Ah, breastfeeding. That age-old “midday peep show.”
Believe it or not, one of the commenters at the Daily Caller called it exactly that, in response to this carefully crafted post by Matt K. Lewis, who politely told conservatives who cry “ick!” in the face of breastfeeding moms that they’re kind of perverted.
In some sense, concerns about the mainstreaming of breastfeeding are really part of the backlash against a culture that over-sexualizes everything. It’s understandable that cultural conservatives who are tired of seeing a culture become more coarse and promiscuous and permissive, might wrongly conclude that this is a hill to die on.
But I’m also reminded of the famous old joke about the Rorschach test where the man taking the test sees every ink blot as a sexual act, prompting the tester to declare the man is obsessed with sex. “You’re the one with all the dirty pictures,” the man replies.
The point here is that, biologically, breasts are primarily about food delivery for babies. If you or I want to sexualize something as natural and vital as breastfeeding, well that’s on us.
Kudos, Matt. K Lewis. Kudos.
Let’s be honest about this, for once. All objections to breastfeeding in public boil down to this one undeniable truth: people get uncomfortable when sex objects are naturalized.
Yeah, that’s right. That is exactly what any and all objections to public breastfeeding come down to. You just have to look at the most common ones to see that the tie that binds them all together is the intent, conscious or unconscious, to make the mother in question feel that what she is doing is shameful.
Take Mr. Midday-Peep-Show’s analogy that he used to back up his extremely erudite point:
When I can fart in public, which is a natural bodily occurrence and necessity, without anyone batting an eye, then I’ll accept the midday peep show that is breast feeding.
See how that works? You can’t claim one natural event without accepting all others.
Right, guy, I see how this works. You chose a natural event that actually functions in the exact opposite way breastfeeding does to prove your point. Farting, along with urination, defecation, and vomiting (all of which are commonly compared with breastfeeding) are biological functions that expel waste. The reason those things aren’t done in public is because it isn’t sanitary, seeing as how they’re, you know, waste. Waste that the body gets rid of often contains bacteria, viruses, and all kinds of nasty germs. It has nothing to do with the fact that the rest of the world doesn’t want to see your pooping face, and everything to do with the fact that the rest of the world doesn’t want cholera.
Breastfeeding is exactly the opposite. Breastfeeding is a way to feed a baby, sure, but it’s also a way to protect a baby against things commonly found in other bodily excretions:
Listed below are specific proteins that are found in breast milk and their benefits:
- Lactoferrin inhibits the growth of iron-dependent bacteria in the gastrointestinal tract. This inhibits certain organisms, such as coliforms and yeast, that require iron.
- Secretory IgA also works to protect the infant from viruses and bacteria, specifically those that the baby, mom, and family are exposed to. It also helps to protect against E. Coli and possibly allergies. Other immunoglobulins, including IgG and IgM, in breast milk also help protect against bacterial and viral infections. Eating fish can help increase the amount of these proteins in your breast milk.
- Lysozyme is an enzyme that protects the infant against E. Coli and Salmonella. It also promotes the growth of healthy intestinal flora and has anti-inflammatory functions.
- Bifidus factor supports the growth of lactobacillus. Lactobacillus is a beneficial bacteria that protects the baby against harmful bacteria by creating an acidic environment where it cannot survive.
Tell you what, guy. When what comes out of your anus can make a person triple in size in a year, while protecting against bacteria instead of containing it, you go ahead and fart or poop anywhere you want. Until then, you might want to seriously reconsider which end you’re using to make words.
Don’t even get me started on the “would you have sex in public” argument.
That’s such an unsettling comparison that I can’t believe people make it with a straight face. I guess if you are the kind of person who has an orgasm while feeding someone or being fed, maybe you could think that. And I guess if you’re the kind of person who gets off on feeding your children or being fed by your parents, you could say it out loud. Hopefully only ever to your psychiatrist, or within the confines of your jail cell, though.
Sadly, even this isn’t the most asinine comment on Daily Caller post. That honor goes to this guy:
Again who exactly is against breastfeeding? Is it really that hard to use a nursing cover or go somewhere out of most people’s way for a couple of minutes. See I was brought up with the idea that I am not the center of the universe and in situations where I can make other people happy while doing what I need to do I do it. Apparently a lot of people were brought believing the [sic] are the center of the universe.
Listen to what you are saying. You are saying that a mother, upon realizing her baby needs sustenance and responding accordingly, is being selfish by not considering the sensibilities of total strangers. You are actually saying that your “need” to not encounter a baby attached to a pair of breasts is more important than the health and well-being of an infant. Do you see the problem, there?
You are making yourself the center of something that has absolutely nothing to do with you. You are inserting yourself into a loving, nurturing relationship between a mother and child who are total strangers to you, because you cannot fathom that in some way this woman is not intentionally offending you. You could make all women who breastfeed, and their babies, very happy by shutting up, turning away, and minding your own business. But because you so clearly believe — despite your hilarious claim to the contrary –that you are the center of the universe, you demand that women take extraordinary measures to place the comfort of strangers like you above the physical needs of their babies.
A mother breastfeeding her baby very rarely has anything whatsoever to do with the people around her. When breastfeeding is used as a form of activism, I can understand the objection. People instinctively recoil from seeing anything exploited to make a statement, regardless of that statement’s validity. But that’s not what we’re talking about here.
We’re talking about everyday moms who just want to leave their house with their babies. Sometimes they are even compelled to leave, for groceries, say, or doctor’s appointments. Infants need to eat every 2-4 hours, because their stomachs are so small and because they are growing so exponentially. That’s an actual need, by the way, not a preference. It’s not an arbitrary choice a baby can make or not make. Mothers, understandably, care a whole lot more about the actual needs of their babies than they do about the pretend “needs” of strangers. Because it’s not actually a need for you, it’s a preference. If you actually needed, for some psychological reason, to be protected from the sight of breasts or babies, you’d be the one forced to stay cocooned inside your house. For that matter, you’re not objecting to the sight of breasts per se, or this conversation would have to include pretty much every cultural standard we don’t hold about images of cleavage. You’re objecting to the sight of a baby attached to a breast, because it makes you uncomfortable.
Let me say that again: it’s not the breasts that make people object to public breastfeeding. It’s the toxic combination of baby and breast.
It makes people uncomfortable to be reminded that SEX BREASTS, which look so luscious in a cleavage-baring push-up bra, are not pleasure toys attached to a woman’s body. They’re not “funbags” for a man, nor are they portable “man-bait” for the woman who bears them. They are the human race’s biological path to sustaining and nourishing the next generation. They belong to the mysterious, intimate place where a family is formed. Sex and desire, love and sacrifice, sustenance and support — those are all realms where breasts naturally belong, along with the women they are a part of, the men who love those women, and the children they create and nurture.
Breasts aren’t just sexy. Women aren’t just sexy. Even sex isn’t just sexy! It’s all part of every part of life for humans. I can understand this being hard to grasp in a culture such as ours, and even harder to internalize. Some people might never be able to see a woman breastfeeding and not wince a little, or turn away. That’s okay. It’s not ideal, but people rarely are.
It’s not okay to project your own discomfort and shame at the sight of a woman breastfeeding her infant onto the woman. It’s not okay to try and shame her into believing that what she is doing is anything other than exactly what she should be doing, no matter where she does it. Her highest priority should be the care of her infant, whether that’s in a mall, a museum or a church. Inserting yourself into their relationship, assuming for yourself a higher degree of importance in her consideration than her own baby, only reveals the poverty of your understanding and the pitiable depths of your narcissism.