Nov 13, 2011

Breast cancer survivor's photo of bodypainted breasts called porn by Facebook, by Eva Rinaldi

'Lifes a Beach' and 'Growth & Contrast' (Credit: Breast Cancer Awareness Body Painting Project)

It's the old art VS pornography debate, with a new spin on things - breast cancer.

Ellen Gondola had breast cancer. Then one day, years later, the courageous mother stood topless in an artist's studio and allowed her breast to be bodypainted, her cancer scars blanketed with bamboo and butterflies. She'd never felt so beautiful.

But internet giant Facebook called it pornography, inappropriate nudity, a violation of the terms of use. The social networking king took her photo down, as well as the encouraging comments beneath it.

This case reminds me of something Facebook did to some of my artistic works a few years ago, only this time FB is screwing around with a women who survived cancer has who has ties to many worthy causes and charities.

Facebook rule No. 7: You will not post content that: is hateful, threatening, or pornographic; incites violence; or contains nudity or graphic or gratuitous violence.

Gondola had joined a cause, the Fort Lauderdale-based Breast Cancer Awareness Body Painting Project, which has a group page on Facebook. Now she's part of a second cause, the Facebook "No-Censor Petition."

At least twenty-four other breast cancer survivors have posed and posted topless like she did. Most of their images have been taken down, too, creator and photographer Michael Colanero said, citing "puritanical" resistance from Facebook users who flagged the images as inappropriate.

Colanero said he hasn't been able to reach anyone at Facebook to appeal, though he said he and 10 others have tried. Facebook has made it harder to complain in recent years, and users often don't get a reply from the social internet portal company.

"It's no more than you'd see at the beach or a chilly mall with a woman with a silk blouse on," said Colanero, owner of a local art gallery.

Gondola said she was sickened over it; her photo was taken down twice.

"There's men on the same site that can be topless," she complained. " … Those men with what we call 'moobs,' or male boobs, those big tattoos across their chest, why is that OK?"

Facebook officials couldn't be reached, despite an email and phone call to the network's media relations office. The social media firm previously has taken down photographs of women breast-feeding their children as well as other artistic bodypainting photos.

A 47-year-old, Gondola got breast cancer when she was in her 20s and wanted young women to know it can occur when you're young.

While some of the other women who modeled no longer have nipples, or have had disfiguring surgeries, Gondola advised she has minimal scarring.

"But it still affects your body image," she said. "It does something to a woman. That's all I can say."

Through the Facebook page, she said she's met women whose husbands left them after they underwent mastectomies, telling their wives, "I can't handle this. You look like a freak."

Beneath the images, some of which Colanero has reposted, women who've had cancer said the photographs made them feel much better about their breasts and bodies overall.

"This project has helped me heal in ways that words can not express," one woman wrote, describing herself as a recent cancer survivor.

"I watched this project help my friend reclaim her power," another woman wrote.

One of the participant models wrote that the project "restored my life, my femininity & my courage to go on."

"Don't silence us," wrote another one of the women who posed. "Don't censor us."

After her painting session, Gondola remembers the feeling she got.

"I wore it home, and I ripped off my shirt and I paraded in front of my daughter," she recounted. "She was so proud of me. That was an amazing feeling."

The project has secured some local, state, national and international television, magazine and newspaper coverage. Colanero says ultimately, he is hopeful of raising money selling the images, so he can contribute to a breast cancer charity.

The project already has done wonders. Gondola says its brought hundreds of survivors together online.

"We're showing women going through the hardest time of their life that there's beauty at the other end," she said.

This publication commends the wonderful work being done by the cancer survivors and urges Facebook to lift its game or have another chequered mark on its brand.


Breast Cancer Awareness Body Painting Project (BCABPP) Facebook

Breast Cancer Awareness Body Painting Project

Eva Rinaldi Photography Flickr

Human Statue BodyArt