Friday, January 9, 2009

The Case Of The Provo, Utah "Facebook Nipple Girl" Heather Farley; Was The Real Problem The Act Or The Context? Sounds Like "Lactic Adolescence"

An interesting discussion recently surfaced on the MormonMatters blog. The poster discussed the case of Heather Farley (pictured at left), better known as the "Facebook Nipple Girl" because her photo of herself nursing a baby was taken down by Facebook. Media stories, accompanied by a photo, published initially by KTVX Channel 4 and KSL Channel 5, and later by the San Francisco Chronicle.

The MormonMatters blog is a Latter-day Saint-oriented blog in which the majority of participants are Mormon. It is part of what is called the "Bloggernacle". So topics are discussed from the LDS perspective, although comments indicate a considerable amount of diversity on the subject.

To recap the incident triggering the controversy, Heather Farley, who is a BYU graduate and a first time mother, posted a picture of her baby girl breastfeeding last fall. It obviously was a political statement; Heather wanted to share her love for 9-month old Margaret with her network of family and friends and the picture seemed like a good way to do that. But then Facebook removed her photo, notifying her by email that it violated policy.

In response, on December 27th, some 11,000 protesters held a virtual nurse-in by uploading breast-feeding photos onto their Facebook profiles, and 20 or so women showed up at the company's headquarters in Palo Alto, Calif., to breast-feed there. By December 30th, more than 85,000 members had joined a Facebook group called "Hey, Facebook, breastfeeding is not obscene!" Facebook's official statement is posted HERE.

So is the real problem the act, or the context? Some people think public breastfeeding is obscene. But if you look at the photo, there's virtually no nipple showing. In addition, in many other countries, women will routinely breastfeed fussy infants in public, covering up as much as possible, but showing no self-consciousness.

But was it really necessary for Heather Farley to post a picture of herself breastfeeding an infant on Facebook? She said she wanted to do it to give other women "confidence", which makes it a political statement. And therein lies the real problem - the context.

It's one thing for a woman to whip out a breast in public to feed her infant as part of the normal course of events. It's another thing altogether to post a picture of oneself breastfeeding on a website for political purposes. Unless it was an instructional post demonstrating breastfeeding methods, there was no need for Farley to post the picture, considering that Facebook bans such pictures. Heather Farley reminds me somewhat of the Pharisees of Jesus' time - they'd give alms, then call a press conference to brag about it afterwards. In the final analysis, their alms-giving was intended merely to be a political statement to convince the world of their "virtue".

Note: I am NOT suggesting that Heather Farley was a hypocrite and viper like the Pharisees. All I'm suggesting is that she was emulating their tactics.

We see this attitude in the gay community as well. Many gays, when they first come out, have an irresistible urge to shout it from the housetops. They feel it necessary to display their newly-activated "gayness" in every public venue. They constantly slobber all over their partner du jour in public to prove to the world how gay and liberated they are. And in the final analysis, they piss off a lot of people. One pundit referred to it as "gay adolescence"; they are so charged up over their "new lifestyle" that they feel it necessary to act out like a normal adolescent experiencing puberty for the first time.

Perhaps Heather Farley is experiencing "lactic adolescence".

Facebook may seem a bit prudish and silly, but Facebook has the right to set the rules. Heather Farley could advocate for breastfeeding in a less provocative way. This mindless "Question Authority" syndrome infesting our society needs to be brought under control. These type of tactics need to be reserved for issues that really matter. This is a non-issue.

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