Mastectomy campaigner slams Facebook for banning breast cancer posts

Mastectomy campaigner says Facebook is sexist for banning breast cancer posts while allowing This Morning’s testicle exam to be shared

  • Jay Walker from Bolton blasted ‘double standards’ after her posts were removed 
  • Comes after Chris Hughes’ testicle exam on This Morning was shared on site 
  • Ms Walker, 39, was even instructed to remove the logo of her campaign group
  • Logo uses punctuation to symbolise breasts and was condemned for ‘nudity’ 

A mastectomy campaigner branded Facebook sexist after it banned breast cancer posts – despite allowing Chris Hughes’ testicle exam on This Morning to be shared.

Jay Walker blasted ‘double standards’ after the site allowed clips of the Love Island star’s examination while vetoing her patient advice group’s attempts to boost ads.

The 39-year-old from Bolton claims her group was told their logo ‘contained nudity’ because it uses punctuation to symbolise post-surgery breasts.

The (-) (*)ASTECTOMY NETWORK logo represents a scarred breast after a mastectomy. The brackets call to mind the shape of breasts, the hyphen depicts a breast without a nipple and the asterisk portrays a nipple.

Jay Walker (pictured, left, posing in lingerie to encourage others post-mastectomy and, right, straight after her surgery last year) has branded Facebook sexist after two years of her awareness-raising posts being removed by the social media site 

The campaigner said that she supported Chris Hughes’ This Morning testicle exam (pictured, the exam on November 28) being shared on the site but questioned why her own attempts to raise awareness were banned 

After repeatedly quizzing moderators on the bans, Ms Walker received generic responses claiming Facebook doesn’t allow ads that ‘depict nudity, even if it isn’t sexual in nature’.

Even a post-op picture of her chest showing the stitches on her breast was removed after she shared it to show how minimal the scarring was.

Ms Walker, from Greater Manchester, said: ‘Facebook have decided that due to our logo containing “nudity” we are unable to promote the page or the private support group.

‘The issue seems to be all of the logo – two brackets, a hyphen and an asterisk. It was designed to be quite subtle but obviously to represent a scarred breast. I can’t believe anyone would think the logo is sexualised.

‘When I’ve replied asking Facebook to clarify what the problem is with the logo, which part of it, they haven’t come back to me.’

Ms Walker (pictured, last year, straight after her double mastectomy) has branded Facebook ‘sexist’

She set up Mastectomy Network on Facebook in 2016 to offer others going through the procedure support just seven weeks after having an elective double mastectomy.

The campaigner underwent a preventative mastectomy at the age of 36 having watched her mother battle breast cancer twice and knowing two paternal great aunts died from the disease.

Although not diagnosed with the BRCA mutation, the genetics team explained she may be at risk of an undiagnosed genetic mutation, only cementing her decision to undergo surgery.

Ms Walker said: ‘It was a no-brainer, having watched my mum go through breast cancer the first time, have a couple of scares before being diagnosed again in 2001.

‘I knew then I didn’t want to go through what she did before knowing about the gene and went down to surgery like a kid on Christmas Eve, I was so excited to get it done. I had an overwhelming feeling of relief when I woke up.’

Mastectomy Network’s public page signposts people to a private support group where users can air any concerns and share post-op pictures for reassurance.

But since Ms Walker’s post-op pic was removed, she has blurred her nipples out of any uploads.

‘Since sharing that picture I’ve had to be careful to blur my nipples out,’ she said. ‘It’s particularly annoying as the surgery was around the nipple. I just wanted to show others how I looked after surgery and reassure other women.’

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Since having numerous pictures deleted and being banned from the site over the last two years she shared a Facebook post, which read: ‘So, it’s ok to show and share testicles, but not a female nipple. Or even the slightest suggested of a female nipple* Ok then.

‘FTR [for the record] I totally support This Morning and their awareness video (guys, please check yourself regularly) just appalled at the blatant sexism employed by Facebook’s Community Standards.’

Even in private group chats Jay claims Facebook is deleting post-operative scar pictures, both with and without nipples, and mainstream articles about breast cancer.

She said: ‘I’m 100 per cent behind the This Morning testicle exam, it’s brilliant, and anything to help end the stigma around checking yourself can only be a good thing but it does feel very sexist.

‘Every single time I try and boost a post or when I share a link I can’t. In the closed, private group there are regular bans where people’s photos are removed using automatic software recognition.

Even Miss Walker’s campaign group name (pictured, above, the name uses punctuation to mimic a pair of breasts post-mastectomy) has come under fire for sharing nudity on the site

‘The main public page is for sharing information and support group is completely closed and private.

‘It’s a private space for people to be able to discuss upcoming operations and share images afterwards, for example checking if something looks ‘normal’ or whether they need further medical attention or the cosmetic appearance before and after the operation.

‘It’s not sexualised or for titillation. We see Facebook regularly banning women just for sharing their own post-op images with each other and would urge them to reconsider what they deem offensive.

‘By doing this they are furthering this misconception that breasts are sexual.

‘Yes they can be, but that’s not what they are all about. They could do so much to destigmatise this issue but are just strengthening them and endorsing this ridiculous old-fashioned idea that breasts can’t be seen.

Ms Walker (pictured, left) slammed the social media site (right) for cutting her off from her support network after she had the surgery last year  

‘You see men walk down the street with no tops on with their nipples out no problem, there’s obviously a time and a place, but by deleting this photos and banning women they are helping these double standards.

‘The only dangerous nipple is a cancerous one, and it doesn’t care what gender you are.’

Despite the social media giant investing in additional moderators, Ms Walker says the issue could easily be sorted by her and her team of voluntary moderators.

‘Facebook claim to have taken on extra moderators who have had mastectomy training,’ she said. ‘It beggars belief that these pictures are still being picked up by software, there’s no pornographic element.

‘Facebook allows graphic violence, hangings of women and children, beheading videos, graphic animal cruelty and all they do is cover themselves by putting a cover on it.

‘I’d be more than happy to do that on the group, whether it’s sharing news article or pictures, I think it’s ridiculous not to apply the same standards.

‘They could automatically apply filters and the moderators could check everyone’s posts before allowing them to be published. We’re only targeting women in the UK aged between 25 and 65, so no under-18s.

‘All we want to do is help other women make better informed decisions about their bodies.’

The campaigner highlighted the importance of Facebook as a tool for easily sharing information to a vast audience cheaply.

‘Facebook is so useful and important,’ she said. ‘So many people already have it and can easily find support groups on there.

‘People might be dubious of going to a website they’ve never heard and I can’t afford to have brochures and fancy leaflets.

‘Facebook keep giving me this ad credit and I think ‘great, I can get this certain article out to people’ then I can’t.

‘When they wouldn’t let me boost a post about an article, they can’t have been complaining about the article as it was on the BBC and in the nationals.

‘I just get the same response, it’s so infuriating. It’d be great to have a conversation with someone about it. It must be because of the logo.’

Discussing how to help women prepare for a mastectomy after a breast cancer diagnosis, Carolyn Rogers, Clinical Nurse Specialist at Breast Cancer Care, said: ‘Women with breast cancer regularly call our Helpline to find out about preparing for a mastectomy or reconstructive surgery and they tell us that knowing what to expect makes all the difference.

‘It is absolutely crucial that everyone with a life-changing breast cancer diagnosis has access to all the information and support they need, both from experts and others who’ve been there.’

A Facebook spokesperson said: ‘Whilst adult nudity isn’t allowed on Facebook, we do make exceptions including for posts which are clearly intended as medical or educational.

‘This can include images of post-mastectomy scarring. The judgements we make when we apply our policies are incredibly nuanced, and our teams review millions of pieces of content every day. We’re currently investigating the posts and ads shared with us.’


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