Does This Twitter Avatar Offend You?

In a Twitter version of the Time cover controversy, a mom is getting flak for using a picture of herself breastfeeding as her avatar.

The above is the avatar of Arwyn, who tweets as @RaisingBoychick. On her blog, also called Raising My Boychick, she describes herself as “a walking contradiction: knitting feminist fulltime parent, Wiccan science-minded woowoo massage student therapist!, queer-identified male-partnered monogamist, body-loving healthy-eating fat chick, unmedicated mostly-stable bipolar.” She also writes that she practices many aspects of attachment parenting, including co-sleeping, elimination communication (in which parents teach children to communicate when they need to go to the bathroom, often without the use of diapers), and yes, extended breastfeeding. The baby above is Arwyn’s daughter, whom she calls “Vulva Baby,” but her now-five-year-old son (Boychick) was, she says, a “breastfed toddler.”

Arwyn’s avatar arguably has less shock value than Time’s instantly-infamous breastfeeding cover. But it did inspire some Twitter wrath, kicked off by user @juliewashere88:

@RaisingBoychick Just so you know, your avatar violates twitter image policy. You've been reported.

— juliewashere88 (@Julie)

Julie is in some ways Arwyn’s opposite. On her blog, the Hiking Humanist, she writes, “Instead of child-proofing our home, as some young couples do, we decided to childproof ourselves. As my BF and I are both happily Childfree, I had a tubal ligation, coincidentally, on World Population Day. Getting fixed is no easy task at 22 when you have no kids.” Soon after her criticism, others piled on:

@juliewashere88 the exposure of a mother's breasts isn't better than the exposure of mine just b/c there's an infant attached #childfree

— thereselee (@Therese Lee)

@juliewashere88 & "lactivist" women sometimes complain about sexist billboards showing female parts? Public boobs r either OK or they're not

— thereselee (@Therese Lee)

@Faeries517 I think what us #childfree object 2 is the pref treatment & constant deference we have 2 show to parents, even if they r wrong

— thereselee (@Therese Lee)

@FarrenSquare @geeoharee @juliewashere88 I'm actually in favor of public breastfeeding; keeps the little fuckers quiet #childfree

— thereselee (@Therese Lee)

Couples! Before you breed, remember: pregnancy is a preventable illness. #childfree

— ChrisChildfree (@Childfree Chris)

Happy Endangered Species Day! Kudos to those who are working hard to help the animals & to protect the world from human harm. #childfree

— Gogiknitter (@Leslie Bl)

Neither Arwyn nor Julie have yet responded to our request for comment, and it’s not clear whether Arwyn’s avatar actually violates Twitter’s terms of service — they prohibit “obscene or pornographic images in either your profile picture or user background,” but have not yet responded to our question about whether breastfeeding constitutes obscenity. Some users, though, have jumped to Arwyn’s defense:

I'm disturbed by some of the comments/tweets I'm seeing from other #childfree ppl that are totally disrespectful of mothers and #choice

— melody1228 (@Harmony)

I am in favor of supporting unconditionally the ability of women to choose childfree or motherhood. Even when it isn't reciprocated

— TouchstoneZ (@Zoie)

Just because you choose to be #childfree doesn't mean you should hate children and those that choose to have them. #liveandletlive

— Faeries517 (@Windy Day)

Like the Time cover, today’s Twitter argument illustrated that if you want to get people riled up, discussing breastfeeding is a great way to do it. Though one guy did manage to keep a sense of humor:

The worst thing about being #childfree is I have to get my own beer. IT'S THE REASON I HAD KIDS IN THE FIRST PLACE

— Bigmadz (@Bigmadz)

Update: Asked to comment on the discussion around her avatar, Arwyn responded via Twitter: “For the record, there was no discussion. [Julie] trolled me with anti-breastfeeding bigotry, I blocked and then had fun with my friends, both moms and childfree.” Julie, also via Twitter, wrote “‘discussion’ seems generous. The echange going on is ‘moms are special’ and ‘no theyre not.’”

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