I was trying to rack my brain for a subject to write about for this week’s content post because I feel like we’ve all raised many important feminist issues in our collective posts as a class so far. There are many of our various topics that I’d like to take up or dig into further, but I figured those conversations were best kept within the comment sections of the original postings. So, I thought and thought about something new to discuss, and I started thinking about what issues modern-day feminists are concerned with that haven’t been taken up…and then it hit me! Breastfeeding. More specifically, public breastfeeding.
This seems to be yet another topic on which our country is divided. Some people see breastfeeding as a natural act which is necessary for sustaining life, and thus a woman feeding her child in public is not a concern. And some people might recognize the need for breastfeeding, but they believe that it is something that should be kept within the privacy of the home, or at the very least hidden from the public eye. But I think that in this case the real issue is being over-looked–namely, that people are, once again, sexualizing women’s bodies in a manner that places shame on them in the public’s eye. It seems like women have for ages been struggling to de-sexualize their bodies. And now we are once again struggling to have control of our own bodies in the same way as a man would.
It is evident from pop culture everywhere that female breasts are sexual objects, but a male’s chest is not. It is okay for a man to pose shirtless on a billboard but not a woman. But that’s not even really the point here. Women who are trying to fight for their right to feed their child where ever they need to are not doing so in order to display their bare breast–and more specifically, the dreaded nipple! We aren’t trying to advocate for females to go around topless like men (at least not all of us). All we are trying to do is to get people to realize that our bodies are our own, and our breasts are merely a part of our body that happens to be crucial to sustaining these little lives that we’ve created.
I find it remarkable how I can walk around a mall and past the store Victoria’s Secret where there are these giant photos of mostly naked, very sexualized women, and the only parts of their breasts that are covered (or rather air-brushed out) are the nipples. Then I can look and see a mother sitting on a bench breastfeeding her child, and she is completely covered in every way. Yet somehow this woman is in the wrong here? Sure, there is the off chance that the child might break the latch for like 2 seconds, and the woman’s nipple would then be exposed. But even that is a rare occurrence, and someone would have to be staring very blatantly and trying really hard to actually catch a glimpse of anything inappropriate when a mother is breastfeeding. Most of us are able to do so without even drawing any attention to ourselves in the least. And when I go in public, and my baby gets hungry–I feed her. And I do not feel like I should be shamed into some dark corner or have to hide out in a gross bathroom. Nor do I like having to cover her little face with some sort of nursing cover because she absolutely hates it! I mean, how would you feel if I draped a dark blanket over your face while you tried to have your dinner?
My child gets hungry, which is a natural feeling, and I have to feed her, which is a natural act. I am not ashamed of my body performing what it was naturally created to do. Now, that’s not to say that I flaunt my breastfeeding around. I do not shine some sort of lime light on myself while I feed my child in public. It’s all about balance. I try to be discrete, without having to be hidden or shameful. And I think that’s the point that we all need to get to on the matter. The way our society sexualizes our bodies, and the way we sexualize them as well, continues to be a feminists issue today. But we are making strides towards a more balanced understanding of it. I recognize that some women take their public feedings too far, and they try to make a show of it. While I can relate to where they are coming from and maybe even agree with their message, I do recognize that their approach may only further push away those who still find the female body to be a shameful object that must be covered. I also recognize that many people find even my most modest display of breastfeeding to be inappropriate, and I can try to have empathy for their point of view as well. But at the end of the day, coming from a breastfeeding mother, I have to say that breastfeeding is a natural, life-sustaining act that should not cause women to feel shame about their bodies in the public eye any longer. #normalizebreastfeeding #treeoflife