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Breastfeeding Icons as the Default

I happened to come along this entry, and got extremely frustrated. I emailed feedback@livejournal.com the following letter:

Dear Lj people,

It has come to my attention that you have given cali4niachef a warning that her breastfeeding icon is considered inappropriate for general journal use, and that she must change it from her default icon. I am shocked and appalled that you would dare to suggest that breastfeeding in public is obscene, because that is exactly what you are saying by telling her that her icon is inappropriate.

There is nothing more natural in the world than breastfeeding. Probably close to every person in the world was breastfed at one point or another, with a very few exceptions. It is not dirty, it is not obscene, it is not X-rated. Attitudes like yours are what is creating a problem for mothers who try to raise healthy children. People like you wouldn't let mothers feed their children in public if you could control them. So what are the mothers to do, stay inside and never leave their house? How inhumane is that?

I suggest you reconsider your position, and offer cali4niachef an apology.


Their response:
Dear LiveJournal user,

Thank you for your inquiry. For reasons of privacy and confidentiality, we are not able to discuss specific content in a user's journal with anyone other than the owner of that journal. We can, however, speak generally about LiveJournal's policies in certain situations.

The standards informing LiveJournal's policy governing default user picture icons are not, broadly speaking, grounded in specific legal codes. Because LiveJournal is a privately held company, it can choose to set and enforce guidelines for use that are more strict in places than United States law would otherwise be. Specifically, default user picture icons are prohibited to contain overt violence, or a direct, unobstructed view of any primary or secondary sexual characteristics, regardless of the content of the icon itself.

This policy is not grounded in the belief that breastfeeding is illegal, obscene, inappropriate, or otherwise subject to censorship. Rather, the content restrictions placed on default user picture icons are made necessary by the fact that default icons can be seen in many places within the LiveJournal.com domain; their appearance is not limited to entries or comments for which they have been selected. Because these icons can be seen in places on the site where one would not reasonably expect to find sexually explicit content, such as user directories and searches, they must not contain material which may be considered inappropriate for viewing in certain settings. We realize that breastfeeding is not a sexual activity, however images depicting the activity cannot be used as default icons if they display an unobstructed view of the subject's breasts.

You are free to use your breastfeeding icons within your personal journal and communities. The content restrictions apply only to default icons; non-default user pictures are not subject to the same restrictions, and community maintainers are free to decide for themselves what content, if any, to disallow in their communities.

Finally, please be aware that write-in campaigns are never effective in swaying the opinion of the Abuse Team or LiveJournal administrators, or in focusing attention on a particular issue. A flood of requests concerning the same issue only serve to slow down the responses given to valid inquiries such as your request for policy clarification.

Regards,
Carson
LiveJournal Abuse Team


My comment:
I appreciate that as a private company you can set your own rules, however I really would like to challenge your reasoning behind this particular issue. The act of breastfeeding is completely natural and I don't understand why it should be considered inappropriate for viewing in certain settings. Is the icon of a calf feeding from a cow inappropriate as well? If you could explain this it would be appreciated. I'll also be passing on your response to the community where the post originated, so you'll hopefully not have to respond to this many times.

In keeping with your own definition of inappropriate default user icons, if the child is nursing, the view is obstructed, so can you please explain to me how a nursing child is an unobstructed view?

Also, if you could indicate to me the appropriate place to challenge lj's policy on breastfeeding icons being default user icons, it would be appreciated.


And second comment:
Someone else more succinctly put it this way:

"if it's not sexual, then it shouldnt be an issue if they are seen in an area where you wouldnt expect to see sexual material."

I was trying to say that, but I don't think it came across in my last comment.


I'm frustrated.

EDIT May 23, 2006
I received this letter from LiveJournal on Sunday May 21, 2006:

Dear LiveJournal user sharya,

Thank you for your feedback. Please allow me to explain, as the controversy surrounding this issue appears to stem from a misunderstanding.

LiveJournal has always placed restrictions on default userpics, as the default userpic is visible in many public areas throughout the site, including the Directory, the Schools Directory, and the profile page. These restrictions are detailed in http://www.livejournal.com/support/faqbrowse.bml?faqid=111. We feel it's important to strike a balance between the ideal of free expression and the rights of, for instance, a parent to prevent their child from seeing unsolicited material that the parent feels is non-age-appropriate or the right of an individual to be able to browse public LiveJournal spaces without being exposed to nudity or violence.

There are not blanket restrictions on default userpics depicting the act of breastfeeding, and the restrictions have nothing to do with targetting or restricting breastfeeding activism or awareness campaigns. We must hold to as clear and consistent a guideline as possible to determine the appropriateness of default userpics, in order to ensure that our standards are enforced equally for every user. Any usericon in which unclothed breasts or genitalia are visible is therefore inappropriate for use as a default icon, and when such icons are reported to the Abuse team, the user is asked to make that icon non-default. If an icon depicting the act of breastfeeding does not also depict a clearly visible unclothed breast in which the areola or nipple is visible, it does not fall into this category.

We do not prohibit people from using icons that are inappropriate for use as a default icon as a non-default icon, as the issue is not with the depiction of the icons themselves but their use in areas, again such as the Directory and the Schools Directory, which have been designated "nudity free". Non-default userpics are not held to the same standard, as they can only be visible in entries, comments, and communities, all of which are "user space" as opposed to "LiveJournal application space".

The application of this policy to icons depicting breastfeeding is not in any way intended to be a statement that breastfeeding is dirty, shameful, or obscene. We fully support our users' right to make their own decisions regarding parenting choices and styles, and we appreciate the dedication of parents who have chosen to participate in breastfeeding activism and education.

We ask only that you are willing to extend the same support and appreciation to, for instance, parents who choose to believe that it is inappropriate for their children to view unsolicited nudity in public. The physical-world analogy is not perfect in this situation; breastfeeding is indeed perfectly legal in public places, but in a public place, another parent is also able to cover a child's eyes or remove a child from the area if he or she believes that such an action is inappropriate for their child to see. We feel that the restrictions we have always placed on default usericons strike the best balance between individual expression and individual courtesy.

We do agree that in a perfect world, the issue would not arise, but unfortunately, this is not a perfect world, and we believe that our solution to the issue is a reasonable compromise between two wildly divergent points of view regarding what is and is not appropriate for LiveJournal -- not simply regarding icons depicting breastfeeding, but all material which a parent or other individual might feel is inappropriate for public.

I apologize for any miscommunications which may have given the impression that LiveJournal is in any way "against" individual parenting choices; the issue is not at all a political one. We welcome and value our pro-breastfeeding users and communities, and appreciate their dedication to and passion for their cause. However, because LiveJournal is a community with extremely varied standards and audiences, we must balance out the interests of all our users, and we have always felt these restrictions are the best possible compromise.

Regards,
Denise Paolucci
Six Apart, Ltd // LiveJournal.com


This Denise closed my abuse request.
I tried to re-open it and post the following response:

Dear LiveJournal,

You said, "We feel it's important to strike a balance between the ideal of free expression and the rights of, for instance, a parent to prevent their child from seeing unsolicited material that the parent feels is non-age-appropriate or the right of an individual to be able to browse public LiveJournal spaces without being exposed to nudity or violence."

That’s all fine and dandy, however seeing as how breastfeeding is allowed in schools, playgrounds, malls, EVERYWHERE in North America, it has been deemed that breastfeeding does not have an age where it is deemed appropriate. It is appropriate for any age-group. Were you aware that breastfeeding is discussed and shown in some elementary schools?

"breastfeeding is indeed perfectly legal in public places, but in a public place, another parent is also able to cover a child's eyes or remove a child from the area if he or she believes that such an action is inappropriate for their child to see."

And indeed, a parent is still able to cover their child’s eyes or remove their child from the area if he or she believes that the icon is inappropriate for their child to see. Assuming that a parent is present while a child is browsing the internet (because assuming that a child is wandering the internet alone is akin to a child wandering the city streets alone), the parent is quite as capable of covering a child’s eyes or changing the screen display.

"If an icon depicting the act of breastfeeding does not also depict a clearly visible unclothed breast in which the areola or nipple is visible, it does not fall into this category."

Ironically, the icon in question did not contain any areola or nipple… this is because the child was breastfeeding. So technically, this icon shouldn’t be violating any of your policies. Nor should any nursing icon.

"We must hold to as clear and consistent a guideline as possible to determine the appropriateness of default userpics, in order to ensure that our standards are enforced equally for every user."

Then please explain to me how the same lj abuse team member (Eric) just recently told someone else that breastfeeding icons were acceptable? “The image in question (i.e. my first abuse report: a woman breastfeeding--Ed.) is considered allowable for default use.” - http://hardvice.livejournal.com/272037.html

Women have had to fight for their right to breastfeed in public. It’s something that not everyone understands, but the added stress and difficulty surrounding a mother trying to feed her infant, where the public opinion is pressuring her to “take your child and do that somewhere else”, is enormous. Women have fought because there are a group of people out there who think that exposing one’s breast to feed one’s child is obscene, sexual and dirty, and shouldn’t be allowed in public. At varying points in history, these people have made it difficult, if not impossible for the breastfeeding mother to leave her house with her infant.

Being a breastfeeding mother, I can assure you that this added stress and difficulty is unecessary, and no woman should ever have to deal with it. Nor should they have to deal with trying to put a blanket over their child's head while the child screams, freaks out, and refuses to eat, just to make some ignorant idiot happy to know that there are no exposed breasts anywhere in the vicinity.

At some point, things got bad enough that laws were created to PROTECT the rights of breastfeeding mothers, so that they COULD leave the house without fear of persecution. Women can breastfeed ANY place. Schools, malls, playgrounds... anywhere. There is no place where the site of a breastfeeding woman is inappropriate for a young audience in North America. As a matter of fact, it's even taught in some schools.

The issue is this: there are a group of people out there who think that exposing one's breast to feed one's child is obscene, sexual and dirty, and shouldn't be allowed. At varying points in history, these people have made it difficult, if not impossible, for breastfeeding mothers to leave the house with their babies. People, who have never had to deal with this issue, are the ones who tend to be causing the most problems.

By taking a stand that the icons can't be default due to their nature, it is suggesting that there's something wrong with breastfeeding in public. Whether they mean to or not, LiveJournal is deliberately alienating all breastfeeding women because they are suggesting that there is something wrong with the sight of a woman breastfeeding. As such, LiveJournal is perpetuating the problem, and that's why it's such a big issue.

I strongly urge LiveJournal to reconsider their opinion on this matter.

Sincerely,
Sharya

Since Denise closed it, and apparently made it so it could not be re-opened, I cannot comment on it, so I'll have to open another abuse report.

Comments

( 43 comments — Leave a comment )
subtlesabotage
May. 20th, 2006 09:05 pm (UTC)
I didn't breastfeed but I'm not at all offended by it. I have an icon of bare tits...why don't they find that offensive??
gretchypoo
May. 20th, 2006 09:12 pm (UTC)
Their problem is that it's the default icon, they're saying that it can be seen in other places that you don't intend it to show up [searches anc such, old posts in communities you forgot.] If you had the bare tits icon as your default they would request you either remove it or make it non-default [and rightly so, I can understand that.] However an icon of a woman doing the most natural thing with her breasts; feeding her child, should NOT be considered offensive or sexual in nature.

And yay for you Shar, I took the icon [and credited the maker] and it's now my default. Eff you LJ!
(no subject) - sharya - May. 20th, 2006 11:13 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - sharya - May. 20th, 2006 11:10 pm (UTC) - Expand
viagra
May. 20th, 2006 09:27 pm (UTC)
Maybe it's just because I'm a man, or not a mom, or whatever... But I kind of stand by LJ in this. I'm not offended by the breastfeeding icons at all, but I can see where people would be. Also, with the varying age group that LiveJournal houses, as well as the different countries that users all come from, I don't think it's entirely wrong of them to ask that breastfeeding pictures not be kept as default pictures.
runawaybunni
May. 20th, 2006 10:55 pm (UTC)
Livejournal is based in the US, and as a result, does not need to worry about what might be acceptable in other countries.

Furthermore, breastfeeding publically is permitted in all 50 states, and outrightly protected in quite a few of those. It would stand to reason that if I may nurse my son anywhere I am legally permitted to be (schools, business, the town square), that a 100x100 icon depicting the same thing wouldn't be lewd.

(no subject) - phaedie - May. 20th, 2006 10:56 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - perviepom - May. 20th, 2006 11:02 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - sharya - May. 20th, 2006 11:02 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - sharya - May. 20th, 2006 11:06 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - phaedie - May. 21st, 2006 12:02 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - viagra - May. 21st, 2006 01:29 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - viagra - May. 21st, 2006 01:27 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - sharya - May. 23rd, 2006 06:41 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - viagra - May. 23rd, 2006 02:37 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - sharya - May. 23rd, 2006 03:54 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - viagra - May. 23rd, 2006 04:07 pm (UTC) - Expand
perviepom
May. 20th, 2006 11:02 pm (UTC)
They are really prepared to open a can of worms on this, at least you got a reply. I'm still awaiting one.
runawaybunni
May. 20th, 2006 11:09 pm (UTC)
I didn't get one either :pout:

So I did the next best thing, which is contact the media!
(no subject) - perviepom - May. 20th, 2006 11:16 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - sharya - May. 20th, 2006 11:17 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - sharya - May. 20th, 2006 11:17 pm (UTC) - Expand
2kidsdad
May. 20th, 2006 11:13 pm (UTC)
I was thinking differently on the reason for whydue to some of the other responses posted that LJ made. There are parts of the world where breastfeeding is forbidden. Showing that is offensive to those religions that believe that.

I am American, Shar is Canadian, see where I am going? There are people from all over the world using LJ, it isn't just a service restricted to certain countries or religious beliefs.

Sure, I don't agree with it needing to be considered inappropriate, but I can see LJ's position. I was a co-owner of a website once that was banned from viewing in several countries because of content that they deemed inappropriate that no other country felt was inappropriate. Big deal, right? Well, it was actually, since a lot of places ended up being unable to pull my DNS since it got blacklisted and the lines to get to my site went through a few of those places that blacklisted me.
sharya
May. 20th, 2006 11:15 pm (UTC)
In what part of the world is breastfeeding forbidden, and what source are you going from? I've never heard that before, and to be honest, I'm skeptical.
(no subject) - 2kidsdad - May. 21st, 2006 12:07 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - sharya - May. 23rd, 2006 07:14 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - sharya - May. 23rd, 2006 07:15 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - perviepom - May. 20th, 2006 11:17 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - cdaae - May. 22nd, 2006 03:30 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - sharya - May. 23rd, 2006 08:00 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - cdaae - May. 23rd, 2006 02:37 pm (UTC) - Expand
perviepom
May. 20th, 2006 11:19 pm (UTC)
You should email jane@sixapart.com, they are the people who own livejournal.
sharya
May. 20th, 2006 11:19 pm (UTC)
I'm just heading out for dinner, but I just might do that later tonight!
crak
May. 21st, 2006 06:44 pm (UTC)
Well, in response to a large portion of things:

I figure that most people who use LJ are over 15, and understand the basics of birth/early childhood. Most kids under 10 would see something like breastfeeding and not really know what's going on. (Sure, right now we don't see anything funny with it, but back then, who knows).

On the level of obscenity, why not show two people having sex? or why can't two people freely have sex in public? It's even more natural than breastfeeding, and even more people do it (Guys don't breastfeed, but they sure do have sex). So if you wish to argue against obscenity, that's definitely something that would pop up.

Now, people are thinking "Crak, wtf, that's not the point. Sex is considered obscene/lewd." Of course it is, and who made those definitions? Think about that for a while.

In regards to offending people, most of you should recall the big fiasco with the danish cartoon and mohammed, why not start plastering pictures of things that would offend certain groups of religious people (I'm all for that, religious people need to lighten up).

Most people don't want to see something in public, or even in private. Honestly, i really don't want to see a mother breastfeeding her child, but i also don't think it should be outlawed in public. The line is fuzzy on this. For example: What's the difference between a newborn suckling and a 25 year old doing the same? Think about the semantics of it for a while, you'll probably end up thinking one is porn, the other is "natural." Now, how many of you have had sex and either done that or had that done to you, now who's dictating what's natural?

Moral of the story: Lighten up.
sharya
May. 23rd, 2006 06:45 am (UTC)
The issue is this: there are a group of people out there who think that exposing one's breast to feed one's child is obscene, sexual and dirty, and shouldn't be allowed. At varying points in history, these people have made it difficult, if not impossible, for breastfeeding mothers to leave the house with their babies.

Being a breastfeeding mother, I can assure you that this is an added stress and difficulty that no mother should ever have to deal with. Nor should they have to deal with trying to put a blanket over their child's head while the child screams, freaks out, and refuses to eat, just to make some ignorant freak happy to know that there's no exposed breasts anywhere within 50 feet of them.

Things got bad enough that laws were created to PROTECT the rights of breastfeeding mothers, so that they COULD leave the house without fear of persecution. Women can breastfeed ANY place. Schools, malls, playgrounds... anywhere. There is no place where the site of a breastfeeding woman is inappropriate for a young audience. As a matter of fact, it's even shown in some schools and children are taught about it and what it does.

The public opinion though, is still one that is on the line. Many people could be swayed either way (i.e. it's bad and shouldn't be allowed, or it's good and should be allowed). Men in particular have trouble understanding what the big deal is, because they don't have to deal with the problem. The people who have to deal with the problem are the ones who are typically the most affected by it. By taking a stand that the icons can't be default due to their nature, it is suggesting that there's soemthing wrong with breastfeeding in public. Whether they mean to or not, LiveJournal is deliberately alienating all breastfeeding women because they are suggesting that there is something wrong with the site of a woman breastfeeding. As such, LiveJournal is perpetuating the problem, and that's why it's such a big issue. Of course it's up to them if they want to allow it or not, but they need to be aware of the message they are sending by not allowing it. And what they are saying is something that a lot of people are having a lot of trouble with.

The difference between a newborn suckling and a 25 year old suckling is that the newborn has no other way of getting food. The newborn HAS to suckle for survival.

Moral of the story: Get your fucking head out of your ass.
paws_and_effect
May. 22nd, 2006 07:32 pm (UTC)
We think the whole thing is just a big tempest in a teapot and not worth all the bandwidth that's been wasted on it.

We're surprised that these are the same people who think that Childfree individuals are ridiculous and lame for saying they face "discrimination" because they don't have kids.

But hey, what do we know? We're just cats.
sharya
May. 23rd, 2006 06:48 am (UTC)
Kitties rock :)
(no subject) - sharya - May. 23rd, 2006 06:49 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - paws_and_effect - May. 23rd, 2006 07:08 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - sharya - May. 23rd, 2006 07:14 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - paws_and_effect - May. 24th, 2006 01:23 pm (UTC) - Expand
(Anonymous)
Mar. 14th, 2007 05:05 pm (UTC)
business blog
I've just been letting everything happen without me lately. I've just been hanging out not getting anything done, but eh. Maybe tomorrow. I just don't have anything to say. I've pretty much been doing nothing worth mentioning. Nothing seems important
sharya
Mar. 14th, 2007 06:42 pm (UTC)
Re: business blog
That's not good... but I'm unclear as to who posted this?
( 43 comments — Leave a comment )

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