In her job as a professional portrait photographer, Toronto mom Heather Bays focuses on images of mothers and babies. But when she turned the camera on herself, Instagram revolted.
In April, Bays posted a photo of herself breastfeeding her 2-year-old daughter Audrey to the popular photo-sharing service. A tasteful black-and-white shot, the image was similar to many others posted on mothering blogs around the Web.
"I posted [the photo] because my daughter is 20 months old, so she's weaning right now," Bays told CTV News. "These days are very sentimental."
But the photo drew the ire of one anonymous commenter, who left a comment calling it "not cool." When Bays retorted that it was "so cool," she began receiving notifications that users had reported her image as inappropriate. Over Mother's Day weekend, her entire account was deleted.
"We agree that breastfeeding is natural and beautiful and we're glad to know that it's important for mothers to share their experiences with others on Instagram," the social network states on its guidelines page. Instagram says that it allows "the vast majority" of these photos, and only bans images that show "a fully exposed breast where the child isn't actively engaged in nursing."
Bays' image seemed to meet this criteria, but she says the company stonewalled her when she petitioned to have her account reinstated. Instead, she took to social media.
First, Bays put a call for help on her Facebok page. Then she started a new Instagram account, @Save_HeatherBays, which attempted to shame Instagram into giving her the account back.
The campaign attracted the notice of Canadian media, from Global News to CTV. The public outcry worked – Bays' account was reinstated on Monday.
However, she says the company deleted all images of her daughter's bare torso, allegedly telling her they could be classified as child pornography.
On her Facebook page, Bays says she's glad to have started a dialogue over the issue.
"Lots of people are debating and that is a good thing. Things will change!" she wrote on Tuesday.
"Women are still fighting for equality, and we're very slowly getting there. We will continue to fight. And that's why this world is so afraid of women!"