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Facebook, Women, And Breastfeeding: Which Of These Don’t Belong?

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According to two recent articles about the social networking site Facebook, the answer would be both women and breastfeeding. Facebook’s move to public offering shed light on the fact that the company has no women on its board. They’re also facing backlash from mothers who’ve had photos of themselves breastfeeding their babies removed from the website. What gives? 

The Hollywood Reporter writes, “In Aaron Sorkin’s screenplay, Mark Zuckerberg created [Facebook] because a girl scorned him, and director David Fincher’s film chronicles the construction of an online forum by a group of young men who are too awkward or uncomfortable to effectively interact with their female counterparts.” So, how close was the film to real life?

Sheryl Sandberg has held the position of the company’s chief operating officer since 2008 (and is an advocate for gender equality) but all seven of its board directors are male according to a recent Bloomberg piece. “Just 11.3 percent of the Fortune 500 had male-only boards last year, according to Catalyst, a New York-based nonprofit that researches women and business issues.”

The Bloomberg article also points out that having a woman on board usually helps businesses. “A Catalyst survey of Fortune 500 companies found that those with three or more female directors outperformed those with fewer between 2005 and 2009, achieving on average 43 percent better return on equity. As Facebook prepares to raise $5 billion in an initial public offering, the composition of its board shows its business strategy is faulty, said Susan Stautberg, co-founder of New York-based Women Corporate Directors, which promotes female board membership. ‘It doesn’t make sense for a company that claims to be so forward looking to not have any women directors,’ she said. ‘If they just have an old boy’s network in the boardroom, they won’t have access to diverse ideas and strategies.'”

And yes, the majority of Facebook’s 800 million users are women. Fifty- eight percent to be exact. Some of those users are experiencing difficulty when it comes to sharing life-moments, something the site was created explicitly for.

According to CNet, “These days, its rules state that breast-feeding pictures are OK, as long as they don’t feature ‘an exposed breast where the child is not actively engaged in nursing.’ However, the San Francisco Chronicle reports that some of the world’s mothers believe their pictures have been flagged as inappropriate and their accounts shut down a little too often.”

As a response, parents are organizing “nurse-ins” and are using Facebook to help do it. What exactly is a “nurse-in?” It’s mothers breastfeeding outside their local Facebook offices.

“The main focus of the protests is the Facebook page of breast-feeding activist Emma Kwasnica of Vancouver,” writes CNet. “She says her account has been shut down four times and that 30 of her pictures have been flagged as inappropriate. The problem with that, of course, is that anyone can flag any of your public pictures as inappropriate.”

“This is discrimination. There’s no other way to look at it. We’re being treated as pornographers,” said Kwasnica. “Breast-feeding moms, especially ones with infants, spend hours a day with their children at their breast. They’re not trying to be sexually explicit. This is just part of their everyday lives.”

Kwasnica was able to have a conference call with Facebook representatives recently but it did not ease her concerns. “It is obvious to me now that Facebook really has lost control of their network,” she said, “Especially when their written policy clearly states they support the sharing of breast-feeding images, yet they say they cannot control the actions of their employees who keep removing breast-feeding images and who block accounts of the users who post them–usually ‘in error.’ This is exasperating to me.”

With Facebook going public and privacy concerns constantly running rampant, it’s interesting to see how much Facebook belongs to the users and how much still belongs to Facebook.

(via The Hollywood Reporter and CNet)

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Jill Pantozzi is a pop-culture journalist and host who writes about all things nerdy and beyond! She’s Editor in Chief of the geek girl culture site The Mary Sue (Abrams Media Network), and hosts her own blog “Has Boobs, Reads Comics” ( She co-hosts the Crazy Sexy Geeks podcast along with superhero historian Alan Kistler, contributed to a book of essays titled “Chicks Read Comics,” (Mad Norwegian Press) and had her first comic book story in the IDW anthology, “Womanthology.” In 2012, she was featured on National Geographic’s "Comic Store Heroes," a documentary on the lives of comic book fans and the following year she was one of many Batman fans profiled in the documentary, "Legends of the Knight."