Since when is being a mom not a real job?

On the eve of Mother’s Day, with no warning whatsoever, Instagram deleted my wife’s account because someone reported her for sharing photos of the natural act of breastfeeding (which, importantly, included no nudity).

My wife’s Instagram account was an investment of over three years of her life, and represents the space in which she documented her entire journey through motherhood. Yet she is afforded no recourse to state her case or contest the deletion of her account. This is part of at least two continuing and infuriating double-standards perpetuated by Instagram and Facebook, and these are representative of larger and substantive social issues. Let me explain.

You might remember a video that went viral a month or so ago, where a collection of job applicants interview for an unknown position as ‘director of operations’. After being told of some of the requirements (medical and business degree, culinary training), the responsibilities (365 days a year, 24 hours, long periods of standing), and the ‘compensation’ (no vacation, no pay), the applicants are finally let in on the joke: the job  is — gasp — being a mom.

Geez, when you really think about it, being a mother does kind of sound like a real job. Awww, thanks Mom! Happy Mothers Day! Way to go cardstore.com and facebook, for reminding us all how hard it is to be a mom. Thanks for caring enough to think about us.  

Except that being a mom is a real job. It is one of the toughest, most draining, emotionally and physically exhausting, thankless, never-ending jobs out there. The problem is our liberal democracy doesn’t consider it a ‘real job’ and so it isn’t properly compensated. Even the meagre social support networks that did or continue to exist on behalf of mothers, even in advanced capitalist countries, are disappearing.

Meanwhile, though cardstore.com is happy to remind you of the importance of purchasing a card to remind your mother of the ‘real’ work she’s done and facebook is happy to spread the progressive and clever viral video (for free!),  what have either of these companies actually done to materially improve the lives of mothers? Is it true that mother’s day cards purchased from cardstore.com come with a lifetime of free massages and chiropractic care for their recipient? Did facebook hire 10 unemployed mothers with the skills to succeed but a huge gap in experience where they stayed at home to raise their children? Did cardstore.com use any extra money they may have generated from the campaign to provide a longer, more supportive maternity leave package for their employees? Obviously not. Instead, their support ended with another round of exploitation, happily appropriating the message of mothers everywhere and even happier to keep the extra dollars.  

Of course Facebook and Instagram, among other social media platforms, are not only willing to exploit mothers but are actually dependent on mothers for their very success. They give the poor, bored, alienated mothers a place to talk and find companionship, so long as they share all their information, give over their rights to the pictures and words they share online, are bombarded with constant advertisement, and ultimately are subject to the whims of their objectifiers and the unaccountable bureaucracies of the social media websites that themselves arbitrarily impose their own terms of agreement. And obviously, if mothers hoping to make a little money while also working at home in an age of austerity want to start a business and advertise online, while inadvertently also attracting even more traffic to Facebook that can then also be subject to Facebook’s relentless advertising, Facebook and Instagram are happy to play along.

But, heaven forbid, a mother take the such a politically charged stance as to share a picture of herself feeding her child and her account is closed with no notice, and she is left with no recourse to state her case or otherwise reclaim her digital life. Of course, if women, often younger(ish) women want to share sexually suggestive photos, Facebook and Instagram aren’t going to stop them, or suspend them. See, for instance, the photos of young women Instagram is happy to promote to prospective users of the social media website.

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Meanwhile, Facebook has worked to cultivate the perception they are a part of the spread of liberal values around the world. In Egypt, a once powerful dictator tumbled from his perch because of the supposedly progressive role of social media in spreading democracy.

Of course, the reality is Facebook, Instagram, and probably every other major social media platform are internally opaque, censoring what information they do not want spread and, in the case of my wife (among many others), purposely suppressing and deleting accounts of mothers who share photos of something so horribly grotesteque as breastfeeding. So much for progressive values! So much for supporting mothers! The relationship is clearly instrumental and nothing more. Foolishly, Hosni Mubarak made the mistake of threatening to shut down the Internet in Egypt when all he needed to do was politely email Facebook and claim offense at some of the “graphic”, “sexualized”, and otherwise “disturbing” images of what is actual and normal life under his rule and his critics’ accounts probably would have been shut down in minutes.    

So, how about this. Let this Mother’s Day be the first mother’s day where we actually show gratitude to mothers. Mothers, and especially single mothers, are increasingly both neglected and disciplined, marginalized and objectified, expected to endure hardship on behalf of their child for the social good and stigmatized and surveilled by the same society.

Let’s work to change this. If we can all agree with the platitude that being a mom is the toughest and most important job in the world, why can’t we begin to offer the necessary and substantial supports mothers deserve! Let’s start by not shaming moms for their bodies and their choices. As a recent blog so eloquently put it, “photos like Heather’s can help normalize breastfeeding. They can help us see breasts from a different angle. They can go a long way in showing that there’s nothing sexual or shameful or disgusting or offensive about breastfeeding. Rather, it’s a pretty normal thing that women all over the world do every day.”

But let’s not stop there. Let’s demand better from those who are happy to exploit the message but care nothing for the social change it so obviously implies. Facebook and Instagram might be private companies but they rely on the public’s support to generate the billions of dollars they do. Without us, they are nothing. Let’s remind them of that. And if they continue not to care, let’s go somewhere else. It turns out they need us more than we need them. 

Happy Mother’s Day!

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Comments
8 Responses to “Since when is being a mom not a real job?”
  1. I am so angry on your behalf. Were instagram a physical being you could guarantee “nurse ins” and other such protests in response to this. It makes me so cross that they are not made to answer to their actions.

  2. momasteblog says:

    Oh man! This is so awesome. This post should have been Freshly Pressed IMHO. It is so important to normalize breastfeeding. Our species depends on it. Thank you so much for this thoughtful and passionate piece. I am a mom, still nursing her 30 month old and it is the most beautiful and precious thing. It boggles my mind why we have such puritanical attitude towards nursing. My guess would be because of big pharma who markets formula. Thanks again!

  3. I love the idea of a nurse in!

  4. Henry says:

    Some people are simply weird. I find it vulgar that anyone would even be in the mindset that breast feeding is vulgar.

  5. Roberto says:

    Who gives a fuck? Go cry about something a little more important than a fucking instagram account..

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