A group of angered moms took their qualms with Facebook offline and into the real world on Monday, staging nurse-ins in front of the social network's headquarters around the world. The move was the latest in an ongoing fight between Facebook and nursing mothers, who are challenging the company's policy that says photos depicting breastfeeding are "inappropriate."
Protest leader Emma Kwasnica is a breastfeeding advocate who has posted over 200 photos of herself nursing her own three children -- and who told the Huffington Post that her account has been suspended at least five times as a result. She knows at least 30 other women whose accounts have been shut down for the same reason, she said.
Her very public fight began in January when the Vancouver Sun reported on her repetitive suspensions and a Facebook publicist responded that breastfeeding is not exempt from the website's no-nudity standards.
Facebook then contacted the Huffington Post directly with a a clarifying 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."
Ten days later, Kwasnica had a conference call with Facebook but said the censorship continued. She decided to move forward with her plans to organize a nurse-in. "You don't want the wrath of mothers," she said. According to the San Francisco Chronicle, about 60 moms showed up at Facebook's Menlo Park headquarters to protest Monday. Other gatherings were staged or planned in New York, Toronto, Texas, Seattle, London, Paris, Amsterdam, Madrid, Singapore, Dublin, and Sydney.
The protesters' goal was to educate employees on how to recognize "legitimate" photos -- and to make their point that breastfeeding is not obscene.
Facebook isn't the only company who has upset breastfeeding moms, and then experienced their "wrath." In December, mom Michelle Hickman organized a nation-wide nurse-in at retail giant, Target, after she was harassed and humiliated for nursing during a shopping trip.
And mom Rachel Papantonakis, who says she has never personally been attacked for breastfeeding in public, is taking action on behalf of all moms who have been shamed. She's organizing a "The Great Nurse-In", a massive demonstration, to be held on the West Lawn at the Capitol, tentatively planned during National Breastfeeding Week.