Tuesday, April 13, 2010

No breasts at all, thanks

A friend of mine joined a group on Facebook to protest the fact that Facebook treats pictures of breast feeding in the category "obscene":

In North America, however, and some other parts of the “developed” world...we seem to have forgotten this very simple truth. Womens' breasts have become a symbol of sex. They are used to sell everything from cars to clothes to beer....they have been deemed obscene, sexually explicit and indecent for view by Facebook. Ironic, isn't it? that in the context of sex, we are inundated with images everywhere we look of womens' breasts as commodity, but see practically no examples of them shown in the normal context of breastfeeding. Why is is?[sic]
When corporations and social groups (like Facebook) create and uphold policies that label breastfeeding as obscene or objectionable, the myths that breastfeeding is private, socially inappropriate or sexually explicit are perpetuated and this has a detrimental effect on societal perception and attitudes surrounding breastfeeding. This in turn has a detrimental impact on breastfeeding initiation and duration rates and stigmatizes and demeans women who are doing nothing wrong. This group is one small step in the effort to normalize breastfeeding and to break down barriers that make it more difficult for women to do so. Thank you for your support.

I agree that breastfeeding is natural. If you're a mother, make the choice and breastfeed if you like. Here's the problem: where do your rights end and mine begin? As a straight woman, I have absolutely no interest in seeing the breasts of other women, whether it be in a sexual or natural context. I simply do not want to be walking down the street and seeing a breast, in an advertisement or a mother breastfeeding her child. Breast feeding zealots have determined, however, that their rights are more important than mine, and thus they can do whatever they please, wherever they please.

If I were to have children and chose to breastfeed, I would not want to expose my breasts in public while feeding. Even though I think the process natural, how do I know the guy next to me in the food court isn't a pervert who enjoys every minute? I would make the choice to do it in private because *I* would feel more comfortable. I would not want others staring at me, seeing my private body parts. I'm a private person, I just don't want to expose myself in that way.

The most significant question I have for this Facebook group is: why are women posting breastfeeding pictures in the first place? Is it purely an exercise in normalization? Or do some women enjoy showing the world that they are breastfeeding their baby?

I am not a mother. I do not have the personal experience to back up my opinions on breastfeeding. What I do know is that it is not as easy as this group purports it to be. I have heard the stories of friends and family who have struggled so hard to make breastfeeding work for them, and it ended up with both mother and baby being miserable. Frankly, this group sounds like the bullying nurses in hospitals who think it's a capital offense to feed a baby formula. Though it has been scientifically proven that breast milk is best for babies, it does not factor in the baby not able to eat breast milk, not sleeping, incessant fussing, miserable mother who can't get any sleep.

We live in a world where there are options, where we know more about things like lactose intolerance. Having a baby is supposed to be one of the greatest experiences in one's life, but only if you are breastfeeding, apparently. Not every baby is as accepting of the "natural way". I doubt that this is a new problem, only that we now have more options.

In summary:
You have a right to choose breastfeeding, but I have a right not to see your breast in a public place.
I also have the right to choose how I want to feed my baby without you forcing a method down my throat, and trying to guilt me into the "right" choice.
I have the right to choose privacy when feeding my baby without feeling guilty for promoting the "natural way".

1 comment:

John said...

In my opinion, it is about discretion. Being discrete with how you do it in public because, as you so rightly put it, where your rights as a breast-feeding mother end, my rights as one who does not want to see your breast begins. Who is more right?

If a woman is discrete about it, I have no issue. I'm a guy, so will likely look, but then will glance away and give you your privacy. Use a feeding blanket to make it a more private issue/time.