I saw the horror flashing across the faces of the women crowded above me as I slipped down, backwards into the crack between the moving bus and the platform.
I’m currently a mother who is nursing a 14-month-old child. I’ve been sharing photos on social media of our nursing relationship since she was itty bitty. Until recently, I’ve never had any issues with people being offended by the sight of me feeding my child. In fact, I’ve encountered nearly no hostility about it, which makes me incredibly lucky.
That all changed recently when I posted a photo of myself nursing my toddler. I work from home and was showing off the reality of my life -- nursing my kid with one hand and typing with the other. I was pretty impressed with my ability to multitask and was feeling badass.
A few hours later, I received a notification from Facebook letting me know that my photo had been reported for nudity. I knew that it wouldn’t be taken down, since Facebook’s community standards explicitly allow breastfeeding photos.
But that didn’t stop me from feeling angry and betrayed all at once. My privacy settings are pretty locked down, so my photos are viewable to “only friends.” The fact that someone I knew had reported the photo as being offensive felt like a huge slap in the face (and also like they don’t know me at all and probably shouldn’t be my friend).
I took to Facebook to pen a response, which I posted along with the original photo.
To the person who reported my nursing photo for nudity: Here's the photo again, just to you piss you off. Me and my kid are both giving you the stink eye.
1. Joke's on you because breastfeeding photos don't violate Facebook's community standards.
2. Unfriend me right now. I'd unfriend you myself, but Facebook doesn't say who reported a photo. If you're not OK with seeing me nurse my child, you don't deserve to witness any part of my life. I share it in full here, and guess what? I'm a nursing mom. I'm not ashamed of it, either. In fact, I'm proud of it.
3. If you're offended by the sight of a breast (sans nipple, even!), you're a hypocrite. I'm going to go ahead and guess that you don't report everyone's bikini photos for nudity, right? There's nothing indecent about using breasts for what they were intended for. Maybe if we didn't objectify women to the point that our bodies exist solely to be sexualized and consumed by the male gaze, this wouldn't happen.
The thing is, this isn’t abnormal. I’m just lucky that it took over a year of being a nursing parent before I experienced harassment for breastfeeding openly.
Even though every state except Idaho has laws on the books stating that women can nurse publicly (even though trans and gender non-conforming people can and do nurse, breastfeeding advocacy hasn’t caught up yet), people still often experience harassment or discrimination for breastfeeding in public.
Similarly, even though Facebook explicitly allows photos of nursing mothers to be posted, people often deal with their photos being reported for nudity. It’s a regular occurrence in the Facebook group for nursing mothers that I belong to.
Women have been photographed without their consent and shamed on social media for nursing in restaurants. A black woman was attacked for posting a photo of herself nursing her child in her graduation gown on a Facebook page to support black mothers who breastfeed.
We live in a culture where breasts are so sexualized that when they’re used for what they’re intended for, it’s seen as something shameful and dirty. No one ever complained when I took my shirt off at every party I attended between 2002 and 2008. No one batted an eye when I pushed my tits to my chin and paraded around in low-cut tops. But as soon as I do something with our breasts that isn’t explicitly for male consumption, it’s deemed “offensive.”
I don’t want my daughter to grow up in a world where she thinks her body is shameful. I don’t want her to grow up in a world where she’s told that the way I fed her is “gross” or something to be hidden. I never want her to doubt that our nursing relationship is anything but sacred and special.
There’s nothing shameful about a parent nursing their child. There’s nothing shameful about that child seeking food, nurturance, and comfort at their parent’s breast. And when someone reports a breastfeeding photo for nudity, the message being sent to the world, the nursing parent and the nursing child is that what they’re doing is inherently wrong or shameful. I’m not OK with that.
A few days after I posted the response to my photo being reported, Facebook notified me that that photo had also been reported for nudity. And so I posed another nursing photo, adding that each time a photo of me breastfeeding was reported to Facebook, I would respond by posting yet another photo of me nursing. I intend to do that for as long as someone continues to report my photos.
By breastfeeding my child publicly and without shame, I’m standing up for myself and all nursing parents. My hope is that, by nursing my child openly, I’ll give other people permission to do the same.
And possibly the best part of my photos being reported is that lots of my nursing friends have been flooding my page with photos of themselves breastfeeding their littles. My Facebook wall has become a mini breastfeeding revolution of sorts and I LOVE IT.
So please, keep reporting me. I’ll have another #brelfie ready to go up when you do (and so will my friends).