Or, The post in which I use .gifs to express myself.
So I know I’m still roughly 3 months away from becoming a real, bona fide, actual parent, but I’ve already decided to stay out of the whole “mommy wars” thing. In general I don’t think it’s helpful or constructive and generally leads to a lot of stress because people get so out of control. So I’ve decided not to ask for advice or make my opinions known online, since it usually devolves into nothing more than mud-flinging. That being said, I have to comment on something that I think all parents should have generally the same opinion on, though I know I’m probably opening up a can of worms in doing so.
It’s about breastfeeding. Ruh roh. Everybody stay calm.
More importantly, it’s about the people who think that breastfeeding in public is shameful, disgusting, immodest, wrong, or generally anything other than overall awesomeness.
The reason I got to thinking about this is because last night I was, against my better judgement, lying in bed watching the VMAs on MTV. I don’t normally do this, because I think the music industry these days tends to be a bunch of sparkly poo and I don’t watch music videos anyway, but there was an NSYNC reunion. And it ended up only being for 110 seconds, but IT WAS AWESOME.
(And this is the place I would put a .gif of NSYNC performing….IF I COULD FIND ONE)
Anyway. The show opened up with a performance by Lady Gaga, which is awesome because she’s been really quiet recently and I’m happy to see her doing things again. I mean, she did look like the bread cat at first, but, it is Lady Gaga after all.
The performance ended with her stripping down to a seashell bra and a thong bikini. And you know what, I’m okay with that. I really don’t have a problem if you feel comfortable enough with your body that you feel like you can perform in front of millions of people with basically a naked bum. Rock on with your bad self.
What happened shortly thereafter, though, was a little more upsetting and made me throw up in my mouth a little. What I’m referencing is Miley Cyrus’s performance with Robin Thicke. She, too, went the ultra-skimpy bathing suit route, (in what looked like latex) but at one point in the performance she got down on all fours and grinded her behind on Robin Thicke’s genital region.
It’s at this point that you’re probably wondering what on earth the VMAs and Miley Cyrus’s twerking and Lady Gaga’s butt could possibly have in common with breastfeeding. Nothing, directly. It’s more about perception and the things that we, as a society, are okay with.
See, this is the problem that I have with all of this. We (speaking on a highly generalized zeitgeist level) are totally, 100% okay with watching women parade around on stage and do a hip-gyrating, boob-shaking routine wearing little more than pasties and a thong. I’m okay with that too, usually–I mean, I think there should be a point at which we draw some kind of line, but I think if female performers want to wear that sort of stuff and dance like that, okay. I’m not a prude, and I’m not offended by that and neither, it seems, are a lot of people out there. It’s sort of the “norm” isn’t it? So, point #1, we’re okay with women dancing around nearly naked and swinging their boobs around to the beat. Gotcha.
But we’re not okay with a mother sitting in a restaurant or in a public park trying to quietly, modestly, privately breastfeed her child.
I know I’m not the only person to see the giant, glaring, ugly double standard here, right? RIGHT? The whole concept basically makes me wish my head would explode so I don’t have to listen to it anymore because IT’S JUST THAT FUCKING RIDICULOUS.
Oh, sorry, I should have warned you that there is language in this post. If you haven’t guessed yet by reading my blog, I really couldn’t give 2 sparkly unicorn shits about censorship. (But it would be awesome if I could…)
Here’s the deal. The recurring theme I see online coming from people who are against breastfeeding in public say that it’s disgusting because…wait for it….children might see.
Yes John, I am serious. Let that one sink in for a moment.
Yeah, sorry, but I’m calling bullshit on that one. Because guess what. There’s quite a few things I worry about my children potentially seeing on TV or out in public. Gratuitous violence, drug use, really explicit Game of Thrones sex, (good for Mama, not good for kiddos) Miley Cyrus twerking in a latex bodysuit, etc etc. You know what I’m absolutely NOT worried about my children seeing in public? Breastfeeding. I mean, let’s get real here, if a woman is breastfeeding in public, what are we actually seeing? Not much. Maybe the top of the boob. Maybe, shocker of all shockers, a flash of nipple for a second. Hey, Janet Jackson got away with it and we didn’t seem to mind all that much. (Ooh, am I dating myself with that one?) You see a whole lot more of the whole boob/cleavage area just by walking through the mall.
Here’s another thing. There is nothing sexual about breastfeeding. Nothing. And if you think there is, you probably need to seek professional help because you might have a weird fetish. Lots of cleavage at Hooter’s is super sexual, though. There’s only one reason to dress like that other than to attract attention to one’s self (and probably get better tips–hey, I used to be a bartender, I know how it works.) Now let me cover all my bases here and say that I don’t have a problem if you want to show a little cleavage. Or a lot. It’s your body, you do what you like with it, and if you feel like that’s something you should be doing, fine. I think tasteful cleavage is pretty. Generally, I am totally chill with boobs. Boobs boobs boobs.
But here’s where the line gets squidgy. If we, as a society, are going to be okay with lots of cleavage and bikini thongs on national television and what some people see as an exploitation of the female body, we have got to stop pretending that we are offended by a woman feeding her baby in public. Have to. Because that is one of the worst double standards out there that I can think of. There are already enough double standards about women, let’s at least try to cut at least one out. Because we can’t say that we’re okay with super-sexualization on TV and not be okay with a little top boob poking out over a baby’s head in the park once in a while. For god’s sake, what if a woman was wearing a thong bikini and pasties in the park feeding her baby with a bottle? We’d be totally okay with that, wouldn’t we? So what’s the difference? Because I have yet to figure one out.
About the only thing that I can think of as far as the “children might see” logic is that in fact, we are placing our own insecurities about the female body onto our children. By saying “I don’t want my children to see that” we are really saying two things: 1) “I don’t want to see that” and “I don’t want to be bothered to explain to my children what’s going on when they ask what that woman is doing.” What’s wrong with telling our children the truth about breastfeeding? It goes something like this: Baby is hungry. Mom has food. Mom is feeding baby. Sounds simple enough to me. And if we’re going to be uncomfortable with that notion it means we’re really uncomfortable with ourselves and it’s just being projected onto mom and breastfeeding baby. And you know what? I am way more uncomfortable explaining to my child what Miley Cyrus is doing when she’s simulating sex on tv than explaining that that mom is feeding her little one just like I used to do when they were tiny.
And one more thing: let’s stop forcing women to cover up while they’re breastfeeding. If you personally want to do that for your own comfort or modesty, rock on. Go for it. Nursing covers can be super cute! But we can’t tell a woman she has to cover up, and I don’t give a rat’s tail if you’re on a plane or at a play or in a movie theater or in a restaurant or on the beach. How would you like to get inside a dark stuffy sleeping bag and eat your dinner? Or sit in the bathroom and chow down? Sounds pretty shitty to me (pun intended). So let’s quit asking our mothers to feed their babies in awkward places and positions if they don’t want to. Especially if we’re going to practically expect our female celebrities to show up on the red carpet nearly naked.
Basically, my point is this: Boobs are made for feeding babies. And that’s awesome. Boobs are also pretty and lots of people like them. That is also awesome. So it’s also okay if women want to show them off and dance around in any state of dress/undress that they want. But we can’t be okay with one of them and not okay with the other. It just does not work like that.