever they needed to without anyone being bothered, but the world is not ideal and breasts do have a sexual significance. Sorry, sisters, but they do, and denying it is not dealing with it. And so prudes will complain about the dreaded breast while most of us men will either try to sneak a peek or look in absolutely every direction but the breast feeding mother unless forced to, and even then we’ll try to look at a point at least twenty feet above her head. Yes, I am one of those, and yes, I realise that while it’s a lot less embarrassing for her than staring straight at them and going, ‘Phwoar’ it’s still going to make the poor girl feel self concious. It’s often embarrassing for the mum and for men around her doing their best to respect both her privacy and her right to do one of the most natural things she ever will. We all know it shouldn’t be, but it is.

Decry it by all means, bemoan the fact that our species isn’t as high as we’d like to think, but the bottom line is that breasts are not simply for milk production alone. The sight of a nice pair of breasts occasionally leads on to the creation of the baby that will end up being fed by them, though I’d like to think that their owner usually gets taken out to dinner and given flowers first.

Needless to say the brealots are calling victory as Facebook ‘clarify’ their policy…

Thankfully Facebook has updated its policy to directly respond to the breastfeeding issue: ”Yes. We agree that breastfeeding is natural and beautiful, and we’re very glad to know that it is important for mothers to share their experiences with others on Facebook. The vast majority of these photos are compliant with our policies, and we will not take action on them.”

… and I agree that that is something to be thankful for as far as breastfeeding goes, but I’m not so sure about being thankful that a huge sense of entitlement is all it takes these days to forget other people’s property rights even exist. Facebook have come around without governments leaping on the bandwagon and forcing them to host breastfeeding photos – which is something we should all be genuinely grateful for – though people are now pointing out that users aren’t Facebook’s customers but Facebook’s product and so I suppose alienating a large group of them is akin to a potter smashing up his stock with a hammer. But it bothers me that are so many brealots – no doubt right-on men as well as breastfeeding mums – who think Facebook’s right to set whatever terms it likes on the use of its absolutely free to use service should be subordinate to a nursing mum’s right to put up photos of her breastfeeding her kid.

Keep it up, ladies, and when your child grows up they’ll have even fewer property rights of their own.

*Certainly don’t remember anyone having to tell me that breasts are sexy, I just became gradually aware that they are. I have a Y chromosome – sue me.

Posted on February 9, 2012, in Uncategorized and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

  1. Well a quick search of the infinite source of knowledge and information that is google only shows you, grimreaper and JuliaM (thylacosmilus) have used the word Brealot. It must be memorable enough for Julia to use it a year after you first wrote it.

  2. Yeah, I never said it caught on widely 🙂 but it certainly seemed to resound with Julia.

  3. I did see ‘Breastapo’ used somewhere as well, but I forget where!

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