Monday, May 21, 2012

Woman Posts Breastfeeding Pic on Twitter & Starts Another Mommy War

"One user in particular, @juliewashere88, started an all-out tweet brawl when she went after Arwyn last week, tweeting, "Just because you've got an infant sucking it does not mean anyone wants to see your tits. Keep those pics to yourself. #childfree" Hoooo-boy!

Julie went on to rant:

I don't care who is sucking it, I did NOT ask to see photos of your saggy, leaky, veiny tits. KEEP THOSE TO YOURSELF! #childfree ... Just so you know, @RaisingBoychick your avatar violates twitter image policy. You've been reported.

Wow, way to make women who don't have children (or don't have children yet) look like a total nightmare, Julie! Then again, what did Arwyn expect when she made that her avatar? She had to know that posting a photo like that was guaranteed to attract this kind of negative attention. That's just how Twitter (and even Facebook to some extent, although you do have more control over strangers' nasty remarks) works."
The comments are rife with people touting the health benefits of breast milk. And yet none of this answers the question of whether the photo is appropriate. Just because breastfeeding is natural does not mean that taking a digital photo of it, uploading it to the internet, and assigning it as your Twitter picture is at all natural. The fact that people are missing these last three steps as an essential part of the query confounds me. There are countless beautiful or natural parts of my everyday life that I wouldn't photograph or share. Or even describe for purposes of illustrating that last sentence. Heck, I won't even upload the cute pictures of me snuggling my dog if I happen to be wearing pajamas. Erm, so maybe I'm not the best judge of propriety.

The picture in question is. . . unappealing. The outcries about how we're "sexualizing" the breast on the comment may be missing the point. The picture in question is not sexual. But maybe that is the problem? We hold up an ideal for breasts tied to their sex appeal, so that when a set comes along that are veiny and sagging, we're put off. So perhaps this picture could serve a purpose, in desexualizing the breasts. Yet I wonder if the step of setting it as one's default photo is necessary for that step.

Perhaps that is what I find most off-putting about this. This woman has made the act of breastfeeding her child more important than her own face in representing her identity. I understand that is an important part of her life, and that the bond she shares with her child is meaningful. Yet to make it the sole representation of yourself on Twitter hints at a time when women's value stemmed from their biological functions and not their ability to think or reason.

The photo doesn't appear to violate Twitter's policies, so it her right to post it, as it is juliewashere88's right to be offended and express that opinion. But as choices go, I wish each of them had made different ones. I wish @RaisingBoychick had made the photo only part of what represents her, and I wish the Childfree tweeter had expressed herself in a way that didn't further the vitriol against the childfree.
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Anonymous said...

Agreed. I'm glad you're a decidely more level-headed person when it comes to the childfree lifestyle. I get embarassed, and downright angry, at some of the frothing, hateful things that childfree people say. It makes us all look cold, angry, and childish.

As for the picture, I'm not really surprised by it, but I do find it irritating. Though not for the reasons the childfree woman had. I can't stand the smug I'm-a-better-parent-than-you attitudes of people who are super gung-ho on the breastfeeding thing. They're not posting things like this because they're trying to share a sweet moment between them and their child. I guarantee you that if you panned that camera up, those moms are all smirking. It bugs me. I don't know why lactivists are so big now.

Also, I do think that it is mildly inappropriate for someone to post a breastfeeding photo as their avatar. If you want it in your photo album, wonderful, have at it. People should know how to draw the line at what is okay, and what's a little over the line. I don't care if women breastfeed in public, and I don't think they should be made to hide in the bathrooms to do it, but I do think they should throw a cloth over their exposed chest. It just seems simple to me.

But posting your boobs on Twitter? Why on Earth does that sound okay? And I agree on the whole identifying onesself solely through motherhood thing you mentioned. It seems like the vast majority of pro-female new age nonsense is completely centered around a woman's reproduction. Which, when you think about it, isn't all that feminist at all. Aren't we more than our bodies? Aren't we more than nuturers who can create and feed children?

Anonymous said...

1. Neither of those ”ranting” tweets of mine that you quoted were directed at anyone in particular. You’ll notice there is no “@” in them. It’s pretty dishonest to say I “went after Arwyn” when the only one of those tweets that actually was directed to her was simply me informing her that she was reported, a courtesy on my part. And informing someone that they've been reported is "started an all-out tweet brawl" how? It's hardly my fault the breeders couldn't act like adults and acknowledge that rules apply to them too.

2. If Twitter is consistent in their policy, yes, the avatar DOES violate Twitter’s rules. It might be gone now if only Twitter’s sytem of avatar reporting actually worked (their automated messages are still acting like I’m some dumb user having trouble uploading my own avatar.)

3. I’m a “total nightmare?” What, as opposed to total doormat? Maybe you’re content with being silent and meek, a breeder-please always bowing to whatever conventions the natalism-worshipping set deems acceptable, but I am not. That user’s actions, as well as those of all the trolls who threw a fit over her being reported, were out of line, and are rightfully regarded as such.

4. Since when do I represent all childfree people? I never claimed to. I don’t intend to. I will not censor myself, just because I choose not to breed, merely for the sake of whatever image that you or anyone else feels they need to construct to make themselves seem “acceptable” in a natalist world. I only pity that you feel you need to do so at all. As far as I’m concerned, the world can work for my acceptance, or be rejected. I have no reason to need to be fake about, compromise, or otherwise hide my true thoughts on anything.

L.T. said...

GoldenCoatHanger, I'm confused. Are those comments directed at me? You're responding to things that I quoted from the original article on CafeMom, not what I wrote. My only comment that regarded you was "I wish the Childfree tweeter had expressed herself in a way that didn't further the vitriol against the childfree."

Also, please click submit only once; you sent in duplicate comments.

L.T. said...

As to the content of your comments:

1. Yes indeed the original article made it look like it was a single post. They combined it in a way that gave the impression the entire complaint was directed in an @ comment. You should comment on the original article since this is dishonest on their part.

As to the "all out tweet brawl", that was just the writer's way of exaggerating the drama to punch up her article. Which she wouldn't need to do if she weren't trying to base a whole article on a couple of 140-character messages. Even before you posted, I had thought she was being ridiculous there.

2. Twitter's policy prohibits "The site prohibits "obscene or pornographic images in either your profile picture or user background." That is an ambiguous statement subject to interpretation; even the courts have failed to define obscenity and chosen instead to judge it on a case by case basis. Whether it violates the policy therefore hinges on whether Twitter's powers-that-be judge the breastfeeding picture to be "obscene."

Knowing the current political climate, I doubt they will. From a legal perspective, it doesn't qualify as obscene because it has an ostensible purpose other than to titillate, even if we don't agree with that purpose. The fact that no nipple is showing probably takes it out of the pornographic realm for the purposes of the other half of the policy. Indeed, nudity itself is often judged neither pornographic unless there is additional explicit sexual content.

3. The author of the post is likely a mom, so I don't think the concept of being a "breeder pleaser" applies. Even if she isn't, she's a blogger for a mothering website, so of course she is going to take that position.

4. You don't represent all childfree people, but that doesn't mean that people won't attribute your actions to the childfree community - especially when you choose to use the #childfree hashtag.

And yes, I do feel the need to make us acceptable to the natalist world. I see it as a vital and important part of my job every time I am interviewed for TV or newspapers. I know my words are going out to parts of the country, or other nations, where childfree people are still struggling for basic acceptance.

If I can make us look a little less angry and a little more human, it may help the coworkers, family, and friends of childfree people see them differently, judge them less harshly, and treat them with kindness. To me that is worth censoring some of my thoughts in that arena, and saving them for conversations with my husband and friends. It isn't that different from avoiding discussing my sex life when my husband's vasectomy is the topic, or keeping my mouth shut when someone has on ugly shoes. It is part of what all of us do every day, keeping some thoughts private and allowing some to be public.

Of course, you have no obligation to do the same. You can think whatever you like about breastfeeding, and talk about it as much as you want. Just be aware that people are going to react to your comments, using the same freedom of speech that you did in the original post. And yes, sometimes your thoughts will be attributed to the childfree as a whole.

But if you expect us to accept the consequences of your words, the least you can do is give according respect to those of us who are community-minded in our own words. And keep the pity for someone who needs it.

Anonymous said...

My mistake. I didn't realize CafeMom was being quoted. I apologize for that.