A Twitch streamer has some of the platform's more toxic members riled up after she breastfed her baby during a livestream.
Heather Kent is known as HeatheredEffect on Twitch, where she does live ASMR streams and chats with her audience. Recently, she had her friend, a fellow model, on her channel for a chat about when they both auditioned for Sports Illustrated.
Kent also has a 1-year-old daughter, Margaux. She usually streams at night once her four kids are asleep — but in this case her friend was only available in the day, during Margaux's feeding time.
"She’s my fourth child, and breastfeeding really isn’t a big deal to me," Kent told BuzzFeed News.
She checked Twitch's community guidelines beforehand, which ban "nudity and sexually explicit content or activities, such as pornography, sexual acts or intercourse, and sexual services." She figured that breastfeeding, not being a sexual activity, would be fine.
"I was kind of just using it as a test to see if my community would freak out," she said. She hoped that if things went well, she could normalize it and stream herself breastfeeding in the future. She even considered raising money for a children's charity during World Breastfeeding Week.
Her own community of streamers didn't bat an eye during the stream, but things changed when a friend made a clip of the stream titled "normalize breastfeeding."
Not long after, Twitch deleted it, along with other clips from the stream. Kent called Twitch out on Twitter, and that's when things blew up.
"A lot of people who don’t even have kids decided to chime in with their opinions about breastfeeding," she said.
Soon she was inundated with misogynist comments, mostly from men, and the clip was also posted on Reddit. The comments accused her of using her baby as an excuse to expose her breast and gain sexual attention. Others said that women on Twitch would start having babies just so they can have nudity in their stream.
Basically, the comments fell into the common, sexist stereotype that all women on platforms like Twitch are just there to use their sexuality to get money and attention. In addition, there were people who said they support public breastfeeding — just not on Twitch.
"A lot of the things that people were saying in the beginning were really hurting my feelings because I've never gone through anything like this before," she said.
The comments were also hypocritical, she said, because Twitch once streamed episodes of Mister Rogers' Neighborhood, including a segment that had a close-up shot of a baby latching on to its mother's nipple.
"It was way more explicit than anything you saw on my stream," said Kent. "To my knowledge no one made a big deal about that then."
Eventually, Twitch stopped deleting the clips from her profile, but it never gave her an answer to why they were removed in the first place, or what its official policy is. Twitch has also not returned BuzzFeed News' request for comment.
"I'm hoping that Twitch will update its terms of service or community guidelines, like Facebook and Instagram and other platforms, saying, 'We’re OK with a woman who’s actively breastfeeding,'" Kent said.
Although it was mostly trolls at first, Kent said the incident also drew supporters, including other moms who stream.
"I've had multiple people messaging me, thanking me for standing up for this," she said.
"This is actually helping some people."