Sisterhood Blog

#FreetheNipple for the Win

By Elissa Strauss

  • Print
  • Share Share


Ladies and gentleman, the nipples have been freed. A few weeks ago Facebook quietly changed its policy on allowing pictures of breastfeeding moms.

A Facebook representative told CNET: “We have always allowed breast-feeding photos — it is natural and beautiful and we know that it’s important for mothers to share their experiences with others on Facebook.”

“What we have done is modified the way we review reports of nudity to help us better examine the context of the photo or image,” the representative said. “As a result of this, photos that show a nursing mother’s other breast will be allowed even if it is fully exposed, as will mastectomy photos showing a fully exposed other breast.”

Blogger and activist Soraya Chemaly wrote about the social media site’s policy shift for the Huffington Post, highlighting the “obscenity double standards” that exist on a number of social media platforms.

Among the clearest examples of how distorted ideas about “obscenity” are is the treatment of breastfeeding mothers, off-line and on. While female toplessness is legal in many places, and breastfeeding in public is legal everywhere in the US, it remains “obscene” under many social media rules, and in daily interactions offline. There are entire Facebook pages, such as FB v Breastfeeding and Hey Facebook! Breastfeeding is Not Obscene, dedicated to the issue. Breastfeeding selfies, a trend, could not be shared on the platform. Each time there is news about graphic and violent content allowed in Facebook, the ridiculousness of banning photos of women feeding their children is highlighted.

Chemaly points to the #FreetheNipple movement, which is trying to reframe how women’s bodies are seen as sexual objects in media, pointing to the fact that nearly nude and often degrading pictures of women are commonplace, while a women’s selfie of her own nipple is considered obscene. They are doing this through topless public protests, online campaigns and an upcoming film.

While you will most definitely not see me participating in any #FreetheNipple marches any time soon — I find bras really comfortable and also have a modest instinct that presents itself even in the dressing room at the local Y — there is no question that the fight for more control by women about how our bodies are presented is a worthy one. In this case, it is wonderful that women are not shamed by sharing pictures of some of the most tender and meaningful moments of their lives.

That said, I still think we should look at the impetus to share breastfeeding photos with a critical eye. On the one hand these photos are a chance to share with others the magic of early motherhood, but on the other hand they are part of a current strain of our culture that is increasingly making motherhood a fundamental part of a woman’s identity and breastfeeding is a central part. An article from a few years ago in Time on extended breastfeeding was entitled “Are You Mom Enough?” — an attitude that is increasingly prevalent and has earned its critics in the likes of Suzanne Bartson, author of the book “Bottled Up” and blogger at Fearless Formula Feeder, who argues against how the way we feed babies has come to define what kind of mothers we are.

Facebook pictures are more that just a record of our lives, they are a performance. And when performing it is hard to avoid the scripts offered to us by the world around us. Which is all to say, share your breastfeeding pictures, but do so cautiously and with awareness. Not because of what it reveals of your body, but instead of what it reveals about what we must do in order to be considered a “good” mother these days.

Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: mom, Jewish, Facebook, #freethenipple

The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.

Find us on Facebook!
  • Are Michelangelo's paintings anti-Semitic? Meet the Jews of the Sistine Chapel:
  • What does the Israel-Hamas war look like through Haredi eyes?
  • Was Israel really shocked to find there are networks of tunnels under Gaza?
  • “Going to Berlin, I had a sense of something waiting there for me. I was searching for something and felt I could unlock it by walking the streets where my grandfather walked and where my father grew up.”
  • How can 3 contradictory theories of Yiddish co-exist? Share this with Yiddish lovers!
  • "We must answer truthfully: Has a drop of all this bloodshed really helped bring us to a better place?”
  • "There are two roads. We have repeatedly taken the one more traveled, and that has made all the difference." Dahlia Scheindlin looks at the roots of Israel's conflict with Gaza.
  • Shalom, Cooperstown! Cooperstown Jewish mayor Jeff Katz and Jeff Idelson, director of the National Baseball Hall of Fame, work together to oversee induction weekend.
  • A boost for morale, if not morals.
  • Mixed marriages in Israel are tough in times of peace. So, how do you maintain a family bubble in the midst of war?
  • Despite the escalating violence in Israel, more and more Jews are leaving their homes in Alaska to make aliyah:
  • The Workmen's Circle is hosting New York’s first Jewish street fair on Sunday. Bring on the nouveau deli!
  • Novelist Sayed Kashua finds it hard to write about the heartbreak of Gaza from the plush confines of Debra Winger's Manhattan pad. Tough to argue with that, whichever side of the conflict you are on.
  • "I’ve never bought illegal drugs, but I imagine a small-time drug deal to feel a bit like buying hummus underground in Brooklyn."
  • We try to show things that get less exposed to the public here. We don’t look to document things that are nice or that people would like. We don’t try to show this place as a beautiful place.”
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?

We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.