Nonprofit cancer group finds way around Facebook censorship with square boobs

Legal, cultural, and online standards for nipple exposure are seriously crazy. Women’s nipples are acceptable to please the male gaze in pornography, but “offensive” when a woman chooses to go topless to the beach, breastfeed her crying baby, and even in online content meant to teach women how to examine their breasts for signs of cancer. The Swedish Cancer Society’s breast cancer awareness video, featuring animated images and information on how to conduct breast exams, was taken down by Facebook earlier this week, The Guardian reports.

According to the nonprofit organization, Facebook sent them this explanation: “Your ad cannot market sex products or services nor adults products or services.” So, yeah. On men, nipples are nipples; on women, they’re sex products, but sexism and gendered double standards are no longer a thing, right?

Either way, steadfast in its mission to support and inform women about a critical, life-threatening condition, the organization offered a clever alternative: graphics featuring square nipples. Like, they’re obviously nipples, but given a completely new shape so as to not look too much like the sex products’ all round, circular nipples inherently are.

We find it incomprehensible and strange how one can perceive medical information as offensive,” the organization’s befuddled spokeswoman, Lena Biornstad, told Agence France-Presse. Biornstad’s confusion is reasonable; portraying women’s health issues as “offensive” is such a goddamn American politics thing.

The organization posted an open letter on Facebook in response to the social media outlet’s decision to ban its video to accompany its remodeled square nipple take:

“We understand that you have to have rules about the content published on your platform. But you must also understand that one of our main tasks is to disseminate important information about cancer – in this case breast cancer. After trying to meet your control for several days without success, we have now come up with a solution that will hopefully make you happy: Two pink squares! This can not possibly offend you, or anyone. Now we can continue to spread our important breast school without upsetting you.

Facebook has since responded to the incident by acknowledging it was a mistake, accepting responsibility, and working to set things to right, it explains in a statement sent to The Guardian: “We’re very sorry, our team processes millions of advertising images each week, and in some instances we incorrectly prohibit ads. This image does not violate our ad policies. We apologize for the error and have let the advertiser know we are approving their ads.”

Facebook’s reversal is important, sure, but we can’t forget that this one case doesn’t solve the real issues at play here. Female nipple censorship is not only an annoying double standard rooted in society’s misogynistic tendency to hypersexualize the female body, but as it results in the censorship of critical information and resources about breast cancer time after time, it also has the potential to be incredibly harmful.