I don’t write a lot about breastfeeding, but maybe I should start. In my twenty-something mind, breastfeeding isn’t high on my priority list of feminist issues. My activist brain space is devoted to access to birth control, sex-education, glass ceiling, street harassment, rape prevention, LGBTQ equal rights, and other issues whose impact I see and feel on a daily basis. Fact is, I just don’t have many mom friends (yet).
That’s already starting to change though, and with the baby fever that’s consuming my Facebook newsfeed, I’m suddenly aware of how controversial breastfeeding seems to be. Who knew? (I mean… most people knew, I’m 24 and self-involved, so sue me).
Target employees harassed a woman breastfeeding in a store (against their own company policy) and inspired angry moms to launch a “nurse-in.” This horribly misguided “Reclaim Your Wife” Twitter campaign has created a burst of animosity towards bottle company Bitty Labs:
The company was forced to issue an apology to those bothered by the idea that husbands should buy a product so they can “reclaim” access to their wives’ breasts:
The messages had nothing to do with putting a husband needs before the baby’s needs, it was more about having a little extra time for the rest of the family. Obviously the whole campaign was poorly executed. We apologize deeply for this misunderstanding and assure you, from now on the campaigns will be closely monitored before they go out. Thank you for a second chance.
For me, as unconcerned with breastfeeding as I am at the moment, there’s a bigger issue here. Like the David Horsey cartoon at the top of this page suggests, our society celebrates female nudity when its purpose is to titillate and arouse men. When its purpose is something much more banal, like the biologically designed ability to nurse an infant, it’s somehow gross and icky.
Why am I surprised? This fits right in with the othering of female bodies that we’re just soooo good at these days. Michigan State Representative Lisa Brown was berated for lack of “decorum” after using the word “vagina,” a degree of medical correctness her colleagues apparently found uncomfortable. People fell all over themselves to complain about a Carefree ad for panty-liners that used the word “discharge” to describe…. discharge. SHOCKING. Remember when Willy Chyr’s Always ad was first pad or tampon ad to feature blood? You mean it’s not a harmless blue liquid? Why did no one tell me!
The point is, for a very, very long time, anything that women’s bodies did that men’s didn’t was feared, minimized, hidden, berated, and at the very least, relegated to a dusty corner full of euphemisms and public shaming. I think we’re finally on our way out of those dark ages, but it’s a slow road full of stuffy old men, people who only have sex under the covers, and folks who are unwilling to acknowledge that instead of creepy and weird, women’s bodies (and all bodies) are awesome and magical.
VAGINA VAGINA VAGINA VAGINA VAGINA
Related Post: Crazy shit you can buy on Etsy, the period edition.
Related Post: Bodies are awesome, especially when you have to dance in front of a lot of people.