It’s 2016 and people still get excited over breastfeeding. Men, women and babies. While hungry infants are excited for all the right reasons, in the second decade of the twenty-first century, adult men and women are still getting their metaphorical knickers in a twist over whether or not a woman should use her mammaries for feeding a baby, and even more relevantly, whether she should do so in public.
It is astounding and disappointing that this conversation is even happening. It is disturbing that people still shame women for being responsible; that is, providing her child with nutritional goodness when the baby actually needs it, not half an hour later when the mother can find a suitably clean and sanitary toilet to cower in with her breast barely exposed, if at all.
Recently, a photo posted on the CFA (Country Fire Authority) Facebook page of a breastfeeding volunteer firefighter caused a huge stir, with the typical media reaction. A Spanish politician caused an outcry after breastfeeding her baby in parliament. A café in Queensland allegedly ‘unfairly’ copped a social media grilling after ‘the woman who was breastfeeding was not courteous enough to minimize her exposure.’ These aren’t isolated incidences. In January 2015, a restaurant owner, in denying his staff asked a breastfeeding customer to leave, said that if a woman was breastfeeding ‘we would find a quiet corner for them so it doesn’t bother anyone else.’
Why is it that women who breastfeed their babies in public, or share photos of breastfeeding on social media, are practically accused of committing an act of gross indecency? Why are they being publicly sidelined for the sensitivities of other people who are offended by a perfectly natural thing?
Why, in 2016, do people still have an issue with breasts?
Of course, the loudest detractors insist they are not anti-public-breastfeeding or indeed, not anti-breastfeeding at all. Apparently they just don’t like women exposing themselves or being exhibitionists.
It appears that the condemnation is not for feeding a child with a breast (because that would be so politically incorrect), the condemnation is for doing it in such a way as to publicly draw attention to the fact the mother is breastfeeding.
But it doesn’t seem to matter if there is flesh showing or not, there are still cries from men and women alike, for the mother to cover up, be ‘decent’, stop exposing herself and have some modesty.
The reality is, the vast majority of women do not breastfeed their babies in public because they want to display their breasts to the world. They do not do so to elicit a sexual response from men salivating over the mere thought of a soft, pliable, fleshy boob. Women do not eagerly request someone photograph them breastfeeding because they are desperate to share an image of their breast flesh with every man, woman and child for their own personal gratification.
The vast majority of women do not breastfeed their babies in public because they want to announce to the world that they are YAY! BREASTFEEDING. They are not making a public statement. They are not doing it to rub it in the faces of women who cannot breastfeed. They are not making a self-righteous point about how ‘breast is best’ and therefore how much more responsible and caring they are as mothers than parents who bottle feed. They are not attempting to elicit a negative response so they can storm back to their social media accounts and cry ‘discrimination’ (by the way, it is perfectly legal in Australia to breastfeed in public.)
Astoundingly, the vast majority of women who breastfeed their baby anywhere, do so because their baby is hungry or needs comforting.
That is it.
Yet non-private breastfeeding still brings out a swarm of whingers, whiners and holier-than-thou critics, who seem to find the sight of a nursing mother more offensive than leaving a child to scream and starve.
The condescending, patronising and downright rude comments from men and women alike implies that feeding a child in a completely natural and normal way is morally repugnant and akin to engaging in a public display of pornography.
It is astonishing that in 2016, a woman providing an infant with a healthy meal still causes such a stir.
The main reason, it seems, is society’s perception of ‘decency’, and the inability of some people to see breasts as anything other than sexual things.
The whole concept of ‘exhibitionism’: extravagant behaviour that is intended to attract attention to oneself, seems to have been taken off the stage and applied to mothers who are doing what mothers do; feed their babies.
Yes, breasts may be considered sexual organs. However it is ridiculous that in 2016, displaying breast flesh, or even alluding to the fact a woman has breasts, is still only acceptable if it can be sexualised in some form. It is even more disturbing that people cannot differentiate between breasts as functional baby-feeders, and something to attract a mate.
People barely bat an eyelid at breasts in a bikini. Breasts cupped in a well-fitting, supportive and shaped bra nestled beneath a smart, yet low cut blouse. Pictures of breasts in silky, sleek lingerie plastered along shopping centre walls. These are all okay.
But breasts in the mouth of a hungry child? Outrageous.
“I breastfed all my children,” tap the self-righteous women, the introduction to prove they are not, per se, anti-breastfeeding, “but I did it discretely, with my baby’s head covered in a crocheted quilt, hiding behind a wall of pot-plants. I didn’t exhibit myself and flaunt my naked nipples to other women’s husbands in a desperate attempt to show them my swollen, milk-filled mammaries and entice them away from their wives. I had self-respect back in my day.”
“I too breastfed my child,” chips in another pious anti-exhibitionist. “But I don’t want my children to see that. I don’t want my husband to see that. It’s just not necessary to flaunt them and flop them around.”
“I just don’t feel comfortable staring at breasts”, sniffs another.
These sanctimonious critics might as well say, “OMG! She’s deliberately exposing herself for the sexual gratification of me/my husband/that man over there who will work himself into a masturbatory frenzy over her exposed flesh! And not only that, she is making all women look like shameless whores because she has her BREASTS out!”
What gives any man or woman the right to tell another woman how and where she should and should not feed her child?
Breastfeeding in itself, is not ‘making a statement’. A photo of a breastfeeding mother should attract no more attention than a family Santa photo.
Breastfeeding in public is not exhibitionism. It is not a public display of vaginal knitting – and even the vaginal knitting exhibition in question was not for external validation.
It is ridiculous that mothers who breastfeed are still expected to stay at home, cover up, or sit in a corner so as to not offend people with their breasts. Mothers are volunteer firefighters, politicians, professionals, community members, and, unbelievably to some, completely normal people. The Department of Health recommends babies are exclusively breastfed until 6 months of age, and continued up to 12 months or longer if the mother and baby wish. Yet in Australia, by the time a baby is four months old, less than 40% of women still breastfeed and by 6 months, less than 15% of babies have breast milk. Many women struggle with breastfeeding, and it is disgusting that mothers are subject to negative community attitudes instead of support in the first year of their baby’s life.
It is long past the time for people to stop being offended by breastfeeding, and it is time for people to stop manufacturing offence on behalf of others. Almost every single Australian child, teenager, and adult man and woman has seen a breast at some point in their lives – their own mother’s, their own, their wife or girlfriend’s. If a person has ever gone to a sunny beach or swimming pool, they have seen as much breast flesh, if not more, than that which is displayed when breastfeeding. And if a mother flashes a little bit more? Why does it matter?
If the smugly righteous prudes cannot handle the sight of a suckling child, or the overly-sexed perverts feel they cannot control their sexual urges if they catch sight of breast flesh pressed against the cheek of a hungry baby, the issue is with them, not the mother. The solution for the offended is incredibly simple – just don’t look.