When internationally-known professional photographer David Jay posted stark, bold portraits of young women revealing their mastectomy scars on Facebook as part of “The Scar Project” in late May, the social networking website immediately took them down and banned him from the site for 30 days for violating their strict policy on nudity. Jay, who created the special series after losing a dear friend to breast cancer at age 32, told the NY Daily News that the images were meant to be very supportive to women—in other words, nothing pornographic or disrespectful at all.
Soon after being kicked off Facebook, Jay tweeted about what happened and got the attention of 53-year-old Susan “Scorchy” (her screen name) Barrington, a New York City-based woman with stage IV breast cancer and founder of the blog The Sarcastic Boob. The next day, Barrington put together a petition asking Facebook to reconsider their policy and, with the help of Change.org, secured more than 20,000 signatures in a little more than a week.
“These were not sexualized images objectifying women— these are images of what breast cancer really is,” Barrington says. “It's so much more than just a pink ribbon. Breast cancer is still the fastest killer of women ages 18 to 34.”
In response to this quickly popular petition, a representative from Facebook contacted Barrington and Change.org to quickly squash the notion that the site is against the mastectomy process. They confirmed that they are not trolling the site to censor these kinds of images and admitted that they needed to clarify some guidelines, especially with regard to photos like these that raise awareness, help with healing, and give so many people hope to beat the disease.
Facebook posted the following statement regarding the new guidelines:
"We agree that undergoing a mastectomy is a life-changing experience and that sharing photos can help raise awareness about breast cancer and support the men and women facing a diagnosis, undergoing treatment, or living with the scars of cancer. The vast majority of these kinds of photos are compliant with our policies. However, photos with fully exposed breasts, particularly if they're unaffected by surgery, do violate Facebook's Terms. These policies are based on the same standards which apply to television and print media, and that govern sites with a significant number of young people."
“For a company that serves more than a billion people to respond to a word-of-mouth petition of 20,000 is huge,” Barrington says. “It has to be hard for them to manage it all, but they took the time to consider the context of these images and made the proper amendments to their policy to allow for these types of images to continue to make a difference.”
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Photo credit: David Jay