A few days ago I posted a collection of photos on my personal Facebook page titled ‘Houston Food and Art – a perfect weekend getaway!’ A few hours later I received a notification that one of the photos ‘violated the Facebook Community Standards’ which has rules on nudity, sexual and violent content.
The photo is of a sculpture by Australian artist, Ron Mueck, that is on exhibition at the Houston Fine Arts Museum. ‘Mother and Child’ depicts a newborn on its mother’s belly- and yes, there is a breast!
Facebook led me through a series of hoops, chastising me for posting the photo and essentially making me agree to be more careful before allowing me to access the rest of my account. At the end of the process I was asked to rate my experience and I expressed my distaste for this censorship – sadly I have not received a response, nor has the photo been restored.
Since then, I have heard about Facebook removing several photos of women breastfeeding. It’s 2017- breasts are EVERYWHERE and usually portrayed in an unrealistic and sexualized way. How is it we have created a culture in which posed sexualized photos are deemed ok, but photos of real women are considered offensive? I typed ‘boobs’ into my Facebook search and got a plethora of highly-sexualized images of topless women. There are even several pages devoted to the subject and all the photos privacy settings are public.
It is tempting to go into a rant regarding FBs guidelines however the real issue here is that if Facebook is a platform which is based on user content and these images are being removed- what does that say about the values and morality of the users? Plus, Facebook has the feature that if someone is offended by something I post they can opt not to see my stuff in the future- so if you are the person who ‘reported’ this photo, please feel free to unfollow me.
From an art perspective, one could even use Magritte’s argument and say that ‘Ceci n’est pas un sein’ (This is not a breast)- it is the representation of a breast made out of acrylic, fiberglass and silicone. And while the museum offered a warning of nudity and graphic images at the entrance to the exhibition, I saw several children there with their parents. I think good art should make you feel and do you know what I felt as I saw the detailed and raw depictions of the human bodies in this exhibition? I felt inspired and good about my own human body. The sculptures are a far healthier portrayal than the images that come at us everyday from the culture we usually digest; advertising, porn, movies and television. Personally, I am exhausted by the false-perfection we have been dishing up as a culture.
The Ron Mueck sculpture ‘mother and child’ depicts the most basic of human experiences; the moment of birth. If you’re reading this- you’ve been there! How can something depicting this universal and authentic experience be censored? It’s been over 25 years since Demi Moore bravely graced the cover of Vanity Fair magazine when she was seven months pregnant. It was a bold move for a Hollywood star considering they weren’t even allowed to use the word ‘pregnant’ in ‘I Love Lucy’ in the 1950s.
How far have we really evolved?