Years ago, Heather and Thomas Whitten's one-year-old Fox suffered a bout of salmonella poisoning. The toddler was vomiting, had diarrhea, and was in the throes of a fever. So, for hours, Thomas sat in the shower with Fox hoping that the water would help ease his fever.
The tender moment between father and child was captured by Whitten herself, who is a part-time birth photographer. Recently, she posted the photo on Facebook, where it quickly went viral. Many were moved by the touching image, but many others felt that it was vulgar and should not have been shared with the public.
But perhaps most outrageous of all is that Facebook sided with the latter group, removing the photo not once, but twice from the platform.
Facebook's move prompted an avalanche of backlash and calls on social media for the website to reinstate the photo. After much internet pressure, Facebook reversed its decision, telling New York Magazine that the picture should not have been taken down in the first place.
"This photo was mistakenly removed by our team and does not violate our Community Standards," a Facebook spokesperson told NY Mag. "We are sorry for this mistake and have restored the photo to the page."
Whitten's long note accompanying the photo also addressed the controversy:
I was taken aback by how many people missed the story or didn't even look past the nudity to find the story. They were just hung up on them both being nude and being in the shower. I had crossed a line. It was too intimate. It shouldn't be shared publicly. But, I disagree. My family may be different than yours. But, that doesn't make your way right or my way wrong. You may never take images of your family like I do... you may never share images of your family like I do. But, that doesn't give you the right to silence my voice. To take away my right to share our experiences in an uncensored way. There is nothing sexual or exploitative about this image. There aren't even any "private parts" showing.
The negative comments on the photo aside, social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram have been embroiled in similar issues with their policies on nudity. The knee-jerk reaction to photos like Whitten's points to the over-sexualization of the human body — especially women's bodies. Instagram, in particular, has faced criticism for deeming female nipples vulgar, while men's are allowed to stay on the app. The policy sparked the wildly popular social media campaign #FreeTheNipple that saw support from stars like Chrissy Teigen and Miley Cyrus.