Thursday, September 13, 2012

Boobs, Babies, and Controversy- or Why People are Dumb

Oh man, I just can't help myself.  The stories that just keep popping up in the media about outrage over moms breast feeding in public just don't stop.  Seriously.  Yeesh.  I feel really torn on occasion- like the most recent story about the professor who breastfed her sick baby during a lecture.  I can totally see both sides here.  The mama bear in me yells "A baby needs to eat when a baby needs to eat!" and the more private person in me says "I don't think I would have done that.  It doesn't strike me as super professional."  Most of the time when I read stories of outrage over breastfeeding I simply think that people are ridiculous and hypocritical.

But here's the thing.  The real issue as I see it.

We've lost site of what breasts are for.  What they do.  Why God, in all of His infinite wisdom, created them.

We live in an age of Victoria's Secret commercials, movie stars who bare their bodies in films like it is no big deal, and audiences that don't flinch any more at full or partial nudity.  A woman's body is presented as an object.  Something to desire, admire, lust over.  We wear push up bras and spend hundreds of dollars each year to make our breasts perkier, bigger, more desirable, and we are afraid of the day when they sag from old age or from breastfeeding multiple children.  Incredibly to me, this last one is a reason why lots of women don't breastfeed to begin with.  There have been some studies in the last few years that actually prove that breastfeeding alone is not typically the culprit when it comes to saggy baggy boobies(here is just one).

But God forbid if our boobs are less than perky.

Seriously.  Is this what we have let ourselves come to?  I care about my appearance as much as the next woman, but to make an important decision involving the health of our babies based on our own insecurities blows my mind.  That's not to say that I don't understand.  In our society it sometimes feels as though our worth is based on how attractive we are.  It's sick, and it's wrong, but it's really hard to ignore because it is so pervasive in our culture.  Even beautiful models and celebrities are photo-shopped and airbrushed to be made more "perfect" and "beautiful" and more entirely fake and un-achievable.

Personally, I think the uproar over breastfeeding in public is less about the occasional exposed breast, and more about the outrage over a woman choosing to cast off societal expectations and using her body for a selfless reason.  When a woman chooses to breastfeed, she gives up her physical autonomy.  She stops being completely egocentric and begins to look outside of herself and her own needs.  She changes the way she feels and perceives herself.

When I started breastfeeding I stopped seeing my breasts as something exclusively sexual and started seeing them as a way to nurture my daughter.  And it also changed the way I see our country's expectations of women.

This is all a little muddled.  Bear with me here.  I promise I am trying to get it out.

Our society is uncomfortable when others are not focused mainly on themselves.  A selfless person makes us feel a little squeamish.  Not because being selfless is bad, mind you.  Selflessness is amazingly difficult, and amazingly beautiful.  But it makes people around you uncomfortable because it  forces them to recognize the level of their own selfishness.  It shines a light on their own lives and makes them realize that maybe, just maybe they are living the wrong way.

We push back on anything that has this affect on us because we don't want to feel the need to change.

For decades, woman have been trained to feel that having a baby shouldn't be a reason to change their lives, alter their dreams, or even their daily routines.  We long for babies because we are biologically and emotionally wired to do so, but we have also been trained from a very young age to pursue a career, education, etc.  Now please don't mis-understand me.  These are wonderful things.  I went to school.  I believe in education and going after your dreams.  I also believe that it is a natural reaction to having children to change your goals, dreams, and desires.

Now how does all of this relate to breastfeeding?  I'm trying to get there, I really am.

Public outrage over breastfeeding keeps happening over and over again because in this day and age, public breastfeeding is akin to holding a sit-in or protest or rally.  Public breastfeeding sends a very clear message that we don't accept the roles or values that our culture has assigned to us as women.  It says that we will value something intangible over the consumer-centric gimme-culture that we were raised to esteem.

Yes, you may be uncomfortable with seeing a tiny flash of a real woman's breast when she breastfeeds her hungry baby in public, but my guess is that you are more uncomfortable with the message that you feel this mother is sending you.  And maybe you should be.  Because maybe then you will begin to realize that not everything in this world is about you or me or us.  Maybe my breasts are here primarily to nurture and feed my children, and not for mine, my husbands, or anyone else's enjoyment.  So you won't even blink when you see a naked woman's breasts in that movie you're planning on seeing this weekend, but you are probably uncomfortable seeing a mom quietly nursing her baby at the mall.  I hope that someday soon we can get to the point where these ways of thinking are reversed.

I'm hoping that by the time my daughter is a mother that breastfeeding will be looked at as normal and natural, and the sexualization of women's breasts is a bit more taboo and makes people a bit more uncomfortable than it does today.  I hope we can stop the lynch-mobs that attack women for doing what is natural, healthy, and beautiful.  I hope that we can just stop fighting about all of this and establish good clear and helpful laws that protect nursing mothers and babies.  I sincerely hope that we can get to a point where we find real women and all that they encompass beautiful.

I hope that made sense, and I hope that I got my point across without making anyone feel attacked.  Because seriously, that's my point.  Let's stop attacking each other.


  1. If I had been able to nurse, I would probably have whipped them out just about anywhere as baby needed them (with a cover, to be discreet, of course). It's funny, after that difficult labor and so many people having seen my bits, I just lost a lot of modesty ;) I also don't mind when other women nurse near me, although I do keep my eyes away from the business area to keep everyone feeling more comfortable!

    That said, the place for a sick infant (or an infant period) is not mom's workplace. Mom the Professor is being paid to devote her attention to the quality of her instruction and to her students. I couldn't begin to function on the job with my infant with me; my attention would be divided and I'd be doing a disservice to both. So I don't think this is an issue of she-shouldn't-be-nursing-here so much as one of this-baby-shouldn't-be-here-at-all-because-this-scenario-distracts-from-what-I-paid-tuition-for. Nurse in your office, nurse in the cafeteria, nurse on the quad, whatever. But if you're working, and haven't received explicit permission to have your infant with you and split your attention, your time belongs to your employer. I don't see this particular scenario as a sexualization issue at all, although I fully understand how that does go hand-in-hand with breast feeding squeamishness.

  2. I totally agree with you on all points!

    So many people saw me naked during delivery that now I feel like I could nurse anywhere lol. I also agree that there were many better ways that the professor could have dealt with her situation. It was more just the thing that got me thinking. I personally don't agree with how she handled it.

    there have just been so many big to-dos lately involving breastfeeding in the news that it is getting ridiculous!

  3. The way I see it, boobies are for feeding children...just like eyes are for seeing and legs are for walking! Society doesn't freak out when a mom whips out a bottle on the bus or at church, but Heaven forbid she whips out a boob to feed her child. That's what they are meant for! Uggh, so frustrating. I think the problem is that people have so sexualized boobs that they can't see them as what they really are (portable feeding devices :) They have been taught from a very young age that boobs are sexual, things to lust after or envy, and it makes them uncomfortable to see them so casually used in a non-sexual manner because it goes against what they have been brainwashed with. Anywho...there's my .2 rant.

    1. agreed! I will be teaching my daughter what boobs are really for. THey are NOT just sexual play-things!

  4. I couldn't have said it better myself! :)