by Jessica Martin-Weber
Between 3 and 4pm on Saturday, May 9th, 2015, the day before celebrating her very first Mother’s Day as a mom, Bump 2 Baby Birth Photography owner, Abby Camarata, discovered that her access to the virtual global town hall that is Facebook was unavailable. More specifically, that her account had been disabled. The new mom of 4 week old Rocco was cut off from much of her community and from her business and she had no idea why. When she attempted to log in she received a message from Facebook that her account was disabled and if she had questions she could visit Facebook’s help center. That was it.
It hasn’t been long since Facebook received praise for finally amending their guidelines for image posting to include supporting breastfeeding photos. Just this past March news outlets, bloggers, and advocates celebrated when the guidelines were further clarified after several years of back and forth drama between Facebook, users, and the media when breastfeeding photos would be removed. There was a collective sigh that maybe this dysfunctional censoring of motherhood and the women that share it was finally over with the social media giant.
Apparently not. And this isn’t the first time they’ve violated their own policies about breastfeeding photos.
Abby and I chatted initially when her account was still disabled. Her personal profile was reinstated by 9.05 pm that evening but her business page is still gone. She still doesn’t know why. What she suspects? Somebody complained about the breastfeeding photos on both her personal profile and on her business page. This first time mom shared her thoughts on why this matters not only for her personally but for many parents in today’s society.
TLB: Abby, I’m so sorry your personal profile was disabled by Facebook. I know you’ve used your Facebook to connect with friends and family as well as for your business. Up until your account was disabled, how has FB been important to you both in the past and now more recently? How will not having it impact you?
Abby: Facebook has always been an outlet for keeping in touch with friends and family but more recently, it’s been nothing short of a lifeline. Especially since the birth of my first baby, Rocco, four weeks ago. Life can easily become isolating at this stage, Facebook as been a consistent connecting point for me through this transition. From the moment we announced our little love coming earthside, a meal train was set up in my tribe and quickly a whole month worth of dinners were signed up for. I joined a Homebirth Cesarean Facebook group that has been a shoulder for me to cry on and a safe place for me to vent. The Leaky Boob Community group has been a lifesaver. I love how this is a group of nursing moms so when I woke up at 3am and my boob felt like it got ran over by a truck, I had several responses of support and encouragement with suggested remedies within minutes!
Not having Facebook kept me from my tribe and my resources. Both of which are part of my every day-to-day life. It may not have been for long, this time, but I don’t know if it will happen again and the connections and relationships I have there mean a lot to me, particularly during this difficult postpartum stage. My business is impacted as well. I cant correspond with clients, share new work, or follow up on leads and referrals.
TLB: How did you discover your account was disabled? Has Facebook given you a reason for disabling your account or indicated that it is a determined length of time for this ban? When did they contact you?
Abby: I discovered the disabling of my account only after several friends messaged me about my account being inactive. My account was still active after the initial flagged photo for nudity so I’m not sure why it was actually deactivated later. I was never given a length of time for the ban. I was never contacted about ANY of the ordeal. When my account was reactivated, it stated that my image was reported for nudity, and that the photos were removed for “violating Facebook’s Community Standards” even though the images remain on my page, and the link to the community standards was broken and I was unable to read them.
TLB: Birth and breastfeeding are big aspects of your work as a photographer, now as a mother yourself, what do you see is the significance of capturing and sharing these moments through photography? How has it been significant for you personally?
Abby: Given the rough journey I’ve experienced so far with breastfeeding, and the utter bliss and healing it brings me, I have a renewed appreciation and love for breastfeeding photography. We are given such a short time to have this special bonding time with our children. Some moms are blessed with more time than others.
Personally, not knowing how long my body will keep producing milk with my hormone issues, I savor every second I can nurse my son. I hope others are encouraged by the images I share as I’ve been encouraged by the breastfeeding images others have shared. I’ve learned a lot too.
TLB: You had a breastfeeding photo reported just before your account was disabled, why had you shared that photo in particular? Have you had breastfeeding photos reported in the past? Was the photo removed by FB or was the last that you knew, they reviewing the report?
Abby: I take photos almost every time I nurse my son. The awe and love for breastfeeding hasn’t worn off. Again, with my breastfeeding issues, and not knowing how long I will be able to nurse him, EVERY DAY is a victory. Every latch is a reason to celebrate. Every suckle is a savored moment. A moment I want to hold onto. To remember. To document. To share! This new thing, breastfeeding, is totally rad and I want to share my journey and the love I have for it. I want to normalize it!
The very first photo I shared of Rocco, announcing his arrival, was a photo of him breastfeeding. The two week herbal bath family photos that were taken, I shared a breastfeeding photo. I shared a photo of Rocco latched as we enjoyed the shade at the park. I shared the breastfeeding photos from our three week family photo shoot. All were celebrated by friends and family and not one of them were reported to my knowledge.
Shortly after I posted my photo, it was reported. I was taken aback because out of all the nursing photos I have shared, this was the most modest! Rocco was covering his mouth with his hands. I posted a screenshot of my reported image, and then got off Facebook to tend to my son. Before I know it, I received texts from three different friends asking if I had disabled my account. I was blocked out of Facebook. My account was disabled, without warning. I waited and waited for an explanation from Facebook via email and I received nothing.
TLB: Are you familiar with Facebook’s policy on breastfeeding photos and do you believe your photos were in keeping with those policies?
Abby: I have never read the actual policies, but the last update I read from a friend, is that as long as the baby was actively nursing, any breast or nipple showing was not in violation of any policies.
TLB: You shared that your breastfeeding journey has been difficult and very important to you, how does it feel in light of that to not only having someone on your friend list report your image but then to have FB actually disable your account?
Abby: It was SO disheartening, on so many levels. It’s overwhelming. What was frustrating right off is that I was provided no explanation from Facebook. It hurts that a “friend” reported my image because the image for me is the same as someone else posting a selfie at a finish line of a race. It’s a triumph. Something I’m working hard for. Something I’m proud of. It’s frustrating not only that a breastfeeding photo was reported, but it was THAT photo, which showed absolutely no nipple. I thought it was modest.
TLB: What did you do when you discovered the report of your breastfeeding photo?
Abby: I shared a screenshot of the flagged version of the photo in hopes to get feedback. Was this image offensive? HOW was this image offensive? I asked the “offended” to message me with an explanation. (I was genuinely curious.) I also asked them to remove themselves from my friends list. And that wasn’t to be malicious, it was because I don’t plan on stopping the share of nursing photos. Breastfeeding, by anyone, should be celebrated.
TLB: Your account is reinstated, will you be doing anything differently in terms of your behavior on FB?
Abby: I did have an impulse to keep my account deactivated and just start a new one with a few close friends and family. I was just so hurt that someone would be so offended by something that’s so innocent and special to me. But, refuse to stop sharing my nursing photos. If it’s a special moment, and I feel beautiful in it, you bet I’m going to share it. There is absolutely nothing wrong with feeding my son exactly as nature intended it. I need to contribute to this societal stigma around breastfeeding. It needs to change.
TLB: If you knew who it was that reported your photo, what would you say to them?
Abby: It depends on who it was and why they reported it. I have more than 100 things I would like to say to them. I really wish they would message me and open a discussion about their concerns than rather “report and run away.” It seems very childish to me. They don’t have to follow my profile nor even be friends with me on Facebook.
TLB: Lastly, is there anything you would like people to know coming through this experience?
Abby: I could tell you to stop sharing nursing photos. I could tell you to choose your Facebook “friends” wisely. To change the privacy settings on your nursing photos. But that wouldn’t change a thing. That’s not going to break down the breastfeeding stigma rampant in our American society. Keep sharing your beautiful images. Together, we can make waves. We can normalize breastfeeding for our future generations. For our children. Nurse on mamas.
At The Leaky Boob we believe everybody’s story matters and we should have the freedom to share it without censoring from outside sources, particularly in places where we find our community. Sharing our stories not only connects us but strengthens us all. #MyStoryMatters #YourStoryMatters and we hope you continue to share it wherever you are comfortable doing so. Share your story and offer #TLBsupportForward.
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