An Open Letter to Mark Zuckerberg 

December 20, 2015

Dear Mr. Zuckerberg,

I’m writing to you to discuss the suspension the Facebook account of a member of our organization, Beth Fairchild. Beth’s account was recently suspended because she posted a picture of an areola tattoo that she performed on a woman who has been through a mastectomy with reconstruction. Beth is an important member of our organization, MET UP, whose mission is to change the landscape of metastatic cancer through direct action.

Like many of our members, myself included, Beth has metastatic breast cancer, which is breast cancer that has spread to other parts of the body, and is incurable. Everyone with metastatic breast cancer will die of or with their disease, including Beth. And yet, despite this devastating diagnosis, Beth has decided to spend the time she has left being a fierce advocate for women who have breast cancer, including using her amazing skills as a tattoo artist to help women who have been through breast reconstruction.

Many people don’t realize that breast reconstruction after a mastectomy is nothing like breast augmentation done on women without cancer. In a mastectomy, the entire breast is removed, including the nipple. In order to rebuild the breast, doctors can build a nipple with tissue, although it will never feel like the removed nipple because it no longer has any nerves in it. And after a surgeon builds a nipple, it has no areola. In order to have the nipple look like the one that was removed, a tattoo artist like Beth must tattoo an areola on/around the rebuilt nipple. In addition, some women can’t or don’t have the nipple rebuilt, and instead have a 3-D areola tattoo, like the one Beth created and shared in the photo.

Facebook has standards for determining when nipples can be shown in photos shared on your site. Your community standard states, “We also restrict some images of female breasts if they include the nipple, but we always allow photos of women actively engaged in breastfeeding or showing breasts with post-mastectomy scarring.” The photo that Beth shared clearly shows a mastectomy scar at the top of the breast. And yet, your staff have suspended Beth’s account because she has been accused of violating the community standards–standards that explicitly allow this photo to be shared. The photo that Beth shared is at the bottom of this letter.

Those of us in the breast cancer community have found ourselves repeatedly targeted by people reporting post-mastectomy photos. This is consistent with the ongoing sexualization of our disease–a disease that will take Beth’s life, and mine. That our cancer involves our breast does not make pictures of our scars and our reconstruction pornography, any more than photos of people with other amputations is pornographic. It has become exhausting having to repeatedly defend the posting of such photos, and to be blunt, your staff seems to have a difficult time following your standard that such photos will “always” be allowed. Indeed, Beth is not the first woman to share such a photo whose account has been suspended. 

And so, I’m writing with two requests: that Beth’s account be reinstated, since she clearly has not violated Facebook’s community standards; and that you train your staff to recognize a post-mastectomy photo, so that this harassment from your users of women recovering from a mastectomy will finally end. I await your response to my requests.


Beth Caldwell

Co-Founder, MET UP


Blogging Kicks Ass

When I started this blog, it was mostly so I could write stuff down and get it out of my head. I didn’t know if anybody would bother reading it, or if they did, if they would find it interesting. What’s been coolest about this is, people HAVE found it interesting, and have shared it with each other and had conversations about it on Facebook. Even famous people (whose book you should go buy right now. No seriously, I’ll wait. And no, she’s not giving me any kickbacks, I just like her book that much) have shared stuff I’ve written. And what my readers think about what I write, what they say about what I write, is often not what I thought people would think when I wrote it. Which is just WAY WAY WAY cool.

Let me give an example: the Judgy McJudgerson post. I wrote it not thinking about this one friend of mine at all–she’s never Judgy McJudgerson’d me and I think of her as super supportive of the moms in our circle. But when she read it, she thought, “Oh wow, that is so me. Beth just called me out on my BS and she is right.” What? Really? Turns out she’s what a mutual friend of ours calls a “car seat nazi.” I had no idea, perhaps because I don’t post photos of my kids in their car seats that often, or when I do, they are properly buckled? Anyway, she read what I wrote and took away the lesson I intended (take a deep breath and remember your friend isn’t an idiot before you comment), even though, I didn’t intend that message to be directed at her.

Meanwhile, some other friends had a discussion about it in the context of feeling like you are a crappy mom who doesn’t have it together and being bitter about the moms who DO seem have it together. So, they are not judging someone for being a bad mom, they are judging them for being too good of a mom. Which also comes from a place of fear of our own inadequacies as parents, right? And THEN they talked about Judgy McJudgersoning themselves. Because we are all Judgy McJudgerson. Deeeeeeeep.

All of this reminds me of good times in college, living in the dorms and staying up waaaaay too late talking about deep thoughts. It felt cool, like our brains were going to change the world with their amazing ideas that got better and better as they bounced around the room off each other’s brains. That’s what blogging feels like to me–I launch an idea, and the people who read it take it and add to it and make it richer and more powerful.

So, thank you to all of you for reading, and then thinking and talking about what I write. This blogging thing kicks ass!