Thursday, January 8, 2009

Breastfeeding experts quit jobs, slam Nestlé

Two breastfeeding experts have resigned from Burnaby General Hospital over a dispute involving infant formula giant Nestlé.
Renee Hefti-Graham and Linda Good both quit last week.
The issue began with an invitation circulated through the hospital's e-mail system to a Nestlé-sponsored "wine-and-dine" event to be held June 12.
Both women were adamantly opposed to the event.
And it was criticized by Health Minister George Abbott and the hospital's executive director, Arden Krystal, as a violation of a World Health Organization code that deals with the marketing of breastmilk substitutes.
The code states "no financial or material inducements" may be provided by formula companies to promote their products to health workers.
Nestlé cancelled the event following news of the controversy. Company spokeswoman Catherine O'Brien said yesterday that the formula maker is not in violation of the WHO code because the event was created solely to provide "science-based information."
Hefti-Graham and Good resigned because they felt their boss wasn't supportive of their stance against Nestle.
"She doesn't understand the issues," said Hefti-Graham. "She called [the materials I brought her] propaganda . . . and I've been working in this field for 20 years. I cannot work with a manager who tells me that the information I give her is propaganda."
The nurses' position on Nestlé is backed by the Toronto-based Infant Feeding Action Coalition, which advocates a consumer boycott of Nestlé products for violations of the code, which is not law in Canada.
There is now no lactation consultant at Burnaby General, but other hospital staff are being trained to teach women how to breastfeed.
A spokeswoman for the Fraser Health Authority said the maternity ward's patient-care co-ordinator circulated the invitation, but would not say whether any disciplinary measures had been imposed on the employee, citing privacy rights.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Open Letter to Mark Zuckerberg

Dear Mr Zuckerberg,

I am writing you to suggest that you hold an immediate briefing session with your official spokespeople to better advise them on a more accurate and truthful response to the many media inquiries you have recently received regarding Facebook's policy of removing breastfeeding images from user profiles and group albums on your site.

The current statements from your company regarding this policy are unclear and false. A much better approach might be something along the lines of:

"Facebook is a global and dynamic social networking tool with 140 000 000 users world wide. Though we are aware of our rapidly changing demographic which now includes many parents, we are uncomfortable with the idea of breastfeeding images on our site, so we will continue to remove them arbitrarily.

Though we do allow many applications and paid advertisements that contain sexually explicit material, and have no policy regarding male nipples or areola, we believe that female nipples and areola are dangerous to our users, regardless of whether this is logical, rational, legal or fair. Although technically, according to our written terms of service and Facebook's code of conduct it nowhere states this, we feel strongly that images of female breasts in the context of breastfeeding with any amount of areola or nipple showing (and in fact several that show none at all) are inappropriate on our site. We have, therefore, chosen to remain firm in our stance that breastfeeding images are objectionable, offensive, akin to pornography and thus harmful to other users of the site. We have to "draw the line" somewhere afterall, and we have chosen to draw it along gender lines.

Regardless of the ample proof which exists that social stigmatizing and suppression of breastfeeding has a negative impact on breastfeeding initiation and duration rates, and being aware that the United States has some of the lowest breastfeeding rates in the world, we remain comfortable taking any responsibility for contributing to this stigma, and have no plans to change our practice of removing breastfeeding images from our site.

Despite also, the fact there are several local, state and national laws which prevent breastfeeding women from falling victim to this exact form of discrimination, we are more comfortable operating our site above the law, and will continue to behave in this discriminatory way.

"Just a suggestion Mark...


Stephanie Muir

My name is Emma Kwasnica. I am a 30-year-old Canadian tandem-nursing mother living in Montréal, whose Facebook account has now been entirely disabled over the breastfeeding photos controversy.

The official petition group on Facebook is called Hey Facebook, breastfeeding is NOT obscene! . I am reaching out because I think you might be interested in the Facebook fiasco over breastfeeding images, and them being classed as "obscene, sexually explicit and pornographic". Yes, I said breastfeeding. The most loving, selfless act on Earth.For the record, my entire Facebook account has now been deleted, with no explanation from the administrators of Facebook. While they have not confirmed the reason for disabling my account, I can only suspect it stems from the fact that, in the days leading up to the disabling of my account, I had photos of me breastfeeding my daughters deleted, and was given a "warning" for having had uploaded "obscene" content that renders Facebook "unsafe for children" (please see attached screen shots).

Given the amount of obscene, pornographic, and truly disturbing photos, applications and groups that proliferate across Facebook, I am stunned that this has happened to me. I am an aspiring midwife/Childbirth Educator/ Breastfeeding Counselor; I run a lively discussion group on Facebook called Informed Choice : Birth and Beyond, and have been sharing all of my summarised research, studies, links regarding pregnancy, birth and motherhood with a group of nearly three hundred people, since July 2008. And now, everything that I ever wrote, all my photos, all of my midwifery-related research, has been deleted --right off the face of Facebook. Furthermore, this does not concern me alone, as many (over a hundred ?) other Facebook users had their posts deleted, too, since whole discussion threads were deleted into oblivion, if it was indeed me who began the thread (which, 80% of the time, I had started the threads, since this was my group/me sharing the most recent research relevant to the childbearing/-rearing woman).

Facebook has not responded to my e-mails politely enquiring why my account has been disabled. They remain faceless. Hence the reason why I am now reaching out and going public with my situation. I am desperate to get my words back, and most importantly, the general North American public needs to be made aware of Facebook's disgusting double-standards regarding "decency". I am revolted to report that Facebook allows the likes of a group called "Dead Babies Make Me Laugh", and yet, someone such as myself, who wants nothing but to inspire and help women on their journey to birthing healthy, vibrant babies, has her whole account deleted.I have now done radio station interviews (a Sakatoon one, as well as Montréal's 98.5 FM), and was interviewed for 'La Presse' newspaper here in Montréal, the article for which appeared in yesterday's edition of 'La Presse' (the English translation for which you will find below). I may be doing another one-hour long segment on the same Saskatoon radio station at some point this week.

There is a Canadian slant to this whole Facebook fiasco, in that the tireless organisor of the original online protest is from Ottawa (Stephanie Muir), the site that is currently the "safe haven" for breastfeeding photos which have been deleted by Facebook is a Canadian one (TERA), is coordinated by Paul Rapoport of Hamilton, Ontario, and now, the only (known) person so far to have had their Facebook acount fully disabled over this issue --me, a Montreal mother.

Please help me by spreading the word of Facebook's appalling actions (such as by posting this to your blog), and consider this an official plea to get the word out ! For the sake of the next generation of babies, people everywhere need to understand that the larger issue of normalising breastfeeding is deeply important here. In 2009, it is unacceptable that women feel shamed, or are sexualised, while providing the most normal, the most physiologically appropriate food for their babies : breastmilk.

Sincerely yours,
-Emma Kwasnica, Montréal
(514) 656-1560PS

You will aslo find attached the scanned, full-page image from Le Journal de Montréal, in which I am breastfeeding my daughters. This is particularly relevant as Facebook has said that no major newspaper in North America would publish the type of breastfeeding photos that they have deleted. This simply isn't true - this newspaper image (from October 2008) is living proof ! If Montreal, a city of over 3.5 million, can handle seeing this image in a daily newspaper, they why can't Facebook ?

*********************************************MOTHERS CRUSADING AGAINST FACEBOOK

Daphné Cameron,
La Presse
January 04, 2009

"Cover up this breast that I do not want to see." Even though it was written in the 17th century, Molière's famous refrain is still à la mode for those who run Facebook's networking site.

For several months now, photographs of mothers breastfeeding their children have been being deleted. The restriction has provoked anger in women all over the globe. In protest, 11,000 women replaced their profile picture with the image of a breastfeeding mother.

This online protest was organized for December 27th by Stephanie Muir, an Ottawa mother outraged by the website policy, that says that no "pornographic or sexually explicit" material may be uploaded to the site.

"It is unthinkable that in 2008, such a loving image, one of a mother breastfeeding her baby, can be perceived as sexual or offensive," she said. "It's because we stigmatise women in this way, that mothers make the choice not to breastfeed, or breastfeed for a shorter length of time."

In additon to the web protest, a few dozen women assembled in front of the Facebook headquarters in California, and nursed their babies there.

The response by Facebook administrators was immediate.
According to Stephanie Muir, accounts of several protestors were disabled.
This is the case of Montrealer Emma Kwasnica, who no longer has access to her personal account, since January 1st.

"Facebook began deleting photos of me breastfeeding my daughters on December 28th", stated the 30-year-old who is studying to become a midwife. "A few days later, the administrators disabled my account with the only explanation being that I had uploaded obscene content. Breastfeeding is the most beautiful thing in the world. How does one automatically associate that with sex ?"

The protest organised by Stephanie Muir has provoked a media frenzy in the United States. Facebook reacted by publishing a press release that specified that only photos showing nipple or areola are banned.

Facebook reiterated that it is a private company which has the right to decide which content it hosts on its site.

The War on Facebook

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Breastfeeding photo ban by Facebook sparks global protest by mothers
A global campaign has been launched by thousands of mothers against social networking site Facebook for banning photos of women breastfeeding.

By Urmee Khan, Digital and Media Correspondent Last Updated: 7:53AM GMT 31 Dec 2008

Mothers around the world have rallied agaist the policy which they say stigmatises breastfeeding and demeans women Photo: GETTY
Thousands of women have had their pictures of removed from profiles and online albums after they were classified as "obscene content" by the site. Many have also received warnings that they may be barred from using the site.
Mothers around the world have rallied agaist the policy and some have even picketed the Facebook headquarters in Palo Alto, California - under the banner of the Mothers International Lactation Campaign, to complain about the policy which they say stigmatises breastfeeding and demeans women.
Over 82,000 people have joined a Facebook petition group "Hey Facebook, Breast-feeding is not Obscene" with hundreds joining every hour.
More than 11,000 people around the world took part in the 'Mothers International Lactation Campaign' through an online "nurse-in" protest on Saturday by posting more breastfeeding pictures. Many of these photos have been subsequently removed.
Facebook says the website takes no action over most breastfeeding photos because they follow the site's terms of use, but photos that showed nipples were indecent and had to be removed.
Barry Schnitt, a Facebook spokesman, said: "We agree that breastfeeding is natural and beautiful and we're very glad to know that it is so important to some mothers to share this experience with others on Facebook."
But, he added, some photos were removed to ensure the site remains safe and secure for all users, including children.
"Photos containing a fully exposed breast - as defined by showing the nipple or areola - do violate those terms on obscene, pornographic or sexually explicit material and may be removed," he said in a statement. "The photos we act upon are almost exclusively brought to our attention by other users who complain."
But mothers say that breastfeeding is natural and healthy and should be not bracketed with pornography.
Katherine Brierly, from Brighton, said: "BF is natural, and allows the mum to have food on tap 24/7, wherever she is, that is safe and in the right quantities and temperature at all times.
"Prudes like you would wish every mother to complicate their lives and potentially endanger their children's health so that you don't have to see a bit of nipple."
Nicky Cartwright Pashley, from Sheffield, said: "When I go to the beach I see people's asses and breasts exposed in bits of string pretending to be swimwear. I would much rather see the beauty and love of a mother feeding her baby than be subjected to complete strangers' gratuitous flesh flashing."
Earlier this month, Nicola Wood, 27, was reprimanded for breastfeeding her baby during a carol service at St Peter's Cathedral, Exeter.
"My little boy Theo, who is six months old, was getting hungry, so I started to breastfeed him, but all I could hear was a woman a few pews back moaning and saying, 'oh my God, how disgusting'," she said.
"Then she came up to me at the end of the service and said, 'as long as this cathedral has been open I have never seen anyone as disgusting as you in church. You might as well have been naked and peeing in the church'. It ruined the whole service for me."

Facebook Controversy Resurfaces

15 months later........

Facebook is still deleting breastfeeding pictures. My fellow lactivist, Emma Kwasnica had her account closed and removed this morning for having breastfeeding photos posted.

Here is a link to the TIME online article,8599,1869128,00.html

And a link to the BBC radio interview I participated in

The number of facebook group "Hey Facebook, Breastfeeding is not obscene!(Official Petition to Facebook)" members has skyrocketed to over 107,000 in less than a week, and is still climbing every day. Here is the group, if you have not joined yet: