Facebook removes a photo of a mom giving birth that was posted to a private birth group
The day before her daughter’s first birthday, a woman named Francie posted a photo of herself giving birth to that daughter, in a private Facebook group called NYC Birth. It’s a raw, emotional photo — as most birth photos are. She looks filled with joy as she grabs her daughter and welcomes her into the world.
Francie works as a consultant teaching mothers to hand express their breast milk, either instead of a pump or in conjunction with a pump, via her website, TheMilkinMama. She shared this message with the photo, “Today it’s been one year since this happened. Where do I even begin? I am humbled. I am grateful. I am speechless. I am a badass. I am so glad my baby is one year old. And I just can’t believe it.”
Yes, there is full nudity, but as birth photos go this is not uncommon. There have been several viral portfolios of birth photos making their rounds on Facebook in the last few months. Still, a member of a group called NYC Birth, whose description states it’s for “pregnant people, people trying to conceive, those who have birthed their children in NYC, and adoptive parents” felt the image was inappropriate in some way and flagged it for removal by Facebook. “I have definitely seen nipples, on that group and other groups I’m part of,” Francie told Scary Mommy. “I didn’t have any apprehensions about posting the photo. I was speaking my truth and sharing my story, verbally and visually, with a group I trusted.”
Again, it’s a private group.
The photo was removed, and when Francie tried to login to her account, there was a message saying the photo violated Facebook’s standards of nudity. “It then prompted me to remove any other photos that contained nudity. The two on the prompt screen were me wearing my baby in a carrier, fully clothed,” she told NY Magazine. After she confirmed that none of her other photos contained nudity, she was allowed back on the site and in the group.
Facebook made their position on breastfeeding photos very clear this year, in a blog post released to clarify their stance on some nudity. “We restrict some images of female breasts if they include the nipple, but we always allow photos of women actively engaged in breastfeeding or showing breasts with post-mastectomy scarring,” the post states. “We also allow photographs of paintings, sculptures and other art that depicts nude figures.”
Facebook several times faced a backlash for taking down photos of breastfeeding women, prompting the site to make it very clear they would no longer be removing photos that contain those images. It makes sense: breastfeeding is legal and showing someone actively engaged in such a maternal act does not have sexual or pornographic undertones, which it seems is what Facebook is trying to avoid. Couldn’t the same be said of birth photos, though? There is nothing sexual or pornographic about birth — and if women in a private birth group want to share photos of the experience, does a nipple really matter that much?
It may seem to be an argument that lacks nuance, bringing it down to the “nipple.” But it’s the only thing Facebook could point to in this image to justify removing it, as per their standards of conduct for the site. Shouldn’t a birthing mother be given the same kind of leeway for nudity that a breastfeeding mom is? “I wanted a safe space to process my daughter’s birthday and her birth, and I picked a place I felt comfortable doing that,” Francie told Scary Mommy. “I was definitely surprised when I got the message that it had been taken down and I was blocked.”
At the end of the day, Facebook is a privately owned site, and can dictate its rules as it sees fit. But knowing how progressive Zuckerberg himself is regarding issues such as breastfeeding and parenting, it seems like this is something that should be resolved as well. There is nothing more natural than childbirth. Certainly not everyone wants to be exposed to those images — and they shouldn’t have to be. But like everything else on Facebook, there is the option of customizing your feed. There’s the option to “hide posts” or “see fewer posts like this.” And if you sign up for a birth group, you shouldn’t be allowed to flag birth photos. Facebook should recognize that nuance and take away the power for a few individuals to dictate what comprises the content of a group like that.
If you are truly uncomfortable with those images, keep scrolling. Don’t flag a photo and make a mom feel like she’s done something indecent by merely sharing a photo of a joyous birth experience. In a birth group.
Francie remains positive about the whole experience: “I’m so glad this happened. We need to make birth a better experience for ALL mamas, and if sharing my story and our photo helps do that, I’ll be thrilled.”