On Friday, April 29th, 2016, running up to the Why We Ink tattoo show at the Royal Ontario Museum (in which the photo in question was included) I posted a photo of my client, Lorraine Sommerfeld, taken by photographer Danny Bailey (with both of their permission) on my personal Facebook page and also on my Cosmetic Transformations Business Facebook Page.
It was a photo of Lorraine in a Venetian celebration mask called a Dama (which, incidentally, is worn during the carnivals in Venice to celebrate femininity and strength). The mask was also worn so that any woman facing breast cancer or reconstruction could identify with the image and see them-self in that image and not just Lorraine. The image is raw, it is powerful and it is poetic.
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I am familiar with Facebook’s Community Standards regarding nudity, and although I tattoo features for breast cancer survivors, I’ve never felt compelled to post any images before–and many clients are also too shy to want to do so. But Lorraine is far from shy. And according to Facebook’s Community Standards, nudity is permissible on several grounds including if the image is medical in nature; if it’s educational; or if it’s art.
I posted the image on both my private and personal accounts knowing that that it 1. portrays the strength of a cancer survivor following their medical surgeries, 2. that it was posted to educate survivors and previvors (those who’ve opted for prophylactic removal) about their reconstruction and tattoo options and lastly, 3. that it does not portray ‘real’ nudity but rather 3D nipple simulations. The client portrayed is one of the strongest women I know, and she has nothing to be ashamed about–plus, I had both her permission and that of the photographer to post the image.
I was also hoping to drum up interest in the Why We Ink show that night–a show in which the photo in question was also to be featured.
Less than 24 hours later, Facebook notified me that my accounts were suspended unless I removed the photo.
Since then, I’ve received close to a thousand messages through my email and also my Facebook accounts. While some of the comments came from trolls body shaming my client and letting me know how perverse I am to have posted the photo, the overwhelming majority were strongly in support of both the photo and me posting it, which has in turn resulted in countless shares of the image and Lorraine and Danny posting this write up:
Some interesting comments on my Facebook account included the following (which I was able to access once I removed the photos):
“Yes, I’m shouting, and frankly, so should every other owner of a pair of breasts, anyone who has ever known, loved, or lost someone to or survived breast cancer.”
“Lorraine and Kyla bravely shared a story of survival. Lorraine had a double mastectomy and breast reconstruction, and Kyla tattooed medical 3D art so Lorraine could feel whole again. Lorraine’s photos were tasteful and appeared as part of a professional art exhibition.”
“Yet, some misguided prude reported the photo to Facebook, who in turn removed the image like it was common porn. This artistic photo was a homage to the brave women who face down breast cancer every day.”
“Facebook permits all manner of hate speech and vile language in the name of free speech, but it continually permits people to openly shame women. Facebook is afraid of a pair of silicone implants and tattooed nipples. If that image remained published,
women might *gasp* seek mammograms and discuss their breast cancer risk factors. Women might live full lives. Can’t have that, now can we?”
“If you are as outraged as I am, please share this post and speak out on behalf of breast cancer survivors, their families, their friends, and the amazingly talented medical practitioners and tattoo artists who devote their careers to not only saving lives but also enabling women and men affected by breast cancer to actually feel alive again.”
“Guessing that most of the people making these decisions are male and more concerned with keeping the masses happy than trying to change outdated social norms and outlooks. ”
What is interesting about all of this is how fearful we in the Western World seem to be about female breasts that are not in a sexualized context– from breast feeding Mom’s to mastectomy scars and Areolar tattoos, depictions of breasts in non-sexual contexts make people uncomfortable and for too long women have put up with this in silence, or felt they have had to go along with jests-(-such as this tongue-in-cheek video issued by a medical authority teaching women how to conduct breast exams for their safety but which uses a pair of fleshy male boobs so as to not upset Facebook’s Community Standards):
Is this really acceptable? That women have to watch a safety demonstration regarding their own breast health by watching the demonstration on male breasts?! My two young children did not think it was funny, so much as weird. They say that humour is the first step towards recognizing a societal problem but really we need more courage to battle such backward thinking. I’d love my daughter to grow up in a society where she doesn’t have to depend on watching moob demos or fear having her or her over ones images removed because they empower or celebrate her body. And I want my son to be part of that society too and hopefully be one of the men, like my husband, who will help argue for change.
There is a #freeTheNipple campaign/concept but very few women or men become involved in such initiatives until a situation happens to someone they know or care about, or ultimately to them-self.
Today I looked up the Free the Nipple campaign to read more about it. Don’t laugh but Wikipedia put it most succinctly:
“@Free the Nipple is a topfreedom campaign named after Lina Esco‘s 2014 film Free the Nipple. The campaign argues for female toplessness to be permissible in all areas that men and boys are allowed to be topless, as well as opposing social media censorship. The movement aims to advance gender equalityand to oppose sexual objectification.”
I didn’t realize that in Canada there has already been a precedent of a woman arguing that female breast barring should not be illegal or censored.
I’m rather horrified that Lorraine has been shamed by Facebook and by female-breast haters in her journey to emerge from despair into hope. Watch her video (above) about all she’s been through–it will move you to tears (she discusses the effect of the Areolar tattooing on her self image at the 7:40 mark onwards).
It would be interesting to hear what others think about this, and through a reputable article to open up a debate that could lead to positive changes to Facebook and other media who censor female breasts.
These procedures will give you confidence and peace of mind
Kyla can also repigment, enlarge or perfect the areolas you have if they are too small, unbalanced. These procedures will give you confidence and peace of mind in those intimate situations when you might otherwise feel uncomfortable.
Areola Scar Camouflage
Will help renew your confidence in your appearance
De-pigmented skin (skin lacking colour) around, or on, the areola resulting from trauma, surgery, or burns can be easily camouflaged by Kyla. Micropigmentation’s ability to break up the scar tissue and color it to better match your natural skin tone will help renew your confidence in your appearance.
Nipple and Areola 3-D Simulation Service
You will be fully involved in the design and colour choice
Drawing on her extensive artistic background and using delicate artistry, Kyla can create the illusion of a three-dimensional, nipple/areola complex or can achieve a natural -looking effect when enlarging or perfecting the areolas that you have. These procedures, coupled with scar camouflage, will give you confidence and peace of mind in those intimate situations when you might otherwise feel uncomfortable.
In terms of the procedure, Kyla will first carry out a consultation with you to determine the most pleasing colour, position, form and size for the nipple and areola. These factors are influenced by:
-Whether one or both of your breasts have been reconstructed. If only one of your breasts has been reconstructed, Kyla will custom blend pigments and design a matching nipple and areola. For bilateral reconstruction, you will be able to choose what type of design and colour you would like your new areolas and nipples to be.
-Whether the surgeon has surgically created a nipple or nipples for you that can be re-pigmented or whether Kyla must create three-dimensional looking nipples on a flat surface.
-Whether you have had lymph nodes removed, and have fine line scars on your underarm area. These can be re-pigmented and minimized. This may make you feel more comfortable about wearing short sleeves again.
-Whether you want to improve the appearance of post-surgical scarring around the circumference of the areola due to breast reduction or breast uplift surgery. Kyla can implant pigments either through the areola outward into the scar tissue to camouflage the scar (thereby creating larger or areolas), or by matching the scar tissue to the skin of the breast. Kyla will discuss which option would suit your particular circumstance.
-Whether your nipples simply need better definition or a more balanced look.
You will be fully involved in the design and colour choice and only when you are content will Kyla perform the procedure. The pigment infusion process normally takes just over an hour and avoids the necessity of having to be admitted to hospital, administered a general anesthetic, or needing to take time away from work.
After the procedure you will need to apply an antiseptic cream twice daily and keep the nipple and areola covered with sterile gauze for several days.
A follow up procedure is normally required after a 4-6 week period to allow final adjustments to be made to the shape and colour of the nipple and areola and this is included in the initial cost.
Click image to enlarge.