Wednesday August 20, 2014


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Why the fuss over photos?
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Ian Graham

A recent news story detailed how a Vancouver woman's photos of her breastfeeding her daughter were deleted from her Facebook page because they violated the website's no-nudity policy and may have generated some complaints. First the woman received a written warning that a photo of her breastfeeding her two-year-old daughter was considered "sexually explicit." An old photo of her breastfeeding her other daughter was also deleted and she was locked out of the site for three days as a punishment for violating the terms of service.

This got breastfeeding activists upset, and I thought to myself, why do there need to be breastfeeding activists? Then I read another story about a woman near Victoria being asked by a Wal-Mart employee to stop breastfeeding her child in the store and move to a more appropriate area, like the washroom. As a person who has been in public washrooms of many types and levels of cleanliness, including one at a chicken restaurant in Korea that could only be reached by walking through the kitchen and across the parking lot and then back again, I can attest to this: anyone who thinks that they might be good places for eating is clearly not fit to do any judging of what sort of behaviour may or may not be appropriate.

A few things perplexed me about these breastfeeding backlash incidents. First of all, what the hell, B.C.? When I lived there, you could name your children Rainbow, Morningstar, Sky or Freeman. (All people I actually knew; one decided to go by his middle name, Amos, because it sounded ... MORE normal.) You could live in a tent on a beach or in a park for weeks or even years without even joining a disorganized movement, and Victoria's drug dealers congregated at a public square bordered on one corner by City Hall and on the opposite one by the police station. I guess you really can't go home again.

The second thing that puzzled me was why people are so concerned about what they see other people doing or showing in their photos and decide that no one else should be allowed to see it either. I expected the article about the woman's Facebook photos to be followed by comments about how stupid Facebook was being. Instead, many of them were about how this woman was disgusting and shouldn't be showing her breasts and that if you allowed breastfeeding photos because it was a natural act, you should allow photos of people going to the bathroom or having sex and how if that happened, society would crumble and a pit would open in the earth and swallow all the sinners.

But I don't think it really would. I can imagine a world with an uncensored Facebook and I'm sure that there would be some disturbing photos of people doing unpalatable – but legal – things. Luckily, as a human with free will, I wouldn't be obligated to look at them and not in much danger of accidentally coming across them because my online "friends" are almost all people I actually know in the "real world" (formerly, "the world") and I have a pretty good idea which of them are likely to post that sort of thing, though there always a few that surprise you.

Banning things because someone finds them unsightly or an offence to good taste can have serious repercussions for those who find themselves violating imposed standards of public decency. Such a world could find plumbers and male European beach-goers forced to spend their money on new wardrobes or find themselves on the wrong side of the law. I may not approve of the aesthetics of your Speedo, but I guess I could at least kind of support your right to wear it.

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