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Women! Stop upsetting the Internet with your breastfeeding!

Nov30

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As you may have heard, the League of Maternal Justice put a breastfeeding video up on YouTube, and the video was taken down. Not just flagged, like so many “inappropriate” videos are. Taken down.
The video was a tender slideshow of babies nursing. Such filth! Can you imagine such a thing!
This is getting to be silly. It’s one thing when Bill Maher comes out against breastfeeding in public: he’s confused and titillated (pun intended) by the workings of the female body. He likened breastfeeding to masturbation, which shows you how hazy his thinking is. But then Facebook takes down breastfeeding images and MySpace does the same thing, and has the world gone insane? These are pictures mostly of babies. Yes, you can see the curve of some breasts, and sometimes—gasp!—a sliver of nipple. But there’s a lot more boob to be found out there, and those pictures seem to be safe from deletion. As it should be! This is the Internet. And if I know anything, I know that the Internet is for porn.
And there’s the rub: while oiled-up breasts on display are perfectly acceptable, breasts used for their intended purpose are not porny enough—and thus, are deemed offensive. Wrap your brains around that one, if you dare.
It’s so desperately odd that people who are all for ogling breasts in various stages of undress would be disgusted and offended if they happened upon a breast being used for its intended purpose. That while women are told by every authority that breastfeeding is best for their baby, they’re treated like they’re doing something criminal if they attempt to feed their child in public. They should hide in shame, while feeding their child! And why, again? Because breasts are sexy! Now show us your tits! Get that baby out of the way, first!
Many other body parts are considered sexy, and we let some of those parade around in public. Men fetishize women’s legs, but if they saw those legs walking, would they be outraged? And what of butts, pray tell? What of butts? Should women be forced to hide the lower half of their bodies? Lips are considered pretty sexy, but if you saw someone eating or talking–displaying their sexy parts where anyone could see–would that be okay?
In some cultures, it’s not. But we’re not one of those cultures. Uh, right?
Did you notice how many question marks are in this post? It has not escaped my attention. There are going to be more. I have no answers, only questions. Exasperated questions.
It seems so asinine that breastfeeding in public is even a topic of discussion. What’s up with this, guys? Is it that your breasts aren’t good for anything? Does it enrage you that your nipples are just sitting there, mocking you with their vestigiality?
I know, I know, it’s not only men who are against public breastfeeding. Which really makes this so much sadder. We’ve internalized so much shame about our own bodies that we turn against other women who dare to use theirs with pride. Bleagh.
What kills me are all the people who wonder why breastfeeding pictures or videos are “necessary,” who say that if nursing women didn’t “flaunt” their breastfeeding, there wouldn’t be a problem. These images are on the Internet—where you actually have to seek them out to be insulted. These women are proud of their ability to feed their children, and rightly so. Breastfeeding isn’t easy. I couldn’t do it for as long as I would have liked. (I probably would have benefited from watching some videos, come to think of it.) And when you’re doing something so difficult and so good for your kid, and you’re being vilified for it, how could you not respond?
Related Posts:
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Breast milk or alcohol: which is worse for your baby?

About the author

Alice Bradley

http://www.finslippy.com
Alice Bradley was a regular contributor to Alpha Mom, writing about current events as they related to parenting. You can read about her daily life at her personal blog, Finslippy.


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25 Responses to “Women! Stop upsetting the Internet with your breastfeeding!”

  1. Shellie Nov 30 at 11:32 am Reply

    All I have to say is one big fat AMEN!!! I think I will post some breastfeeding pictures sometime soon, just to titillate.

  2. Liza Nov 30 at 12:50 pm Reply

    When I got to, “Does it enrage you that your nipples are just sitting there, mocking you with their vestigiality?” I spewed coffee into my keyboard.
    Thanks. Thanks a lot. ;-)

  3. mothergoosemouse Nov 30 at 12:57 pm Reply

    Thank you. For the entertainment, the support, the reality check.

  4. Emily Nov 30 at 1:49 pm Reply

    Excellent post Alice. It is crazy that women are criticized for not breastfeeding, and criticized for breastfeeding (in public). You really can’t win. Argh. What of butts, indeed!

  5. Holly Nov 30 at 1:56 pm Reply

    Alice, you’re right, as usual. Pictures and videos are necessary. One of the reasons women in our culture find it difficult to breastfeed is because we don’t see women doing it. The majority of women in their 20s and 30s did not grow up with mothers who breastfed, so we never saw it in our homes. And, since women are so discouraged from breastfeeding in public it’s helpful if new mothers can see it somewhere. In person would be great, but online is a great second option. Also, these pictures and videos help to normalize breastfeeding, and new moms can certainly use all the support they can get.
    Such a shame that YouTube has joined the ranks of Facebook and MySpace. Especially considering what you can find on these sites that is deemed acceptable.

  6. Slim Nov 30 at 2:07 pm Reply

    As far as I can tell, women are supposed to feed their babies breastmilk, but without ever nursing in public or taking pumping breaks at work.
    Mothers who deviate from this are just not trying hard enough. Don’t inflict those exposed breasts on us, you lazy no-good unworthy-to-be-called-mother exhibitionists! Wait, where are you going for fifteen minutes a couple of a times a day? Hey, is that . . . . formula?
    Mothers of America, you are doing it wrong. And why are you so sensitive about this, anyway? Hormones, huh?

  7. Sharron Nov 30 at 3:27 pm Reply

    What!!!! These folks had better not come and shop at our mall in Manchester (UK) as there is a film currently showing on all their screens promoting breastfeeding, and showing babies actually feeding.

  8. izzy's mama Nov 30 at 4:22 pm Reply

    It is a twisted world out there when it comes to boobs and breastfeeding. I wish I could answer your questions..why is it that men love to drool at cleavage and many women love to display theirs. Then it all changes as soon as it involves a baby. At which point some women are compelled to hide out and cover up and men avert their eyes.

  9. Amy Nov 30 at 4:58 pm Reply

    To Sharron-that’s impressive.
    I think we are just still way to Puritannical in this country.

  10. Thea Nov 30 at 7:03 pm Reply

    Awww…that makes me sad.
    Thanks for attacking the issue with such wit and humor – that does cheer me up a bit.

  11. Lucy Nov 30 at 10:05 pm Reply

    Well said, fair Alice.

  12. ozma Nov 30 at 10:27 pm Reply

    I remember sometime when my daughter was about 8 mos. old we were watching the Daily Show online and there was a clip they showed of some democratic meeting and in the background a woman started to breastfeed her baby. And John Steward said (with his googly eyes) IS THAT WOMAN BREASTFEEDING? She’s breastfeeding!!!
    Like: Flaky ass hippy democrats and how can we respect a woman who is breastfeeding. Politically, the democrats are undermining even a smidgen of respect we might have for them by allowing such things. Etc.
    I cried for over an hour. Just the shame I felt. It wasn’t even sexual. It was like: Only the obsolete granola people who are never worthy of professional/political respect breastfeed. The whole thing was so laden with meaning for me. I couldn’t even handle it. I had periodic bouts of sobbing for days and I felt like I’d been personally publicly humiliated. (I was also very upset for the woman in the clip.)
    I know that sounds nuts. I AM nuts. But John Stewart! And the fact that being a woman with a baby just makes you professionally obsolete anyway. And we should be ashamed of breastfeeding. And everything else. I’d been carrying around so much and trying so hard to not listen but you can’t help but listen.
    OK writing this makes me want to start breastfeeding my three year old during a Senate hearing or something.

  13. Cam Dec 01 at 9:16 am Reply

    I find it absolutely amazing that you can watch a guy giving a dolphin a blowjob on YouTube but not a video of breastfeeding. Wow.

  14. Ahna Dec 01 at 12:44 pm Reply

    Isn’t shame a powerful weapon? I am so very happy to lsee that you – and many other’s – are standing up for what is right and natural.
    Give me a break. Some guy wants us to stop breast feeding because it excites him? I’m sure there is someone out there that he can pay to let him try it out. (And THAT video would probably go untouched on the internet. Go figure.) Good grief.

  15. Marcy Dec 02 at 6:47 am Reply

    Thank you. You’re brilliant. Really. I want to forward this post to everyone in the world.

  16. Rose Dec 02 at 8:37 pm Reply

    I wish I had written what you did!! I saw that particular episode of Bill Maher and I was so incensed at his ignorance that I was unable to speak clearly. While previously I had often found him funny, I also thought he was a little too arrogant a little too often, but after that diatribe, I refuse to watch him anymore. Thanks for putting into words exactly what I felt.

  17. Marnie Dec 02 at 10:55 pm Reply

    When I was breastfeeding my daughter, 6 years ago, I was surprised at the reactions I got. But, mostly, I was surprised and saddened by the reactions I got from women. Mostly, men just averted their eyes, lest they be accused of staring at breasts. But women — WOMEN either smiled, or gave me the most disgusted look I’d ever seen. some of those disgusted looks came from women who had children of various ages with them. Very, very sad; mostly that we can’t seem to support one another.

  18. superblondgirl Dec 03 at 11:12 am Reply

    I agree with you 110%. Possibly more. Breastfeeding is, of course, awesome, and it is not shameful, and that is what breasts are for, and our culture is generally stupid about the whole thing.

  19. Angie Dec 03 at 12:39 pm Reply

    Whoa. You can see a guy giving a dolphin a blowjob on YouTube? And I thought the 911 call over an improperly made Western burger was bizarre.
    So, I have a question for the women who have been able to breastfeed their child up into the toddler/pre-school years. I know tone is sometimes hard to discern in an online comments environment, so please hear this in the genuinely curious, open-minded spirit in which I’m asking.
    For the record, I’m not a mother yet. It’s part of the 5-Year Plan, and if I can make it work, I definitely want to breastfeed for as long as can.
    I recently found myself observing an attachment parenting playgroup. I was so, so impressed with how engaged and imaginative the mothers were as they played with their kids. I struck up a conversation with one of the women, and as we chatted, her son- probably 3 or 4- ran over, wearing a knight costume from the dressup box, lifted his mother’s sweatshirt and started breastfeeding. (Remember the gentle, openminded curious tone I’m using. Gentle and Curious.)
    So, I’ll be honest. I was taken aback by this. Not horrified. Not disgusted. Not judgmental. Just a little surprised. The mother didn’t miss a beat in the conversation, so we kept chatting about non-breastfeeding things. My question for the mothers of older toddler/preschool age children is this: Did you always know you wanted to breastfeed beyond the first year? What were your positive influences that helped you come to that decision?
    Also, If you *have* decided to nurse well into and perhaps beyond the toddler years, when dressup clothes and good guys vs. bad guys are intellectual concepts your child is mature enough to handle, do you have conversations with your child about when it’s okay to lift your shirt and latch on? Obviously, AP playgroup in a play space type business run by a woman whose kids participate is a safe space. I am SO not judging. But what about, say, church?
    I’m whole-heartedly agreeing with Alice’s post, and I’m in no way jumping on the BAD BAD DIRTY DIRTY SEXY TITTY SHAME! SHAME! bandwagon. But I’m curious: Do you ever feel uncomfortable when your toddler/preschooler wants to nurse in public? Do you have an agreement with your child (not babies, but older children who are learning right from wrong and other basic life rules about, like, seatbelts and sharing) about rules and boundaries for public breastfeeding?

  20. caramama Dec 03 at 3:27 pm Reply

    I’ve been thinking about this post all weekend. I kept trying to come up with a response.
    I finally realized that you said exactly what I’d want to say, and frankly you say it much better and funnier than I do.
    Thanks once again, Alice. You rock!

  21. Amanda Brown Dec 04 at 1:24 am Reply

    Well said. When I was nursing I pulled out my boobs whenever I needed to feed my child and couldn’t be bothered to try and hide my (three feet wide) areolas.

  22. edj Dec 04 at 1:44 am Reply

    This whole issue just makes me crazy. I can’t be rational about it. It is just about the STUPIDEST most asinine thing imaginable to be offended by a mother feeding a baby. I’m frothing at the mouth here (ick!) and I have nothing intelligent to add, so I’ll quit.

  23. Ellen Dec 04 at 8:06 am Reply

    As far as I can tell, anyone who has never breastfed assumes that the act of the baby taking the milk results in sexual feelings in the mom. How dare anyone have sex in public! I always explained it as the same feeling of relief that you get when you have a really full bladder and you finally get to go to the bathroom. Totally unrelated to sex. Not exactly equivalent, but close. Hard to explain something to someone who has never, or will never, experience it. Like childbirth. Sexual? Not hardly.

  24. robin j. Dec 10 at 7:55 pm Reply

    Angie,
    As someone who is still nursing (every few days, usually under a minute) a child who will be 4 in March: I never decided to nurse this long. It just kind of happened. I had thought that age 3 was my own personal upper comfort limit, but right around his birthday realized that was no longer the case.
    As for public nursing, it happens, I suppose, but only in extenuating circumstances. Last time was in October at a pumpkin farm. He hurt himself, I found a semi-secluded haybale to sit on, and comforted him in the most immediate and effective way possible.
    We don’t have strict rules and boundaries outlined, but after years of a breastfeeding relationship that is beneficial to both of us, he doesn’t ask to nurse in public. If he just randomly asked, I would tell him ‘later’ and I am sure he would accept that.

  25. Mallory Jan 04 at 2:00 pm Reply

    Angie,
    I’m probably resposonding to your questions way too late (a month later) but just in case you check this again, I’ll add my thoughts on breastfeeding into toddlerhood.
    Before he was born, I assumed I’d breastfeed until my baby (now 3 months old) was about 18 months. But once he was actually here, I changed my mind and decided to let him self wean for several reasons:
    It comforts and soothes him like nothing else will. And that, as every new mother knows, is a very valuable thing.
    Breastfeeding is a surprisingly tender act, and I like being able to share that with him. It’s one of the benefits of motherhood, and considering the lack of sleep, personal time, hygeine, etc.. that comes with mothering, why give up the positive aspects sooner than necessary?
    Nutritionally, babies benefit the most until about 18 months, but additional immunities aren’t aquired unless breastfeeding continues for 3 years.
    Weaning can be traumatic for some babies. I figured “why chance it?” if he and I both benefit from it. By letting him decide when he’s ready, I avoid the possiblity of any negative repercussions. Societal scrunity isn’t enough of a deterrent.
    I’ve dicovered there are a lot more toddlers breastfeeding than I thought…it’s just that no one talks about it. They breastfeed soley at night, or discretely (and rarely) in public. When i brought the subject up with my friends who have toddlers, many admitted that they still do it…albeit quietly.
    Because he’ll self wean, he may decide to wean at 6 months (I hope not) or 5 years. I’m not sure how I’ll handle public situations then, but if I encounter problems I’ll just deal with it. Maybe tell the person politely that I’m sorry they are uncomfortable/offended, but their discomfort doesn’t make breastfeeding wrong.
    Also, before he was born, I, like everyone else, was pretty taken aback by breastfeeding toddlers. A lot changes quickly when you have children, and many of my attitudes changed. Like I mentioned above, the benefit of letting my baby breastfeed until he’s ready to stop is more important to me than a stranger (or friends/family)critizing me.
    Sorry to be so long winded about this, but I hope it helps!

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