Live Journal, a popular blogging website has deemed that they will no longer allow breastfeeding icons to be displayed as users default icons because they are 'obscene' and 'may be viewed by a wider audience.' Help us let Live Journal know that this policy is not acceptable.
***UPDATE (May 23, 2020) UPDATE***
ProMoM and SixApart are currently working together to provide a resolution to this issue. ProMoM would like to take this time to thank SixApart for their willingness to discuss this very important issue and to work with the entire breastfeeding community to come to a resolution.
The text of the letter originally sent to LiveJournal and SixApart is below. At the time of this update, almost 1,500 letters had been sent -- a ProMoM record!
ProMoM would also like to thank all of the Mom's, Dad's and Breastfeeding supporters who sent in this letter, or letters of their own choosing. We were able unite ourselves for a common goal. This kind of success could not have happened without the encouragement and support of Breastfeeding Mothers, supportive family members and men and women across the world like yourselves. Thank you. (Carrie Patterson, Executive Director)
To whom it may concern,
A member of the LiveJournal Abuse Team, Eric, recently decided that pictures of a nursing baby were unacceptable for use as default icons, because he deemed them "inappropriate for a general viewing audience". It's interesting that U.S. federal law protects nursing on all federal grounds, and California law (Cal. Civ. Code §43.3 1997 Cal ALS 59; 1997 Cal AB 157; Stats 1997 ch 59) explicitly protects the right of a nursing mother to nurse anywhere she has a right to be, which makes a clear case that neither federal law nor California law consider breastfeeding to be an act that is "inappropriate for a general viewing audience". Mothers are free to breastfeed in offices, parks, libraries, amusement parks, churches, and everywhere else, where they are likely to be seen by a much wider "general
viewing audience" than LiveJournal (how many five-year-olds regularly check LJ?), and that is supported by federal and state law. Yet Eric seems to feel that federal and state law are not a good standard for what is or is not
This is a much bigger issue than simply asking someone to change their default icon. By portraying a breastfeeding icon as "inappropriate", Eric - and by extension, LiveJournal, of which he is a representative - is continuing to propagate the myth that breastfeeding is something dirty or sexual, something that needs to be hidden. Health departments all over North America are fighting against this myth, and it continues to play a role in the abysmally low breastfeeding rates. Formula-feeding increases risk of death from Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, certain types of childhood cancers, necrotizing enterocolitis, allergies, asthma, diabetes and obesity later in life, and many more ailments. 500 babies a year in North America die as a direct result of being formula-fed. Promoting the myth of breastfeeding being indecent has serious ramifications for the most vulnerable members of our society.
Also, the act of deeming breastfeeding as inappropriate has much larger aspects as well. If a breastfeeding icon is inappropriate because someone somewhere may be offended or it may be against the law somewhere, then we need to apply that logic to all icons. An icon of a woman with her head uncovered will be offensive to many devout Muslims and is illegal in a number of countries. An icon promoting Christianity will be illegal in some countries, such as Iran. An icon of a gay couple with their arms around each other, smiling for the camera, would be offensive to people with strong "traditional values". I and a number of other breastfeeding supporters find icons of babies with bottles offensive; if we're going to ban icons based on potential of offending people, then icons featuring formula should also be banned. I think you get the idea.
Although I will be sad to do so, I will be forced to take my journals elsewhere and/or let as many people as possible know that LiveJournal is not supportive of breastfeeding. I will participate in a letter-writing campaign to as many media outlets as we can contact. When a woman being asked to nurse in a Starbucks bathroom in Ohio becomes national news, I have no doubt that as large an online entity as LJ censoring breastfeeding would also become national news. I don't think that being portrayed as anti-family is the kind of exposure you want, and I don't want to have to portray LJ that way either. But as things stand currently, the policy set in place by Eric and the LiveJournal Abuse Team is decidedly anti-breastfeeding and thus anti-family.
I understand that the Abuse Team are volunteers and without a clear guide in place they are liable to make mistakes and, of necessity, proceed based on their own best judgement. Eric's judgement was off in this case and it has turned this matter into an issue, creating a problem where none existed. We are humans and therefore we occasionally make errors, and in fact, Eric previously issued an email to another user stating that breastfeeding icons *were* appropriate, so obviously he's not working from a clear guideline. (http://hardvice.livejournal.com/272037.html)
Now that this issue exists, it would be better for everyone involved to have it resolved by LiveJournal management, without further escalation or getting the media involved. A clarification for the Terms of Service, explaining that breastfeeding pictures are not indecent or inappropriate, would resolve this matter quickly and easily.
In summation, I'd like to point out that neither federal nor state law considers breastfeeding an obscene activity or something that needs to be shielded from children or the workplace; LiveJournal would be hard-pressed to find a better arbiter of decency than the law itself. If the laws protect the right of a mother to breastfeed in a public park a few feet away from children, I fail to see how a 100 by 100 pixel icon of a breastfeeding baby is a greater risk to a "general viewing audience". If the laws protect the right of a mother to breastfeed sitting at her desk in an open-concept office, I fail to understand how a small icon presents a risk to those viewing at work. If we are to rate icons as acceptable based on a standard of if they will offend a small segment of people, then I suspect a vast majority of icons would have to be deemed unacceptable.
I look forward to LiveJournal management resolving this issue in a positive, family-friendly manner. Please keep me updated as to your actions.