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tigtog now posts at the new and improved Hoyden About Town. She also blogs at Larvatus Prodeo and Finally A Feminism 101 Blog. If the new Hoydenspace is down you should find updates below.

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Obscene on LJ

Apparently, LiveJournal has no problem with default userpic icons that depict breasts as below, because despite the unapologeticly abundant display of flesh for no other reason than titillating the male gaze, there is an all-important level of decency maintained by strategically placed artificial flowers:

Hey, it's just a girl looking glamorous and sexy, right? Nothing wrong with letting schoolkids see that now, is there?

But if you want a default userpic that depicts breasts like this:

Or , heaven forfend, like this:

Then apparently you are a sick puppy, as children must be protected from the evil concept of NIPPLES FEEDING BABIES (the horror!) at all costs. Because, you know, THEY'RE NIPPLES!

Apparently, a LiveJournal user was asked to change his default userpic icon from one that showed naked breasts. He then retaliated, in a self-confessed act of trollishness, by reporting any default userpic icon he could find of a breastfeeding mother. LiveJournal responded by asking all users with breastfeeding images showing areolae as their default icon to change them to non-default, because nipples feeding babies are just as indecent as naked genitalia.
"LiveJournal has always placed restrictions on default userpics, as the default userpic is visible in many public areas throughout the site, including the Directory, the Schools Directory, and the profile page."
"Any usericon in which unclothed breasts or genitalia are visible is
therefore inappropriate for use as a default icon, and when such icons
are reported to the Abuse team, the user is asked to make that icon

If an icon depicting the act of breastfeeding does not also depict a
clearly visible unclothed breast in which the areola or nipple is
visible, it does not fall into this category."
(email from LJ to an objector quoted in
There's more details on the story and discussion on the LJ forum boob_nazis.

As one contributor to argues,
"...breasts exist primarily for feeding human young, and secondarily as a sensual body part. In much the same way, feet are designed for walking - but that doesn't stop the foot-fetishists. Are you going to ban photos of feet too?"
But should we be so hard on LJ? After all, everybody knows Jesus was so holy he never looked at a nipple in his life:

You have no idea how long it took to find a breastfeeding image that actually showed nipples, that's how bizarrely inverted our Western values are on portraying the breast as it performs its natural biological functions. It took even longer to find a shot of Jordan aka Katie Price that showed cleavage without nipples.

You know how long it took me to find an old-masters-painting image of a nursing Madonna with nipples? First page of search results.

Hat-tip to Lara.
EDIT: argh - forgot the activism link - has 3-minute-activist spots, and objecting to this LJ absurdity is one of them.


J. said...

I don't see what the fuss is about. No one is saying that these users can't have user icons depicting breastfeeding. They are simply being asked not to use the icon as the default.

The default icon is shown in the user's profile, and in search results. The point is that someone searching for a non-breast related interest or username might wind seeing nudity in a userpic when not expecting it. That's all. It's LJ asking users to be courteous toward others, not going on a no-boobie vendetta.

It doesn't help that many of the self-described "boob nazis" getting worked up about this are the same brain trusts that decided that the correct way to deal with an offensive onesie in Target (it reads "Formula for success" and has a picture of bottle, obviously being part of a seekrit conspiracy to eliminate breastfeeding) was to "protest" by taking said onesies and "stashing" them in other places in the store.

Really, why is it so horrible to asked to make a userpic not your default? Not delete it or not use it, mind you, just not the default?

tigtog said...

So you're OK with someone having that cheesecake pic of Jordan as their default icon? But not a happy breastfeeding baby near a nipple?

Why do a couple of pasties make pandering to sexual titillation not-nudity even though you can see everything but the nipples, yet somehow nipples feeding babies in a totally non-titillation manner is presented as smut?

And hey, I learnt a new word - "onesie".

J. said...

Where did I say that I thought it was OK for the cheesecake photo to the default, but not breastfeeding?

Lara said...

All those indelicate iggerant feminists have to do is be obliging and co-operate with their own objectification, and their lives would be so much easier. They bring it on themselves, you know.

And hide those explicit nipples from the poor impressionable children. From BIRTH, I tell you. Can't start too early instilling the proper manners.

tigtog said...

J., if you believe both the cheesecake photo and a breastfeeding photo to be not OK, then at least you're less hypocritical than LJ.

I'm curious - where you live, is it illegal for a mother to breastfeed in public?

J. said...

First, I don't see this as an attack on breastfeeding at all. Part of my irritation on this topic is that I am tired of the "if you agree with LJ's userpic policy you are obviously anti-breastfeeding" rhetoric.

I don't care if someone's userpic is a breastfeeding baby, Janet's Jackson's nipple, some guy's nipple, some guy's penis, a cartoon character, a picture of the user's dog, etc. Other users have the right to use the userpic they want, I have the right to be offended or not, and LJ has the right to say "we don't consider this appropriate."

I have no idea if breastfeeding in public is legal where I live or not.

tigtog said...

Sorry to miss your last comment J., I had to get some sleep.

In nearly every country where there are public nudity taboos/laws, breastfeeding mothers are exempt from laws against public nudity, and this is definitely true in Australia and all 50 states of the USA. There are obvious and sensible reasons why this is so.

Breastfeeding mothers are justified in resenting and complaining whenever using their body naturally to care for their children is viewed as lewd. In our current hypersexualised consumerist culture it would be good for more people, including children, to occasionally get "shocked" by a reminder that breasts are not primarily for sex, actually.

LJ had a chance to do the right thing or the easy thing here. They deserve getting pointed and laughed at for siding with the prudes' taboos.

LJAB said...

Yes, they did have the chance to do the right thing. Under the original wording of the FAQ explaining this part of the TOS, breastfeeding icons were okay. Then someone on LJ Abuse deemed them "sexually explicit". When people said they are not sexual, the wording was changed from being sexually explicit to nudity. Of course it's only nude women's nippes, men's nipples are still fine!

LJ Abuse has a history of contradictory and arbitrary decision making, it's not surprising their users are getting pissed off.

J. said...

Really, I think it's silly to consider an image of woman breastfeeding an infant sexual as well. But, I also think that the multi-community explosion of indignation I've been reading for the past week is silly as well. LJ is just asking for the image not to be the DEFAULT userpic, not saying that it has to be deleted or can't be used in communities.

I'm astonished that this is being portrayed as an attack on breastfeeding. And that's it.

This type of thing is part of the reason I can't stand LJ anymore—everyone loves to hop on the dramarama train and feel like a victim.

I see you've attracted the anti-LJAbuse crowd. I'm sure they're loving this.

Ayatollah Ahtta Dullaad said...

Unless and until LiveJournal blocks access from all Islamic states under Sharia Law, I deem all default userpics showing exposed woman's faces unacceptable. Only burqa-clad faces may be included in default userpics.

tigtog said...

Certainly what provoked my post is that the whole public prudery about breastfeeding annoyed me back when I was doing that, although I came across that disapproval more in the UK than home here in Oz. This LJ squabble is merely a convenient hook to hang a larger debate on for me, but then I'm not active on LJ communities, I just go there to read you lot.

Are people getting het up about this on LJ, to the point of shrill tediosity? Definitely, but that doesn't mean that they're wrong to be het up in the first place. LJ arbitrarily changed their standards on this, said stupid and insensitive stuff about nursing breasts being sexually explicit, and then backpedalled on the sexual but still defended an arbitrary change.

They may have the right to arbitrarily change whatever they like, but that doesn't mean people have to accept those changes without objection. Do I think this is the most important argument evah? No, but it's absolutely worth a blogpost or two.


Ayatollah, if you come to Australia don't go to the beach. You'll have a heart attack.

Lara said...

To follow up - one of the LJ VPs just posted apologising for, among other things, the confused perceptions of the protesting LJers, likening them to motorists speeding in a school zone, and carefully explaining that while images of breastfeeding were in no way officially considered "wrong" or "inappropriate", they are still banned from default icons.

tigtog said...

Who is it again that's got confused perceptions? I can understand LJ's stance up to a point - as J. said, they don't want people offended using their directories by default icons.

But the inconsistency is still both infuriating and laughable. And they are continuing with the Not Getting It (speeding in a school zone - puhlease). If they don't want the outrage directed towards them, come up with some sensible guidelines that can be applied across the board.

Anonymous said...

hi, my name is cindy. i am cali4niachef from was my icon that started this :) i am glad to see that "nipplegate" has made it's way out of LJ and onto the internet.


tigtog said...

You're welcome, Cindy. I find some interesting parallels with the way nursing mothers are advised to "just put up with" the actions of jerks without complaining because "surely other things are much more important" and the way that progressive political activists habitually tries to silence women about feminist issues in politics - surely there are other issues that are more important than those affecting 51% of the population?

Anonymous said...
Info about press release and nurse in!

Anonymous said...

Debate on feminist

Also, the boob nazis might find they'd get more support if they'd discourage their supporters from comparing Nipplegate 2006 to racism (1, 2, 3).

That kind of thing upsets people, enough so that Tubman's Law has been named.

I actually wish LJ would just solve this problem by doing away with user pics completely. There's obviously no policy that will satisfy everyone, and as an added benefit there would be fewer blinking, flashing, hideous animated gifs in use on the web. Win!