Saturday, June 03, 2006

Oh NO! The NIPPLES! Won't someone PLEASE think of THE CHILDREN!!!


Six Apart, creators of Movable Type and, more recently, owners of LiveJournal, have decided to harrass LiveJournal users whose default icons depict breastfeeding.

There are few issues on which I am dead-set, hardline, and utterly unwilling to grant any compromise whatsoever. Breastfeeding is one. It's natural, there is absolutely nothing wrong with doing it anywhere at all, this would literally be a healthier society if we could set aside our pseudo-Victorian claptrap about keeping the breasts covered at all times, and anyone who floats the "Hey, breastfeed all you want, just go to the bathroom to do it and don't just whip a boob out in public because it makes me go all squicky inside" crap can kiss my ass. They can kiss my ass twice if the same people who say that get all excited at action movies where people are constantly getting shot and blown up. I'm continually amazed at the way this country fetishizes violence but insists that anything connected with the natural functioning of the human body be kept carefully secret behind a veil of "morality".

I signed up for LiveJournal a while back, because I intended to set up a LiveJournal feed of this blog. I never did anything with it, and mainly it only serves to allow me to leave comments on LJ's that don't accept comments from "outsiders"; the only post at my LJ basically directs people over here where the good stuff is. So I can't really join the protest blackout. But I'm here in spirit, folks. As PNH writes over at Making Light:

And it’s not amusing at all when any corporation decides to endorse the view that breastfeeding is something scandalous that must happen only in private.

Amen to that. The Wife breastfed The Daughter, and I am absolutely convinced that this is why her first two years were so healthy. Aside from a couple of minor bouts of the sniffles, The Daughter didn't get really and truly sick for the first time until six months after she'd been weaned, six months after she turned two. (Little Quinn, of course, was a different story -- he never took any food by mouth, but he got breastmilk through his G-tube for as long as The Wife could produce enough by exclusively pumping.) We were never confronted in public by the anti-boob crowd when feeding time came round, but if we had, I can absolutely guarantee that my response would have been some variant of "If it bothers you, then f***ing look at something else." And that will most certainly be my response if the subject ever arises again. (No, that's not indicating anything, before anyone asks. I'm just saying, you never know.)

(And you know what? Maybe I'm wrong, but I'd be willing to bet that this new policy at LJ is in response to a very small number of complaints. I am getting more and more tired every day of this idea that's somehow taken root in our society that any complaint must be taken seriously. Why can't we just admit that some people just aren't reasonable, and that their complaints do not warrant being taken seriously?)


Jayne said...

Amen!!! Nice rant, excellent points.

Anonymous said...

I agree except for one quibble: I can see why, at LJ at least, this policy might be necessary because it would be very open for abuse if it wasn't.

This is the Internet. The first thing people are going to do is try and stretch the boundaries, and see if they can have full frontal nudity in an icon, put a little baby's mouth at the corner, call it breastfeeding, etc. (And I'm not against full nudity, either, but LJ does have younger users to worry about). It would just be an enormous hassle to moderate, so I can appreciate the need for clear guidelines.

I wouldn't be at all sympathetic if squickiness was the only motivation in LJ's case -- but I'm not sure it is.

Kelly Sedinger said...

Sorry, but that doesn't cut it. In fact, that's exactly what I'm arguing about: banning breastfeeding images because it would involve showing breasts. (It would be very easy to distinguish breastfeeding from full-frontal nudity, since infants don't feed from the female genital area.)

Your purported example IS "squickiness", just with the goalposts moved.

Christine said...

Parents of users young enough to have a problem seeing breastfeeding (how young is that exactly, considering babies see it every day?) should make sure their image loading is turned off.

Anonymous said...

I'm not saying I like corporate rules that err too hard on the side of caution. I'd perfectly happy if LJ didn't exist in a climate where people get hysterical at the sight of a perfectly ordinary human breast. All I'm saying is that I can understand the decision. No matter what decision they made, they would have people pissed off, as the passion here and in plenty of other places demonstrates. But given the current media climate, it would have been a disaster to have lazy reporters looking for a cultural scandal splash LiveJournal across the nightly news, especially given the hysteria currently broiling around anything remotely sexual on places like MySpace. Six Apart is a business, not a political party out to make a statement -- of course they're going to do anything they can to avoid that. Rather than target the company, I'd target the cultural climate that makes those kind of decisions necessary.

And, frankly, having a health cynicism about the Internets, I can appreciate the need for hard, unambigious rules, too. I'm still not convinced it would be as easy to distinguish as you say. People are always going to push rules. That's almost what people are for sometimes. But if you were a moderator, what would you decide to do with icons like a woman breastfeeding: 1) a grown adult, 2) a photo blending of an infant and a grown adult, or 3) a perfectly ordinary infant's body with a man's head photoshopped on and grinning lasciviously? It's a hassle, any decision is always going to be fraught with controversy, and I promise all of this would happen just within the first three days. If you're in charge of the site, why would you put yourself through that kind of a headache?

Look, I realize I'm in the minority, even though I'm basically on your side, almost. And, again, I hate the kind of culture where this censorship is necessary and that makes devils out of people. But even a devil needs an advocate. And I think that, if you were in Six Apart's place, you might see just a little reasonable basis for a decision like this. I just think you've got the wrong target.