Wednesday, February 24, 2010

An open letter to Facebook

Dear Facebook,

Last year, you were hard at work as the world's largest social networking site. You have created a space for people to communicate, waste time playing mindless games, raise money for important causes, become the recipient of endless marketing scams, connect with long lost friends and loved ones, and send one another virtual gifts such as flowers, drinks, even sets of voluptuous female breasts.

While you were entertaining the virtual masses, I (along with millions of other women around the world!) was busy creating and nourishing human life. Not just one life, but two. That's right, Facebook. I grew two tiny people inside my womb, birthed them, almost died in the process, and then set my own needs aside to carry out the grave responsibility of sustaining those lives by creating nutritionally perfect food within my body and feeding it to them using my (GASP!) breasts. That's right, Facebook. I had twins and breastfed. In fact, I'm still breastfeeding. Isn't that amazing? I think it is. The World Health Organization (WHO) agrees with me. This is what the WHO has to say about breastfeeding:

Over the past decades, evidence for the health advantages of breastfeeding and recommendations for practice have continued to increase. WHO can now say with full confidence that breastfeeding reduces child mortality and has health benefits that extend into adulthood. On a population basis, exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of life is the recommended way of feeding infants, followed by continued breastfeeding with appropriate complementary foods for up to two years or beyond.

To enable mothers to establish and sustain exclusive breastfeeding for six months, WHO and UNICEF recommend:

  • Initiation of breastfeeding within the first hour of life;
  • Exclusive breastfeeding - that is, the infant only receives breast milk without any additional food or drink, not even water;
  • Breastfeeding on demand - that is, as often as the child wants, day and night;
  • No use of bottles, teats or pacifiers.

Breast milk is the natural first food for babies, it provides all the energy and nutrients that the infant needs for the first months of life, and it continues to provide up to half or more of a child’s nutritional needs during the second half of the first year, and up to one-third during the second year of life.

Breast milk promotes sensory and cognitive development, and protects the infant against infectious and chronic diseases. Exclusive breastfeeding reduces infant mortality due to common childhood illnesses such as diarrhoea or pneumonia, and helps for a quicker recovery during illness.

Breastfeeding contributes to the health and well-being of mothers, it helps to space children, reduces the risk of ovarian cancer and breast cancer, increases family and national resources, is a secure way of feeding and is safe for the environment.

While breastfeeding is a natural act, it is also a learned behaviour. An extensive body of research has demonstrated that mothers and other caregivers require active support for establishing and sustaining appropriate breastfeeding practices.

Did you know that, Facebook?

And here's what I have to say about breastfeeding:
Breastfeeding mothers are responsible for the continuation of humanity. It is because of women who breastfeed that YOU, yes YOU, are alive today. Even if your mother did not breastfeed. Even if her mother did not breastfeed. And even if hers didn't. At some point in history, millions of women made the beautiful and giving decision to breastfeed so that humankind could continue. Women who breastfeed are heroes.
Did you know that, Facebook?

Did you know that breastfeeding is really hard? That it can be quite painful to have a small being suck on your flesh for hours each day? That overcoming the social stigma in patriarchal countries like the United States is a brave and admirable act? For some silly reason, millions of women have been taught that our biggest value comes from our sexuality. Isn't that weird? Considering that women have the ability to create, birth, and sustain life, it seems awfully skewed that we would be systematically taught to believe that we are worthless unless we are beautiful and highly sexualized. But you see, Facebook, that's exactly what patriarchy does. It marginalizes the contributions of women. How shameful. How ignorant. How embarrassing.

Remember how humanity continues because of women?

Why am I sending this to you, Facebook?

Last week, I posted a picture of myself breastfeeding my newborn twins using my Facebook account. I posted this picture to a pro-breastfeeding fan page, to help encourage other mothers. My picture was one of thousands uploaded to the page. What a beautiful site. All of these experienced breastfeeding women, supporting each other. Helping to say, "breastfeeding is normal!" "Breastfeeding is beautiful!" It really is an amazing page.

But you took that picture down. You took hundreds of pictures down. You told me my picture is offensive. Inappropriate for children.

You know what I find offensive? The "Big Boobs" application that lets users send each other cartoon drawings of over-sexualized breasts. And the many "boobs" fan pages created by ignorant minded people who devalue women and their beautiful and amazing abilities. And the YoVille advertisement that assures me that I can look fantastic in my virtual bikini this year even if my real bikini looks terrible. And the many females showing ample cleavage in thousands of pictures where they're too drunk to know better. Facebook, I could go on and on.

Facebook, you're powerful. You have over 400 million users around the globe. Is this how you choose to hold this power? Are you afraid to take a stand against the oppression of women? Do you really devalue women this much? Do strong women make you feel threatened?

Or are you better than that? Braver?

I spent this last year putting forth every effort of my being to make this world a better place. I contributed two beautiful children. My first and last priority in life is helping them become amazing and happy people in every way I know how.

And so, Facebook, I wonder. I really wonder. What did you do last year?

38 comments:

kjudge said...

Nicely done!

freckletree. said...

one million percent yes. i will marry you. and we will breastfeed children into the depths of the unknown.

and then facebook will send us a million dollars and say that this is the smartest thing that they have ever heard. and we will have a million dollars.

i'm glad you're back.

Kate said...

That. Was. Awesome.

Anonymous said...

I LOVE IT!!! I breastfed 5 daughters and they are healthier because of it. I think what you have to say is said intelligently and you made a GREAT point.

Lisa Baker said...

Beautifully written, April. Congrats - on the letter and your babies!

Daryl said...

YES!

Robin said...

Here thanks to a hat tip from Daryl.

BEAUTIFULLY written! Can I link to this on my blog and facebook page?

Jasmine said...

Rock on! How can we address this issue?

Deb said...

I am one proud mama! And so proud that I breastfed you and your siblings back in the day! You go get 'em, dear daughter!

Heide said...

AWESOME. Fuck you face book.

Diana said...

I don't see what the big deal is with the pictures. If you are offended by something, don't seek it out. It is not as though you are shoving that page in other people's faces, it is the non-breastfeeding people that have the issue, why are they looking at the page? Why people spend thier time fighting something that is natural and healthy, I will never know, there are SO many other things to focus on.

Titanium said...

Oh, you brave, well-spoken woman! Not only did you tell 'em, you told them with grace, with style, with dignity and with beautiful words.

I will just quietly step in behind you, and take my place in the line of mothers who stand up for what they believe.

My hat is off to you, and you can count on my unwavering support.

Also, FarceBook can pound rocks up a drain pipe, push a rope uphill and braid sand into wigs as far as I'm concerned.

Mimi said...

Hi, I came over from Robin's island.
Well said!

2trying2be3 said...

I love it!!! I also found someone who had a pic of him and a woman in the buff skinny dipping with her right breast in full view nipple and all and let's just say the water didn't hide much on him either. I was appalled to see that allowed but to deny such a beautiful sight of a child being nourished by thier mother through the most natural way possible is beyond me. I am a proud breastfeeding mother and I dare anyone to try and tell me it's wrong. My husband has made people back off when I had to feed in a public place. He is pro-breastfeeding and thinks it's a beautiful sight. He is also 6"4 and 260lbs so no one disagrees with him lol.

Christa said...

I found this on facebook and I reposted your picture on my page. You rock, the letter you wrote to facebook is wonderful and so true! Good for you! Keep up the wonderful work and congrats on tandem nursing!

ootn75 said...

you go girl! beautiful picture by the way. I nursed my twins for 2 years. Keep at it - it's so worth it!

Madonna said...

They said you feeding your 'children' was unfit for 'children' to see! No wonder this society is fucked up!! One other interesting thing of note (not that I care), but I noticed nobody gets called down for dropping "f" bombs on Facebook... I guess the 'children' using Facebook can't read.

Mushy1127 said...

This was inspiring. Thanks for posting this and taking on Facebook on behalf of women like myself. I think I'll join your crusade.

desiderata said...

You are my HERO!

mibieta said...

Perfectly said.

Anonymous said...

*standing applause!*

Anonymous said...

Thank you for your honesty, insight and courage.

John McGarvey said...

My wife breastfeed our little baby girl until she was six months old. No bottles, just boobs. No matter where we were at. Once when we went to the Olive Garden, the baby needed to fed. I held the blanket so they could get comfortable. Later we heard from a friend that works there, that some of the workers, mostly women, were disgusted by this act, because she did it in public. What were we supposed to do, get up from our $40 meal? God bless you breastfeeders!

Kristie said...

Brilliantly written!!!!!!!! I breast fed both my boys (not twins lol). I agree with you 100+%

Alessandro Ferrucci said...

I find that most of the issues with this society are caused by our insecurity and extreme attempts at being "correct", whatever that means. This society has turned perfectly natural acts into being obscene and disgusting, even though we depend on these acts to survive. I do not understand it but I am glad that there are women out there willing to speak up and attempt to break this mold.

Hands Full said...

Brilliant!!!

Sheryl said...

I read this while breastfeeding my eight-week-old twin boys with my three-year-old daughter sitting next to me. I wonder what facebook would say about that.

Serious Black said...

How did you get this sent to facebook? I can find no way to actually contact facebook at all.

April said...

I haven't been able to find a direct way to send anything to Facebook either. My method is to use their "comments and suggestions" form. Also, when you report something for violating the terms of use, you are able to leave a comment. I've left my letter to FB as my "comment" each time I've reported an image that was truly obscene. Has anyone at FB actually read it...I hope so, but am not sure.

Sarah said...

I am adding this post, and the subsequent ones on the same topic to my Friday Favourites Roundup over on my blog. Shameful, what Facebook continues to do to women.

http://glowinggoddess.blogspot.com/

Anonymous said...

all that being said, it is still a choice and if you choose not to breastfeed should not be vilified. just my 2 cents.

Anonymous said...

I completely agree that FB's decision to ban your breastfeeding pictures was ridiculous.

That said, I think it's also sad to marginalize the contributions of women by relegating them to baby producing and nurturing machines. I don't think women who breastfeed are heroes because they are sustaining life; they are heroes because they are doing what they want with their lives even when it's unpopular. I feel the same about women who work and choose not to be mothers; or mothers who choose (or are unable) to breastfeed.

April said...

To Anonymous above,

I totally agree with your comment that it would be sad to marginalize the contributions of women by "relegating women to baby producing and nurturing machines." I sincerely hope that my letter to FB did not come off in that way. While this post stayed specifically on point about the contributions of mothers, I have written in many other posts about feminism and the contributions of women in general, and how upsetting I find it that in 2010 we still struggle for gender equality. I'm a proud third-waver and fully support every woman (and man!) and their right to follow the path in life that brings happiness and fulfillment - wherever that path may lead.

Rahsaan said...

As a 31 year old man, I absolutely love this letter and its sentiment. So much so that I posted a link to it on my wall. Its eloquence, sincerity, integrity and value top most of the pure inanity I see on that site most days. Keep on keepin' on, ladies.

Laura said...

Brilliant letter. I hope the ignorant people at Facebook eventually get the message...and all the other ignorant people in the world who do not support breastfeeding.
It's so disappointing that there are so many ignorant and ill-informed people in this world, particularly in regards to something as basic as feeding our children.

Nate said...

I fully support your right to breastfeed and post breastfeeding pictures, but I am disappointed that you had to attack all the "offensive" breast fan pages. Imagery of breasts in a sexual context is also healthy and normal.

Nicolian said...

Beautifully said!!

Niilo said...

Where's the Like link for me to click?
Great letter.