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The Problem With ‘Traditional African’ Breasts Vs. ‘Western’ Breasts

Story from: 2oceansvibe.com

By now you’ve probably heard about Free the Nipple, and most of the time we see that battle playing out via an overseas model’s Instagram account.

There’s also a battle over breasts being fought here at home, and it’s also taking place on social media.

Turns out these channels want to treat ‘western’ breasts and ‘traditional African’ breasts the same way, but that’s not really going to cut it when you consider traditional gatherings and cultural practices.

The Mail & Guardian spoke to Nobukhosi Mtshali, a student at Wits University, and found out how her experience with the likes of Facebook and YouTube have become an attack on her culture:

Like most university students, Mtshali and her friends are active on social media, and they would enthusiastically share images and videos of themselves singing and dancing on sites like YouTube and Facebook.

But they noticed that something strange was happening to many of the videos that showed their bare breasts: they were being marked as “age-restricted” by YouTube, or taken down entirely, as if the content was somehow sexual in nature.

“The last Reed Dance, we got all excited, we wanted to show off. I could tell you that half of the girls…say their images had been taken down. You get this message saying your images are inappropriate,” she said.

For Mtshali this is a direct attack on her culture – and also a threat to the longevity of its traditions. “As black South Africans, we’ve always been told our culture is uncivilised, our culture is backward. Because of social media platforms reinforcing these stereotypes it becomes harder. As a young person why would you want to celebrate something that is constantly being mocked on social media platforms?”

Mtshali is far from alone in her frustration, and Lazi Dlamini knows all about YouTube’s approach to women baring breasts:

Dlamini is the head of TV Yabantu, an online video production company that aims to produce content that “protects, preserves and restores African values”.

…beginning in April last year, YouTube started slapping age restrictions on cultural content that featured bare-breasted women. Over 50 videos were affected. Viewer and subscriber numbers plummeted because the channel was now much harder to access.

At the same time, this content was labelled as “not suitable for most advertisers”, which hit TV Yabantu’s bottom line…

“They started removing advertising from our videos, then the views started dropping, the revenues started dropping,” said Dlamini. “We don’t care about the revenues, we care about the insult to our culture.”

Dlamini contacted Google, who own YouTube, but the company maintained that “the content violated the platform’s community standards”.

It was that rebuttal that really spurred him into action, with a series of marches against Google planned in South Africa and Swaziland.

The first march took place in Durban over the weekend, which is where this image below comes from:


Dlamini is continuing the fight against Google, claiming the company is “an organisation that perpetrates racism, and oppression of black people, beliefs, culture and values”.

Mtshali isn’t done, either:

“I, as a South African, want to celebrate my culture. Having my photos labelled as inappropriate or regarded as porn, I take that as a direct attack on my cultural heritage. I take it as a sign of ignorance. If I’m posing in a sexually suggestive manner that is one thing, but if I’m posting pictures of me standing there in my traditional attire, that is a completely different context,” she said.

“It gets so frustrating, so maddening to talk about it. You can shake your boobs in a music video and it’s fine, because its normalised. But you see a woman just standing there with their boobs out and then, oh, it’s offensive.”


The Mail & Guardian do add this as a postscript to their story:

Subsequent to publication, the M&G received the following from a representative for Google: “Google says it has lifted the restriction on the videos that were age-restricted as it is not its policy to restrict nudity in such instances where it is culturally or traditionally appropriate.”

I suppose it’s a start.


This post is from 2oceansvibe.com. Click here to read the full text

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