Facebook furor as nursing mother paintings censored

Even the Vatican doesn’t have a problem any more with paintings of a semi-dressed Virgin Mary nursing the infant Jesus.

But it looks like Facebook might.

Long criticized for banning photos of members breastfeeding their children, the popular social networking site last month repeatedly removed three paintings of nursing mothers posted by B.C.-based artist Kate Hansen.

Part of her “Madonna and Child Project,” the series was twice bounced off a Facebook group for portrait and figure artists.

At first, Hansen, a 33-year-old mother of two, was puzzled.

“So I posted more of my work and, sure enough, it went missing (for a third time),” she said Monday, on the phone from her home on Vancouver Island.

Then, to Hansen’s shock, on April 7, an email from “The Facebook Team” arrived:

“You posted an item that violated our Terms of Use, and this item has been removed. Among other things, content that is hateful, threatening, or obscene is not allowed, nor is content that attacks an individual or group. Continued misuse of Facebook’s features could result in your account being disabled.”

Hansen responded, but has yet to hear back.

Meanwhile, late Monday night, Facebook replied to the Star‘s queries, saying Hansen’s paintings were “accidentally removed.”

Accidentally, three times.

Hansen has reposted the paintings, but what confounds her is that the group page from which her work was deleted is filled with representations of nudes.

“They’re full nudes that show the entire breast and nipple, far more explicit than anything I have done myself,” she says, adding that she doesn’t want to see them censored as well. “I wonder if Facebook is seeking out breastfeeding work.”

Breastfeeding moms have been busted by Facebook for years.

Which explains why there are more than 260,000 members of a group called “Hey Facebook, breastfeeding is not obscene.”

What really gets these women is, if they enter earthier terms for female breasts in Facebook’s search box, all kinds of pneumatic photos pop up.

Facebook seems to be soft on soft porn, but firmly against what the medical community and even the Church acknowledge as the right thing to do to promote both mother-child bonding and health.

What could be more family value-oriented than that?

Maternal health experts working in less-developed countries promote nursing because it fends off the often-fatal diarrhea and malnutrition that plague babies where expensive formula is diluted with disease-ridden water.

As for the Vatican, it recently announced that it wants to uncover centuries-old art of the Virgin Mary with the baby Jesus at her naked breast. From the earliest Christian times until the late Renaissance, such paintings, dubbed Madonna del Latte, were common – and made sense.

Nursing is what poor women did. And the holy family was impoverished. But, during the Reformation, more puritanical ideas took hold – and Mary’s breast went under wraps.

Even in the West, nursing is seen as the healthy thing to do. Just this month, the journal Pediatrics published a study suggesting that the United States could save $13 billion and more than 900 newborn lives every year if women could be encouraged to breastfeed their children for more than six months.

Not that American society makes it easy. There’s not much support on any front, medical or cultural.

Over the past few years, for example, there have been “nurse-in” protests at chain restaurants that have sent women and children to the washroom to breastfeed.

Meanwhile, Facebook members held a “virtual protest” by posting photos of themselves doing the deed.

Now even very modest paintings are getting deleted. “I can’t think of any other species of animal that harasses its females for nursing their young,” says Hansen. “The whole thing does make me angry.”

Facebook furor as nursing mother paintings censored – thestar.com

9 Comments

Filed under breastfeeding

9 responses to “Facebook furor as nursing mother paintings censored

  1. Michael

    THANK YOU for posting this! I’ve been outraged at Facebook’s arbitrary censorship ever since my wife and I started trying to learn about birth/parenting (particularly breastfeeding) when she was pregnant. It is clear that someone is crusading against breastfeeding, either at Facebook’s behest or as a rogue reactivist, and we have to keep getting the word out there to raise enough publicity and public pressure to stop it!

  2. Elicia

    This is a great website and y’all are doing great work, but as a Hispanic Catholic, the statements, “EVEN the Vatican doesn’t have a problem…”, “EVEN the Church acknowledges”, etc. seem unintentionally negative. From earliest times, Catholic artists have portrayed “Maria Lactans” and images of Mary nursing were the norm (I mean, even the La Leche Leage was named after a Catholic shrine!) As I understand it, the main reason nude images were covered up was due to the Reformation and the puritanical view of the body infiltrating Catholic thought. For a great read, check out “Breastfeeding and Catholic Motherhood” by Sheila Kippley. Thanks and keep up the great work!

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