A full on breast war has erupted. It’s MySpace vs. the breastfeeding mothers of the world and in terms of the World Wide Web, it’s a no-holds barred fight to the death.
Melissa Rocks of Tacoma Washington posted pictures of herself breastfeeding her son on her MySpace profile. The pictures were deleted by the site so Melissa posted them again. MySpace moderators then sent her a message stating that her “breastfeeding pictures were too sexual for MySpace.” They threatened to delete her profile if she continued to post such overtly sexual images. They cited several reasons for the deletions including “users may be in locations where such images are inappropriate” and that posting the pictures “violates MySpace policies against nudity and sexually suggestive image.”
MySpace has determined that an age-old method of feeding babies that is endorsed by everyone from the World Health Organization to Unicef, and that provides infants with vital nutrients, antibodies and mother-child bonding is in its visual form obscene.
Sure MySpace has the right to enforce a website policy, and they are by no means required to host pictures of nursing mothers if they feel it is obscene.
Unfortunately for MySpace however, they lost the web content moral high ground a long time ago.
The irony of their obscenity argument is in the plethora of blatantly sexual images and messages freely available on MySpace, many of these images displaying minors.
Even the page of Mr. MySpace himself, the ubiquitous Tom (Tom Anderson, president and co-creator of MySpace), promotes the music of irreverent rapper Mickey Avalon. Avalon’s song “Jane Fonda” plays when you land on Tom’s page, the lyrics of which are: “Baby Baby Baby…/Baby was Jen’s best friend and maybe if you were lucky/ licky licky sucky sucky/Mickey Mickey, fuck me fuck me/more junk in her trunk than a Honda/I know you wanna do the Jane Fonda.”
It is to be inferred that Tom’s idea of licky licky sucky sucky is less obscene than that of an infant.
Play what you want Tom, lord knows the Avalon track is catchy, but don’t turn around and kick breastfeeding mothers to the curb for violating obscenity rules.
The fact is, Tom and his MySpace cohorts aren’t the only ones confused about breasts.
We are taught early on that there is something inherently shameful about the female body and that breasts are instruments of temptation and sin, not of nurture and nourishment.
Breasts are prominent symbols in the disturbing dichotomy between purity and naughtiness that is the feminine condition. They are to be either highly sexualized to the point of cartoonish pornography or they should be hidden completely, sanitized brassiered and de-nippled. In this there is no grey area. Deep in our damaged western psyche lies the notion that breastfeeding, because it shows the naughty bits, is naughty and should be hidden from view.
Our discomfort with breasts starts early with childish taboos on accurate nomenclature for human mammaries. And no, kids didn’t come up with these bits of vocabulary brilliance.
Tits, boobies, knockers, hooters and my own personal favourite, jugs, are all popular euphemisms for the dirty B-word. We’ll do anything to avoid calling a breast a breast.
In their daily lives, women resort to implants, padded push up bras and retreating to bathrooms with hungry infants in order to enhance, shape and cloister those naughty imperfect breasts.
Since the 1950s when baby formula became the preferred option for infant feeding, nursing mothers have faced an uphill battle. Women who breastfeed in public are subject to scrutiny and make a statement.
MySpace is not the first company to make their distaste for breastfeeding known. Last November a woman was kicked off of a Delta airlines flight from Burlington Vermont to New York for breastfeeding. The company defended the decision by saying that she wasn’t being “discreet” enough.
At the heart of it all is shame. And discretion on the part of breastfeeders keeps us all from having to experience it. Unfortunately, this preference for puerile censorship of natural mothering behaviour hurts all of us and those most in need of our protection.
Free and unfettered access to breastmilk should be the right of every child, and it should be considered the right of every mother to provide it wherever and whenever it is needed. Misplaced shame should not hinder that right.