Monday, January 21, 2013

Why Breastfeeding Is A Feminist Issue.

I thought I was done with breastfeeding. I certainly thought I was done posting about it. But it's been all over the media in recent days, following the comments of a rather witless breakfast TV host that he doesn't mind public breastfeeding, as long as it's done discreetly. The inevitable backlash followed, along with the usual suspects rolling out to state they agree. Breastfeeding is okay and all, just as long as they don't have to see it. Some people are surprised there are still these pockets of resistance in the community, but I'm not. "A lot of people still feel this way, you can't expect them to change overnight" (as if that would excuse racism?). Now I fed BabyG on city circle trains at rush hour, queueing for lunch at the fish markets at Easter, wherever he was hungry. And I never encountered any dirty looks or stares, possibly due to the fierce "go ahead...say something. I dare you" look in my eyes. I was actually hoping for a confrontation but it never came. I actually had more grief about breastfeeding from other mothers declaring how it should be done, than the public at large. But I'm not surprised there are those who find public breastfeeding a bit icky. Because breastfeeding is a feminist issue, and we aren't there yet.

There is I think a certain subset of the community who still believes, at least subconsciously, that the primary role of women is to serve and pleasure men; that women's bodies are for sexual pleasure. A breastfeeding woman - or for that matter a visibly pregnant woman - is saying with her body, no, I am not for your pleasure right now, I am doing something else, I'm off limits. The frequent (and reasonable) point is made that if public breastfeeding offends you, why can't you look away? The unreasonable answer is that they resent having to look away, they feel entitled to ogle any breast they like, and seeing boobs used for so non-sexual a purpose makes them feel cheated, deprived of what's theirs. It also taps into the old belief that pregnancy and child rearing are "women's business", to be hidden away where they can't make anyone uncomfortable.

A woman breastfeeding in public is providing nourishment to her child. But she's also saying my body is not free for your consumption, I'll make my choices and I won't be hidden away. And until that message is understood by all, breastfeeding remains a feminist issue.


Anonymous said...

As you know I am still breastfeeding. I feed Jazmyne where ever and when ever is needed. But I choose to cover up. I don't care if they are offended that I'm breastfeeding, but it does bother me that the world sees my breast. I always make sure that I wear a maternity bra and shirt and make sure that the top of my breast is covered.

karLcx said...

i see this slightly differently. i don't think breastfeeding is the issue at all, because breastfeeding is completely normal.

the issue at hand is an issue of idiocy and abuse of media exposure by irresponsible and ridiculous celebrity moving his mouth in silly ways.

while this sort of person is put in front of a camera and people take what they say seriously instead of laughing in their face and getting on with their day, their opinions are validated by the attention. not to say he shouldn't be tackled and cut down a level or two, but making breastfeeding the issue or putting it on the defensive rather than his attitude seems misplaced discourse to me.

Sikamikanico said...

Actually, I don't/didn't like being seen much anyway. But the vast majority of the time you can't see anything when someone is breastfeeding than the back of the baby's head. Maybe that's what offends.

Sikamikanico said...

I was posting about feeding generally rather than Koch in isolation (and I wish he was)