I find myself rolling my eyes often at the strange views of our society. One of the views that bothers me is our 1950s relationship with breasts. Society in general has a very small box in which they are allowed to fit: sexual objects that, when flaunted, encourage attention. Our breasts have been working outside the home for a long time now, mostly selling things to men. Though people may find the overtly sexual videos, photos, and commercials offensive, they are not yelling about whether or not others have the right to make said means of advertisement. If they don’t like this type of media, they generally don’t watch it. They shut the TV off or trash the magazine and cancel their subscription. They may heap judgement upon the women who dress scantily, calling them all sorts of names and assuming they are sexually promiscuous, or they may berate society for objectifying women as sexual objects and encouraging them to equate their personal value with their appearance (you are aware of the gigantic-pun intended-number of breast enhancement surgeries every year, right? And that is has skyrocketed as a procedure in demand?)…but for the most part society accepts breasts as a natural and beatiful part of a woman’s body that she may show or not as she chooses because she (and others) like the way they look. No one questions whether or not a woman has the right to wear clothing that shows the greatest majority of her breasts. They may question whether or not it is appropriate, but they would never ask her to leave a function or facility because she has a low-cut or very tight shirt on.
Aaaaand now, the other shoe drops. Within this box, breastfeeding does not fit. Somehow, the most basic biological purpose of our breasts is shocking. There is a reason we are called mammals – it is because we have mammary glands and make milk specifically for our own young that they suck out of us - just like cats, dogs, whales, gorillas, and yes just like cows. The formula industry has done such a good job of brainwashing the public that their products are synonymous with babies – there are bottles on every baby blanket, shower invitation, information pamphlet, and stamped all over every OB/GYN’s and Pediatrician’s office. Women who plan to breastfeed register for bottles for gifts. Doctors taste-test samples of formula in medical school and are fully educated and informed about how to properly formula feed an infant, but a great number of them are completely uneducated or have bad information when it comes to the way we are actually supposed to feed our infants.
I cannot count how many times I’ve heard women say “I’m tired of feeling like a cow!” and wonder to myself where they got the idea that cows are supposed to feed our babies…or is it offensive to them to be a member of our particular class of the animal kingdom? Would they rather be reptiles, amphibians, or birds instead?
Breasts are viewed as very one-dimensional; they have been stereotyped. It reminds me of the way we stereotype people (women who dress scantily want sex and will give it out to any takers, men who love sports are uneducated and lack intelligence, blonde women have a low IQ, People with brown skin are illegal immigrants, Muslims are terrorists, black men are deadbeat fathers, priests are perverts, homosexual men speak in an effeminate manner, homosexual women have short hair and wear birkenstocks, homeschoolers are all evangelical Christians, all conservatives are republicans (did I get you on that one?)…I could go on - but this is boring and you all know these are not true.
I bring this up because of this photo of Julie Bowen nursing her twins, which she brought to show on the air at the George Lopez Show. Which is great. Thank you to Julie Bowen for being educated about breastfeeding and for recognizing it as a natural and important part of mothering. Thank you for helping change society’s unhealthy view of breasts.
The reason I am blogging about it is because they discussed this on The View but refused to show the picture. Hmmm. Do you understand why this bothers me, people? I don’t watch The View, because it irritates the hell out of me and I don’t have enough interest in their topics to spend my time watching it, but I am sure they spent plenty of time discussing the Oscars and showing the dresses worn there. Do you see the amount of breasts spilling out of Hilary Swank‘s and Mariah Carey‘s dresses? I heard nothing about people asking they be escorted away from the awards, or that dresses like this should be banned in public places, or that they should only be wearing these dresses in the restrooms. I know with absolute certainty they would not bat an eye about showing these photos on The View. And I also know that, though they may have been cited for a fashion faux pas, there was not a single person who questioned their RIGHT to wear these dresses. That would be just stupid, wouldn’t it?
And yet, because they feel someone might find it offensive, The View would not show the picture of Julie Bowen’s breasts. When Elizabeth Hasselbeck found costumes on Dancing With The Stars offensive, they did not hesitate to play clips of the show while they discussed the amount of coverage the costumes gave. In a following episode, we saw Elizabeth crying as she apologized for hurting the feelings of the dancer and accusing her of objectifying herself.
Will Elizabeth be crying and apologizing for hurting breastfeeding mothers and babies, for insinuating that they are so offensive when feeding their baby that it cannot be shown on television? For being unwilling to show breasts performing their primary biological function but willing to show and berate breasts when they are just supposed to be flashy? For contributing to the dismal percentage of mothers who breastfeed as much as the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends and cite their top reasons for quitting as lack of support and bad information? For being doubly guilty of objectifying breasts and the women wearing them by refusing to show the photo?
Breastfeeding may, indeed, be offensive to some. Just like tiny bikinis or shirts that practically pop out the twins may be offensive to some. But that is really not the issue here, is it? Women have a right to wear what they want. So why are we having a discussion about women having a right to do something they actually NEED to do? It really does not matter if it may offend someone else, it is still her right. Why should my friend from highschool, who is a wonderful advocate for breastfeeding, and who happened to have many more visits from the breast fairy during puberty than me, be self conscious about breastfeeding in public because she has a lot more skin to worry about covering than me? My baby’s head more than covered my little jugs TMI!
Breasts have two main functions, the first is as a source of perfect nutrition for human infants. The second is as a beautiful part of the female form that can be included as a pleasurable part of sex. The first is more important, but these purposes can coexist just fine, tyvm.
Some ignorant people say breastfeeding is a bodily function like urinating, and therefore should be done in private because it involves bodily fluids. This is completely incorrect. It is a bodily function like eating, which is done socially in all of the human world. It involves nutrients, like food and drink, and saliva, all things which are acceptable in public everywhere. I am far more offended to see a baby being formula fed than I am watching someone chew with their mouths open. A formula-fed baby has been a victim of doctors giving poor information and society undermining mother’s desire to breastfeed (the greatest majority of the time) and will suffer from the inferior nutrition. Someone with poor manners just isn’t paying attention or wasn’t taught the same things I was.
Other misinformed people say breastfeeding should be done in private because it involves breasts, which contribute to sexual gratification. Once again, since breastfeeding is primarily a form of eating, I will use society’s views of that for my example. I am allowed, expected to, and encouraged to eat around others. Let me assure you that my mouth can contribute to sexual gratification in ways that are not for public discussion and are far more X-rated than breasts. And yet no one questions whether or not I should be using my mouth for its primary biological function around others. They do not see me eating and think about what I do with my mouth during sex (usually, as far as I know).
And don’t go all “you’re a meanie” on me – read this carefully for what it actually says. I blame bad information and lack of or toxic support for mother’s who tried to and were not able to continue breastfeeding. Do not read anything extra in there. I do not blame the mothers. And don’t get all hoopty about the baby suffering from inferior nutrition – it is a proven and completely undisputed FACT that breastmilk is (1) what a baby is supposed to be fed and (2) that formula does not provide a huge amount of things breastmilk does and finally (3) breastfed babies are healthier in many areas because of the nutrients and antibodies formula cannot produce. A formula fed baby may be terrifically healthy – it is just not AS healthy as it would be if it were breastfed. Just like a person may be healthy even though they eat crap. They would be much healthier if they ate a variety of fresh foods in as close to their natural state as possible. No one will disagree with the statement that breastfeeding is better for your baby. You cannot disagree when I say formula feeding is worse for your baby. It’s like saying 2+2 is 4 but 4-2 is not 2.
We need to re-examine the way we, as a society, think about and treat breasts. I do not wear clothing that hides my breast; they are perky and contribute to the things I find pleasing about my shape. I like to do other things with them when my husband and I are napping (link to that post here). But the most fulfilling and important things my breasts ever did was to nourish three children. It is why I have them in the first place!