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Breastfeeding backlash August 6, 2006

Posted by table4five in BlogHer, Family, Parenting, personal thoughts.

That’s right, I said BREAST. I apologize if that makes this post NSFW for you, or if your work email filters won’t let you read it at all. But we all have ’em, and we need to talk about them.
There is a controversy swirling around the latest cover of BabyTalk magazine, which shows the profile of an infant in the act of breastfeeding.

This is one of those hot-button issues in which mothers seem to be damned if they do and damned if they don’t. Pregnancy and Parenting books and magazines are full of information about why and how to breastfeed. Women fight to have private nursing rooms set aside for them at their workplaces. But what are you supposed to do if you want to actually leave your workplace or home and go somewhere in public? Consider this excerpt from an article at CBSnews.com:

“It’s a new age,” says Melinda Johnson, a registered dietitian and spokesperson for ADA. “With the government really getting behind breast-feeding, it’s been a jumping-off point for mothers to be politically active. Mommies are organizing. It’s a new trend to be a mommy activist.”

Ultimately, it seems to be a highly personal matter. Caly Wood says she’s “all for breast-feeding in public.” She recalls with a shudder the time she sat nursing in a restaurant booth, and another woman walked by, glanced over and said, “Ugh, gross.”

“My kid needed to eat,” says the 29-year-old from South Abingdon, Mass. And she wasn’t going to go hide in a not-so-clean restroom: “I don’t send people to the bathroom when THEY want to eat,” she says.
That is exactly right. And as for the magazine cover, people do realize that the image was chosen for effect rather than accuracy, right? I have never seen a woman at a restaurant take her top off in order to give Baby unfettered access. There may sometimes be the occasional flash of skin, especially with older babies that like to pull at clothing while eating, but I doubt any nursing mother is intentionally trying to show her breast to the general public.

The best quote I have seen or heard anywhere on this topic has to come from Suebob‘s Mr. Stapler, who had this reaction to seeing the magazine cover and hearing about the controversy:

Suebob: It’s ok for other magazine covers to show women with their skirts up to their heez and their plastic boobs covered with 2-inch wide fabric strips…”

Mr. S: “Yeah. And this…It is someone EATING. It is a baby. It is the most natural human thing on earth. If people can’t get that, if they can’t get past that it is a breast, God help us all. I mean seriously. If they can’t get past that, we have no hope. No hope.”

A virtual standing ovation to Mr. Stapler, for saying “It is someone EATING.” I strongly encourage you to read the rest of the post, entited “Why We Love Mr. Stapler”. What this world needs is more men like him.

I found a link on the Huffington Post to a blog post written by Susie Bright.(Careful, this site is definitely NSFW) Ms. Bright is an author and teacher of women’s sexual issues, especially as they relate to politics. She was one of the leaders of a BlogHer session called “Let’s Talk About Sex.” And while the post she wrote pertains to BlogHer, I felt that she made a lot of points that can be applied to the breastfeeding issue. For example:

Remember when AOL shut down the chat room for breast cancer survivors, because they used the word “breast”?

And yes, we watch the news about children being bombed to bits, skin flambeing off their bones, because it’s all Absolutely Safe for Work, as long as you don’t show any woman’s tits.

Why are women nursing their children considered a prelude to a sex panic?

Every time a woman’s blog proclaims her intellect, her sexuality, and her nurture — all on the same page– she has diced the dominant paradigm.

The hand that blogs the cradle informs the world –this, the blog-her generation, is the crux of women’s liberation that I thought had passed its due date.

Another standing ovation, please, for that last sentence. I have been murmuring “The hand that blogs the cradle informs the world” to myself ever since I read it. I would like to put in on a t-shirt, a button, a bumper sticker. I would like to drop a few thousand leaflets printed with it from an airplane.

Damn it, it is like women’s liberation is moving in reverse. And we, women bloggers, have the power to stop it. Whether you are a Mother or not, you should be concerned that the sight of a photograph of the SIDE of a woman’s breast is causing so much controversy. My next post will be about BlogHer backlash, and how the sight of both a condom and a baby’s bib in the free totebag is causing even more controversy. I can’t be silent about this, and I can’t write a few sentences in which I once again invoke the Golden Rule and ask why we can’t all get along. Nope, this time, I got things to say, and thanks to the Internet, I got a place to say them. Stay tuned.



1. Lanna - August 6, 2006

Over here nodding…

2. tori - August 6, 2006

When my youngest was a baby, I actually boycotted Burger King because a woman was arrested there for breastfeeding. We have been there now, but I stayed away for over 8 years because of this issue!

3. chris - August 6, 2006

excellent post, Elizabeth.

I look forward to reading your next post on the bib and condom controversy.

4. Fraulein N - August 7, 2006

Is this an American thing, this fear of sex? And I say this as someone who grew up in a very Victorian household when it came to sexual mores. That experience left me with a lot of sexual hang-ups and erroneous preconceived notions that I’m even now shedding. So even though my gut reaction is discomfort, I welcome a more open society. Grow up, America.

And I’m also looking forward to hearing about the bib and condom controversy. What the hell?

5. joy - August 7, 2006

absolutely! the whole thing makes me shake my head in frustration–especially knowing that i’ll be back on the BF wagon pretty soon (did you know that the “mother’s room” at the Lansing Mall has been coopted by teens for… (well, you can guess).

i appreciate having a mother’s room to nurse, but sure as hell–if it’s not available, i will be plonking myself down on the sofas and feeding my baby–and no, this will not involve me disrobing to the waist. for nipple action curious observers are going to need to get very up close and personal, at which stage i will have decked them with the diaper bag…

GREAT meeting you on Sat (have a post brewing on that and other connected matters). thanks for tolerating my son so well (hmmm, chocolate, marshmallows, and big boys to chase him–can anyone say HYPER???). Your kids are such a credit to you, I have to say!:)

6. Mommy off the Record - August 7, 2006

Great post. I completely agree that women should have the right to breastfeed in public and, as for the cover, I don’t get why WOMEN especially have such an issue with it. I actually just posted on this very topic the other day. It really pisses me off.

And the more I think about it the more I also feel that, while I choose to bf discreetly in public, I don’t feel that women should feel like they have to bf discreetly. If they don’t have a cover up and have to lift their shirt to nurse, then what’s the big deal? It’s a breast, people. Get over it. I wouldn’t care if my 13-year-old sees a woman’s breast while she’s breastfeeding or not (referring to the CNN article). If he did see it, I’d use that as a teaching moment to educate him that breasts are not primarly sexual objects–their main purpose is to feed babies. I think by making it such a BIG deal, we are telling our kids to be ashamed of it. And that, I think, does more harm then good.

7. TB - August 7, 2006

I HAVE seen women topless and breastfeeding in public and while it was a little unusual, no one made a big deal about it. But of course that’s because of the context. I think all of us would do well to spend more time with people who don’t think this is a big deal. Because it’s not.
And it sucks that social mores have made it so.

8. Chantal - August 8, 2006

Darn. I had a long response to this. I swear I posted it and now it’s not here. I think I was reasonably well spoken and witty too. LOL

Basically, I agreed with you wholeheartedly. I’m a strong lactivist. Never went to great lengths to cover up (The baby’s head was always a pretty good cover up for me) and responded as such to anyone who seemed to have a problem with it.

9. lunamynx - August 8, 2006

Great post Elizabeth. When I was breastfeeding I was petrified to do it in public, because of fear of public reaction. I hated this and myself for caring and not being able to overcome it. A week ago we saw a woman breastfeeding in a grocery aisle in Super Wal-Mart. Bravo to her and every other confident breastfeeding woman!!

I am forever unable to understand what it is exactly that makes the “breast” acceptable to media as long as the dreadful “nipple” is not showing. If it is just the nipple, then why don’t men have to wear those little round bandaids? Really the nipples aren’t all that different… I just don’t get it. People are freaks.

10. Arabella - August 8, 2006

Wait a minute….you mean breasts aren’t just for selling stuff???

11. Azzurra - November 4, 2006

Buon luogo, congratulazioni, il mio amico!

12. sean - December 31, 2006

Hi…i just wanna say that i happen to be 100% against breastfeeding in public because its sexually obscene plus its indecent exposure. Public breastfeeding is a primative behaviour which shows that we are not much different than Animals, we as a society needs to stop abandoning common sense that public breastfeeding is indecent behaviour and quit looking at this whole issue as womens rights political correctness Bull****. The trouble with our society is that its too liberal, we live in a liberal free society that teaches us as a new generation to be rude and impolite and to make it ok to be rude and impolite which is what public breastfeeding is. A liberal society is miseducating a new generation to socially accept this indecent, lowclass, primative behaviour to where we are becoming more like ignorant savages and plus lose a civilized society with no moral values. These liberal womens rights lactivist are doing everything they can to indoctrinate a new generation in the 21th century of the bad ways which we should look at as social mores. Lactivist are a poison to this country and they set a bad example for all breastfeeding stay-at-home-moms, the ideal traditional conservative breastfeeding mother, usually stays at home with her children to breastfeed, or to show some class by breastfeeding her baby in a restaurant bathroom to show some honor and respect for all restaurant customers. Any women who has class would do that, public breastfeeding needs to be banned in all 50 states to make America a decent more civilized country with good moral values since the pilgrims came out here. Public indecent exposure such as breastfeeding in public is eroding our society, which is contributing this moral breakdown in our society. A society who believes in manners and decency would and can make a difference by signing petitions to have laws passed to make public indecent exposure illegal such as public breastfeeding by getting involved in the Republican convention. Public breastfeeding is a ugly, shameful, dirty, sexually explicit act that makes all women look bad and makes the ideal traditional conservative breastfeeding mother look bad. Public indecent exposure is whats hurting the moral fabrics of America’s values , because it used to be at one time or a nother that breastfeeding was done behind closed doors and remained a mystery. People knew about breastfeeding back in the 1920’s, 1930’s, 1940’s, 1950’s and 1960’s era, it just wasnt veiwed out in public to push it in our face sort of thing which gave women a sense of dignity, decency and class. I dont have a problem at all with breastfeeding or nursing in public, i only support nursing in public, but only with the acception of a babybottle, just not THERE KIND of nursing in public of how Lactivist want it to be as an arrogant push-it-in-your-face-boobs sort of attitude. Like i already said before, lactivist dont set good examples for every breastfeeding women out there, they are bad role models for every idealistic conservative, traditional stay-at-home breastfeeding mother out there. Lactivist are hateful (make-trouble-for-you-people) bunch of scumbag militant groups that have really made a big embarrasment for all decent breastfeeding mothers out there and made a big embarrasment for themselves. These nurse-in-mother lactivist need to be repelled from our society and deserve a shot of pepper spray in there eyes for making business hard for Delta company when they sit around with no life to hold up signs for a big demonstration all because some lowclass trash like Emily Gillette couldnt take responsibilitys for her actions to use discretion or to take it to a bathroom. Public breastfeeding does tend to creepout restaurant-store customers and also makes business look bad, it gives a restaurant-store establishment a bad image. Women should feel a sense of shame, embarrasment, awkwardness and feeling out of place before doing something discraceful like that. If our screwy liberal government and senators are having legislation passed to have public indecent exposure such as public breastfeed legal just about anywhere including the workforce, how long will it be till laws are being passed to urinate-defacate in public. In france its perfectly legal to urinate in public and could very well be like that in America with the rate of socially accepting public breastfeeding to be a social norm

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