The Wild, Wild, Web: Kelli

Banned Breasts

"Breastfeeding is a huge part of our life," says Kelli of herself and her daughter. "We've done it every day since she was born. It would never occur to me that that would be something to hide from anyone."

"I don't find it obscene," says radio talk show host Stephanie Miller, "but I just think it's private."

"I had been a member of a couple other breastfeeding groups on Facebook," Kelli explains. "I decided to post a picture of me nursing my daughter, and then a few days later it was taken down. And that's when I decided to make a group called Breastfeeding is Not Obscene." Since then over 135,000 people have joined Kelli's protest group.

Stephanie says, "I think Facebook is right to take the pictures down because a nipple is a nipple."

"I was shocked, and I just don't see how anything about breastfeeding could be classified as obscene," says Kelli. "It's not fair that me feeding my child is something that should be discreet and is deemed obscene, when a woman choosing to bottle-feed her child is completely normal and acceptable."

"Why did you post this picture to begin with?" Dr. Phil asks Kelli. "You didn't just post this to the world; this was to a friend, right?"

"Right," she says. "My friend had had her picture taken down, and it was kind of in solidarity that I decided to post a picture of me nursing my daughter."
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A broad screen behind Dr. Phil and Kelli holds a picture of Kelli nursing her daughter. Dr. Phil asks how Kelli feels, looking at that picture.

"I just see me and my daughter nursing," she says. "Actually, in that picture there's no nipple or areola showing, so you might not have to blur it."

"Yeah, and that's what they say, right?" says Dr. Phil. "They say that if there's nipple or areola showing that they'll delete it."

"That violates the terms. Yes," says Kelli.

"What do you think about their policy?" Dr. Phil asks Kelli.

"Well, I guess I can understand where they're coming from," she says, "because I know it's a slippery slope. You can't just allow all breasts at all times, because there are times when breasts are involved in sexual activities that are, you know, it is obscene, but I think it's easy to tell the difference between a baby nursing and sexual activities."

Dr. Phil invited Facebook to be on the show, but they declined. Instead they sent the following written statement of their policies:

The photos we act upon are brought to our attention by other users who complain. We are not proactively looking for these photos. Photos containing a fully-exposed breast (as defined by showing the nipple or the areola) do violate the site's Terms of Use and may be removed. Our policies are designed to ensure Facebook remains a safe, secure and trusted environment for all users, including the many children (over the age of 13) who use the site.

After reading through the statement, Dr. Phil asks Kelli, "So, what do you think of that?"

"Well, the children are the people who need to see it the most," she replies. "It needs to be normalized in the eyes of our children. The children I hang around with, they don't see it as obscene. They're used to seeing it, and more children need to be used to the idea of women using their breasts for what they need to be used for, not for sexual purposes."
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Dr. Phil reads one of the many e-mails Kelli has received since she formed her group. "'I heard you talk on the news how natural breastfeeding is ... So is sex! So is ******! So is ******! Vomiting! Etc. ... But to put it on display for all to see ... is not natural!' What do you say to that?" he asks.

"I just feel that the breastfeeding needs to be normalized so that more people feel comfortable with doing it," she says. "And the more it's classified as obscene, and people are told to feed they're children in the bathroom " you wouldn't eat in the bathroom " the more people are going to continue having this feeling that it's something to be ashamed of. It's why we have breasts. It's how we evolved. We're mammals."

Not everybody agrees that these breastfeeding pictures belong on Facebook. Dr. Phil turns to Stephanie, who hosts her own nationally-syndicated radio talk show and is a well-known liberal commentator. "So, what do you think about this?" he asks her.

"Well, Dr. Phil, first of all, I speak as a childless loser whom nobody wants to see naked, so I could just be bitter," she jests. "We'll do a whole show on that some other time. No, I believe in breastfeeding in public. I think it is feeding your child. I just don't know why you want to put it on the Internet. Isn't it private? I agree with the spirit of that letter to some degree."

"So, you think that you can do it in public, but don't publish it? Is that what you're saying?" Dr. Phil asks.

"Well, what I'm saying is why do you need to put it on the Internet?" Stephanie clarifies. "I think you should be able to feed your child wherever you want to. But, you know, I was nervous being on the show. I had some gastro-intestinal distress. I don't think anyone wants that on StephanieMiller.com."
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"No, and we thank you for that restraint," says Dr. Phil with a smile. "We thank you for that."

Stephanie gives a thumbs-up and says, "You're welcome, Dr. Phil."

"But what do you say to that?" Dr. Phil asks Kelli. "She's saying it's natural, go do it, but why put it on the Internet?"

"It's a part of what we do every day," she says. "It's the most important part of our relationship, and if I was bottle-feeding a baby, I'm sure at some point there would be a picture of me bottle-feeding her, so why not share that part?"

Philip Hansen dove into the controversy by creating a Facebook photo of himself using nothing but pictures of his own nipples, and he captured the process on video.

"Apparently Facebook is not allowing nipples, and not just nipples but women breastfeeding, so obviously this doesn't affect men," Philip says in his video. "But the question is at what point would it? If I had a picture entirely made of nipples? Hmmmm. Will they get rid of me? That's what we've got to figure out. So these are photos of my nipples, and I put them together, and I made a picture of myself. I then posted this picture on Facebook as a profile picture. My nipple picture is now on Facebook. What will happen?"

Back in the studio, Dr. Phil tells Philip, "Yeah, OK, I would say you have too much free time."

"There are a lot of people who do," says the young man.

"However, this is actually a vocation of yours, right?" Dr. Phil asks. "I mean, you create art in different ways."

"Yeah," says Philip, "this is one piece of a larger project that I call Art Happening, where I look at the news and I find a story and I make art happen about that instantly."
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"So, what happened with the picture?" asks Dr. Phil.

"It got removed within two days," says Philip. "It was gone."

"They took it down!" says Dr. Phil with surprise. "But see? There are a million guys standing on the beach without their shirt on, with nipples showing."

"And then after they removed it," Philip continues, "the best part was when I got my e-mail saying it was removed, there was an ad right next to it, a guy shaving his chest with his nipples showing."