Active Duty Soldiers Free the Nipple in Breastfeeding Photo While in Full Uniform
Tara Ruby didn't expect her photo to be controversial.
The Air Force veteran-turned photographer snapped an image of 10 active duty military moms breastfeeding their children so it could adorn one of the walls of the new nursing room at Fort Bliss, in El Paso, Texas. There were no lactation rooms for soldiers with young children when she had been in active service in the late 1990s.
"I thought it was be nice to offer some photographs as an additional show of support," she told CNN. "Seeing a picture like that helps mothers understand they can be an active soldier and provide support to their children."
After Ruby uploaded the image to Facebook on Thursday, however, she quickly found her image got removed. Despite a guarantee from the website's own community standards stating, "we always allow photos of women actively engaged in breastfeeding," the image vanished from her business page and others where she had uploaded it sometime Friday.
Undeterred, Ruby reuploaded the photo to her wall the same day where it remains. As of publication, it has generated more than 10,000 likes and 8,000 shares as well as some enthusiastic praise online on various social media platforms.
It's not the first time Facebook has become tripped up in nipple politics. While the site freely allows male nipples — like in this page dedicated to "hot shirtless men" — it does not offer the same blanket inclusion for women. When Jason Greene appeared on the site showing a nipple while wearing a blouse, the photo was flagged for removal; though from a strictly technical sense, the image should have been OK.
Activists meanwhile have argued there is no good reason to censor female nipples at all and doing so contributes to their objectification. As many have pointed out, exposed male nipples were considered scandalous in the 1930s before society came around.
While Facebook's official community standards are supposed to protect breastfeeding as well as images of "post-mastectomy scarring," stories like Ruby's indicate there are still those who fall through the cracks.
"I was active duty a long time ago when support for breastfeeding moms wasn't even an option or a consideration," Ruby wrote on Facebook. "I want to say thank you to everyone that saw my vision, and helped us in succeeding in making it come true. I am 100% for #normalizebreastfeeding. How about you?"