Guest Post by Lauren Culpepper
[Lauren is the production manager for The SCAR Project, David Jay's right hand, my SCAR Project sidekick, not to mention, the most lovely soul to work with.]
Since The SCAR Project began six years ago, David Jay created a Facebook page for the project. What began as a small page of a few supporters has now become a thriving group supported by over 33,000. David has used Facebook as an immediate way of communicating directly and effectively as he continues his work with The SCAR Project. For years Facebook has randomly and periodically taken down images and banned David’s personal account which prevents him from posting.
It has been an unbelievably frustrating challenge. Every time this has occurred, there is no one at Facebook to contact in order to gain clarity on the image removal or ban. This has turned Facebook into a looming “big brother” for The SCAR Project, not knowing when it will strike again.
This time, however, a woman reached out via Twitter. Scorchy Barrington, currently stage IV and undergoing treatment, created a petition at Change.org on behalf of David and The SCAR Project that created a massive ripple effect with over 20,000 signatures. Two days after the petition was posted, Change.org got behind the petition, Facebook’s VP of global policy requested to speak to Susan and David, and a conference call was set up with Susan, David, Facebook, and Change.org. It was an extremely beneficial opportunity to listen to one another and have a chance to communicate directly. The following week, Change.org, Susan, Facebook and David exchanged emails editing what would become the new policy that you now
see on Facebook’s policy page.
While in many ways the new policy is a huge victory for breast cancer survivors, whether or not Facebook will continue to allow certain images to be posted on The SCAR Project’s page remains to be seen. The new policy is certainly improved, but also leaves plenty of room for Facebook to decide what images are allowed and what images are considered a violation. And, according to the new policy, The SCAR Project images previously taken down remain to be a violation. We continue to await the decision by Facebook as to whether or not they will re-post the images (including the hundreds of comments that accompany them) that were previously removed. It has now been over a month and we have yet to see those images restored to the Facebook page.
But the truth is that nothing has really changed at Facebook. In fact, the issue has nothing to do with breast cancer at all. Facebook never had any issues with mastectomies from the beginning. Mastectomies are not the problem. Nipples are. But not men’s nipples. Only women’s. Somewhere buried within the history of America’s societal evolution (or lack thereof), the female nipple became a body part to be hidden and ashamed of. The female nipple has and continues to violate every media policy in our country, but no one will admit to that fact. David Jay brought up the issue repeatedly while in discussions with Facebook, asking them to at least clarify that it was the female nipple that was in violation. Silence. No one wants to talk about it, yet everyone wants to abide by the unspoken “rule”: The female nipple is illegal in America.
And now, as we enter the world of breast cancer treatment (where we have everything from no breasts, breasts but no nipples, one breast with one nipple, breasts with reconstructed or tattooed nipples) we enter into a gray area that perpetuates the nipple conundrum. And the recent issue with Facebook’s policies has once again shined the limelight on the elephant in the room, only for the issue to be skirted around and avoided. How many more generations will continue to accept this view of the female body? With everyone’s recent finger-pointing at Facebook’s lack of clear policies regarding discriminatory, hateful, sexist, bigoted and misogynistic posts, the problem lies much deeper. And it is buried underneath decades of a misconstrued view of what a woman and her body represents.
You can read more of the press coverage at the following links:
ABCnews.com: Facebook Launches New Policy to Allow Mastectomy Photos
(Also posted on GMA/Yahoo)
ABC News Radio: Facebook Launches Policy to Allow Mastectomy Photos
NY Daily News: After backlash, Facebook says mastectomy photos are OK
Chicago Tribune: Facebook says yes to post-mastectomy photos
Huffington Post: Facebook Revises Wording of Policy on Post-MastectomyPhotos
Boston Globe: Facebook changes policy to allow post-mastectomy photos
Shape Magazine: Facebook Allows Post-Mastectomy Photos
The Inquisitr: Mastectomy Photos Allowed By New Facebook Policy
[As Facebook has deemed some images of The SCAR Project to be inappropriate, and as such, has consequently removed them from the The SCAR Project FB page, one of The SCAR Project girls has written an open letter to Mark Zuckerberg on her blog. With her permission, I'm cross-posting it here, featuring Sara as my first guest blogger on The SCAR Project Blog.]
An open letter to Mark Zuckerberg
Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine the SCAR Project would reach so many women. Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine it would become a GLOBAL influence. There have been a plethora of articles written – all over the world. This project is changing lives…it is empowering other breast cancer survivors…other people who have had their lives changed by breast cancer…it is allowing the generations who had to suffer in silence stand-up and say, that is me…that was my mother…that was my grandmother. I often have tears welling up when I read the comments of the women who are appreciative to FINALLY see someone else like them…who say the photographs gave them the strength, peace, comfort… I am overwhelmed because my hope has been realized tenfold.
How did this project gain momentum? I have to believe it is in large part because of Facebook. The first exhibition was in NYC in 2010 – at that time, I remember the Facebook page followers numbered in the four figures. Today, as I am typing, the SCAR Project’s page has over 22K followers.
I am writing to ask you to please step in – the SCAR Project has received multiple warnings about content. At this point, the photographer, David Jay, has decided to remove the photographs rather than risk the page being shut down. I truly believe, Mark, you must know someone who has been affected by breast cancer. I believe the days of anyone not knowing someone changed by breast cancer are long gone. Think of the person you know, maybe it is a relative, maybe a friend – consider how it must feel – having to cut off a body part, a body part society tells us is the most important part of being a woman. Imagine the isolation, the fear, the grief, the anger…all of these emotions and feeling as if you are all alone. The SCAR Project has changed this – the SCAR Project has allowed these women to see their strength, to find their beauty in this strength. In order for the SCAR Project to continue helping these women, the photographs need to be available.
Facebook has the opportunity to help change the world in a positive way – by allowing the SCAR Project to have an open forum to continue reaching men and women around the world. Please, take a moment to look the SCAR Project’s Facebook page – read the comments. There is no denying the power and impact it is having on the many who view the photographs. Take a look at the SCAR Project’s website to see the actual photographs – there is nothing sexual. It is simply showing the world that breast cancer is, and always has been, so much more than a pink ribbon.
Thank you for your time and consideration~