Tomorrow I'm taking my two little girls with me to Dublin to attend the protest outside Facebook's offices at Hanover Quay.
I'm a bit stressed about it all to be honest. 'Nurse-Ins' aren't my thing. I've never attended a protest. I can be quite shy with people I don't know, especially in large groups. Probably you won't believe me but this is all true. I'm a (relatively) normal mum, and I don't enjoy drawing attention to myself or my children. I 'brazen it out' when I have to, but I don't enjoy it one little bit. I'm dreading the 90 minute drive each way, and finding my way around Dublin. I am worried in case dd2 cries on the way or dd1 needs the loo and there's nowhere for me to stop. The petrol and toll roads will cost £££ and we're not exactly 'flush' these days, and I won't know anyone when I get there.
You're probably wondering why I'm going at all.
I'm going because I think social media will play an increasingly large role in all our lives over the years to come, and especially in my daughter's lives. I think Facebook is valuable in so many ways - most especially as a vehicle for sharing information and support. This is the way the world is moving, social media is going to be increasingly powerful in influencing the way we think, and more importantly, the way our children WILL think. If breastfeeding is to survive into the digital age, we have to get this sorted out.
That's why we have to stop the way Facebook is harassing breastfeeding mums when they post their photos or even write about breastfeeding. Heck - they deleted the Leaky Boob group, and threatened to delete DBM twice. I can't be having that now can I? ;)
Facebook was dreamt up by a very creative young man, and it's run by incredibly creative, forward-thinking young people. Facebook's office in Dublin is it's Head Office in Europe employing 400 people, with plans for expansion. Those young people have grown up in a world where formula feeding is normal, and where breasts are used to sell things and to titillate rather than to feed babies. It's understandable that some of them will find breastfeeding shocking - obscene even - because they probably don't see it in their daily lives. It's also likely that some of the employees at Facebook find pictures of breasts being used provocatively less obscene, simply because they've seen them more often growing up. I don't want my children growing up in a world where the largest social network deems this image acceptable, but deletes these ones. It's important to see breastfeeding in order for it to become normalised once again within our culture, and that includes pictures on a social network.
I have it on good authority that the human beings who review 'obscene' photographs for Facebook are located at the Dublin offices. These employees are directly responsible for deleting so many breastfeeding images and banning the posters. 'The Dublin office is responsible for all of the company’s users outside of the U.S. and Canada, according to the Irish data-protection agency'.
Ireland has one of the lowest breastfeeding initiation rates in Europe - the economy here increasingly relies on the formula industry to generate income during these tough economic times. Our small country will soon produce 20% of the world's infant formula milk, and that is set to increase with the Government courting the formula industry for all it's worth. People here consume vast amounts of dairy products and most people think cow's milk is essential for good health.. Our culture is incredibly anti-breastfeeding. That is reflected in the way Facebook's Irish employees are implementing their 'obscenity' policy. And let's not forget that Facebook make a lot of money advertising formula milk.
The reason I'm going to Dublin is because we, in Ireland, are at the centre of this problem. Facebook's Irish employees are playing a key role targeting and shaming breastfeeding mums from within Facebook's on-line community. In terms of population, Facebook represents the third largest country in the world with 800 million users and rising. We cannot allow the Irish breastfeeding 'issue' to become a global one - we are NOT in a position to lecture anyone about how to feed babies. If a picture of a baby being bottle fed is acceptable and not deemed obscene by Facebook then we have to demand that photographs of babies being fed at the breast are also permitted. If Facebook truly is the global network it purports to be, then it must stand for global and human norms, rather than (our) hypocritical and prudish Irish ones. And that means I feel I have to make the trip.
Wish me luck!
If you can't make it to one of the many rallies (find out where they're taking place here) - then please consider joining the on-line protest by changing your profile picture to one supporting the protest. The image below is free for you to use.