In case you didn’t know, the last group of people you want to piss off is the breastfeeding rights community, who often refer to themselves as advocates. These mothers and support persons are well organized, well connected and easily mobilized to defend the rights of mothers to breastfeeding in public. Even if a breastfeeding mom gets so much as a side eye in public, the proclaimed breastfeeding defenders will take to social media to air their grievances and solicit sympathy for having been discriminated against. In the past, upset mothers and allies have even staged “nurse ins” at companies like Target and Marshalls because the employees have not accommodated mothers’ rights to nurse in the store. In some instances, employees have directed mothers to bathrooms or the parking lot to feed their hungry babies. Of course, it’s just wrong. Mothers should be able to feed their babies where ever they want to.
Recently, talk show host Wendy Williams had Alyssa Milano on her show. Wendy brought up the fact that Milano’s pictures breastfeeding her daughter on social media are controversial. The two exchanged dialogue about breastfeeding in public, and sadly, Wendy Williams put her ignorance and hypocrisy on display to the world. Ignorance - because I don’t think she had a clue how crazy she sounded. Her studio audience even withheld applause after her silly statements. Hypocrisy – because she said that Milano offends her eyes to nurse her child by Miley Cyrus’ naked body doesn’t offend her because Miley is displaying herself in a sexual way, and not a nurturing way.
Milano asks Williams what’s so shocking about a mother breastfeeding a child. Williams replies “I don’t need to see that. I don’t want to….They (meaning breasts) are more of a sexual thing than a feeding thing. I don’t know why I feel this way. I’m a mom also. Breastfeeding is only a particular time amount of time. The rest of your life, breasts are sexual things. They’re fun bags.”
I’ve seen the most hateful comments directed at Wendy. Wendy right now is enemy number one of the breastfeeding advocate community.
I’m not mad at Wendy because I feel like she voiced the truth of what so many people really feel. She just has the guts to speak the truth. She spews thoughts and opinions from her mouth often times with little to no filter. As someone who talks with hundreds upon hundreds of people about breastfeeding through my work as a breastfeeding educator and doula, I can honestly say that her opinions of breastfeeding as sexual objects is the opinion of many people. Also, her disgust at the sight and notion of a baby being nourished from her mother’s breastmilk is a common thought.
Because Wendy is a celebrity and has a talk show, it’s somehow assumed that she can’t be ignorant on the issue of breastfeeding in public. It is assumed that she should take the politically correct route and not voice her opinions. Wendy is just like anyone else.
I’m not mad at Wendy because I feel like this is a great opportunity to discuss the challenges of mothers who breastfeed in public. I think Wendy was being very honest when she said, “I don’t know why I feel this way.” This is a great opportunity to dig into the underlying reasoning beneath the anti-breastfeeding sentiments. She said it quite clearly. She sees breasts as sexual objects, as "fun bags." Well, so do millions of others.
Where did this notion come from? How many aspects of society constantly reiterate the fact that breasts are sexual in nature? Can you honest think back on times as a child when you were taught about lactation, milk ducts, hind milk, and colostrum? Does the average American have any working knowledge and language to talk intelligibly on lactation?
A deeper issue here is perverted patriarchy as well. This modern day patriarchy that is pervasive in society is structured around underdeveloped male desire and commodification of humans, especially women and children. You know the patriarchy is highly developed when females themselves, like Wendy, profess that breasts are “fun bags” for men to play with.
Women have low self-confidence. It’s hard to convince a woman that she has everything she needs to nourish her child. Wendy admitted during the show that she breastfed her son for just 2 weeks. Society constantly bombards women with messages of inadequacy and lack. Capitalism trains women to always look for outside stimuli to achieve wholeness. However, capitalism keeps up the never ending search. Women who search outside themselves for validation and completion will never feel whole. There are a multitude of industries built on this rat race.
It’s no wonder that it would be absurd for many to even fathom that breasts are for providing all the nutritional needs for a baby. There’s an underlying assumption that babies are supposed to drink from a bottle and that feeding from the breast is “weird.”
I’m not mad at Wendy. I’m mad at society made up of many Wendys. I’m feeling encouraged to continue the slow and steady work of creating a culture of life. Western culture likes to deal with things in isolation. It likes to treat the symptoms and avoid the root causes of things. So, the western breastfeeding advocates want to crucify Wendy as the open enemy of public breastfeeding. But, Wendy is a part of an ecosystem of anti-life, commercialization, devaluation of feminine bodies, commodification of women and children, materialism, hyper sexuality, and overall perversion.
This is a great conversation piece to engage people in around the issue of breastfeeding. Her views are sobering to the breastfeeding supporter and clearly outlines exactly how much work is still needed to heal society. This is challenging on many levels because there are various aspects of society that need to be brought in to pro-life balance to produce the kind of adults that will support breastfeeding in private and in public.
What are your thoughts? How have you handled breastfeeding in public?
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Sis. Freya is the creator of RootMama. She loves encouraging women to achieve greatness.
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