Western society has turned breast feeding into something weird. In Australia, we’re having another argument over it now – by which I mean people are taking to Facebook to vent their passionate feelings on both sides of the subject after a mother was asked to cover up at a local pool while breastfeeding. It’s a very privileged society that gets to argue about how and where mothers can feed their children ‘naturally’ while many people around the world have to worry about whether or not they can feed their children.
While that argument can remind us of the bigger picture, the problem is that most of us live in our own pictures – naturally. It’s hard to think of anything other than our own problems because they’re there, and we have to deal with them, you don’t have to deal with a hungry stranger miles away. When you live in a land where you’re not going hungry, then relating to another’s hunger is difficult. So what can we relate to? Facebook arguments. One thing that was repeatedly written as comments on one Facebook page was the argument that women putting up pictures of themselves breastfeeding, they were giving free ‘wank material’ to men.
What? ‘Wank material?’ Plainly, that’s offensive to men. They can’t handle seeing a slither of the top of a woman’s breast without being able to control themselves? Especially since that breast is mostly covered by the pulled up shirt, the baby itself and the mother’s arm. The act itself is not sexual. In making breastfeeding a secret taboo, it becomes this mysterious thing with a sexual undertone. “No, you can’t see it because you’re a boy (and who knows what might happen)”.When something isn’t part of the normal culture and you don’t see it often, and you grow up knowing women hide away to do it, then it becomes abnormal, and also confronting to see in person. In reality, it shouldn’t be something we bat an eyelid about.
You do not see a naked person. The act isn’t sexual.
But covering up women over the argument that men can’t control themselves is nothing new. Just look at any period of history and you’ll find something. I wonder why men aren’t bothered by the idea that they’re viewed as animals who would no sooner see an uncovered woman then rape her? Or do they just tolerate this idea for their greater good of female oppression? I’ll get back to topic.
I’m more offended and uncomfortable when I see teenage girls wearing shorts so short their bum cheeks hang out. I’m more offended by teenagers walking around in crop tops. I’m doubly offended by children who can’t possibly be older than fourteen wearing these same outfits. I’m more offended by the idea that this is more normal than a woman breastfeeding her child at the park is. I’m offended by giant breasts on public billboards in lace bras than I am a small glimpse of breast at a baby’s mouth.
There is nothing inherently wrong with a mother feeding her child with her breasts, but try as those rascal kids might it just ain’t right when fourteen year old ladies have less clothes on than me. Is this the same sort of thinking, though? Are they even related enough to talk about in one topic? They both involve flashes of flesh in a public area, but is that enough to place them together in an argument? Should we be free with our bodies in every way or will sexual pandemonium break out? There are reasons why you cannot be naked in public or engage in sexual acts in public, aside from the fact that most citizens don’t want to see your doughy bottom humping away at someone else’s doughy bottom, it’s also a health and safety risk. The only safety risk 11 year old’s in bikinis pose is causing traffic accidents.
One excuse others posed was that breastfeeding mothers were being ‘selfish’ by feeding in a public place. Yes, you’re so right, it’s selfish to not let you child go hungry. And it’s not selfish at all to ask a mother to not feed. Look, I refuse to believe that breastfeeding women are stripping off entirely and plopping themselves down in front of kids or groups of oggling men. That would be selfish and attention seeking. Most women are naturally discreet when feeding, because it’s an experience only between them and their child, even if sometimes they have to do it while at the back of a restaurant or at the pool. I have yet to see a woman completely flop out (what a gruesome description) a breast and walk around with it hanging there in front of a crowd. Perhaps you have, and if so, I have a feeling this woman would be in the minority.
Here’s the other side: some pro-public breastfeeders say that no woman should have to hide. But what if you want to? Just like some woman like covering up and aren’t made to. If you’re the lady who wants to have a blanket over your chest or who wants to go into another room that’s fine! That’s your comfort level. If you don’t want men watching then that’s perfectly fine, it’s your comfort level and completely understandable since, though I did claim it to be offensive to suggest that all men looking are perverts the fact is it that you don’t actually know if the one sitting at the other table is or isn’t. Discretion is great, and it does not mean sitting in the toilets. Discretion can be just turning your back – and that’s not giving up a right or being shunned, it’s just a small slice of that thing privacy.
I’ll be that mum. I don’t even wear short shorts in public and only the hottest days will get me to cast off a cardigan, and that’s okay too, I also don’t judge other women in shorts. Oh no wait, I totally judge the parents of 13 year old’s in short shorts. Damn, almost perfect. Nothing is though, is it? It’s about feeling safe enough to do what you’re most comfortable doing (without the stripping off your forcing boobies in faces, which er, isn’t going to happen if it does become more acceptable). Some will sit at the dining table to do it, some will go to the bathroom. It’s a choice. The only thing we have to change is our sneering, disgusted attitudes towards the mothers at the dining table.
[One original photo link. Boys, if you're turned on by this photo then I think you might be into the colour green, not breasts.]
[It is legal in Australia to breastfeed in public places]