Forward to next post: Open thread 66
Six Apart, creators of Movable Type and, more recently, owners of LiveJournal, have decided to harrass LiveJournal users whose default icons depict breastfeeding. LJ user (and mother) bohemiancoast has more details:
So, LJ has decided to be hardline on the breastfeeding photos. Think I’m joking? Here’s an example. They’ve sent a notice of suspension to a user using this painting as a default icon:
and have told our very own ursinehenry that this image violates the TOS:
And of course, they’re still cracking down hard on obscenities like this one:
If you’re thinking “oh, it’s all right because they’re only restricting default icons”, or “they’re being reasonable by only restricting pictures with visible aereolas”, I’d like to disagree. Many women are put off breastfeeding, or discouraged or embarrassed about doing it in public, because they believe that people will be offended. The position LJ has taken is one that only works if you believe that breastfeeding is a little bit dirty; all right in private, or under a blanket, but not where people might see.
[…] Poorer, younger women, and those with less education, are less likely to breastfeed, and if they start, they’re more likely to stop quickly. And one reason for that is that they don’t feed comfortable about breastfeeding; they don’t see women around them doing it, and they don’t see positive images of breastfeeding. Lawmakers are beginning to understand this; California, where Six Apart is located, has express legal provision exempting breastfeeding from obscenity legislation. The NHS explains “What we need is an environment where women of all ethnic, social and cultural backgrounds are comfortable with feeding their baby anywhere and at any time”.
To make that vision a reality, we have to challenge those who attack it. It’s no good to decide that this time it’s trivial. Six Apart made a positive decision to go after a pile of entirely unobjectionable pictures of breastfeeding babies. I wouldn’t have been remotely as angry if they’d always banned nipples and said “sorry, breastfeeders, just bad luck”; though they’d still be wrong. But they specifically changed their TOS from “sexual or graphically violent” icons in order to trap and remove breastfeeding icons. Six Apart think these icons are “inappropriate”, and they’re wrong.
They are indeed wrong, and a growing number of LJ users are planning a one-day blackout as an initial protest. I have a (paid) LJ account myself, which I use more for commenting on friends’ LiveJournals than for anything else, and I’ll certainly join the blackout. As bohemiancoast says, it’s not trivial. It’s certainly risible that Ben and Mena Trott’s company should be getting bent out of shape over medieval art. But it’s not funny at all that, without even any evident legal need to do so, they’ve chosen to harrass users who were doing nothing objectionable, and to retroactively change their terms of service in order to justify that harrassment. 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.