Following my recent posts about images of topless women in the mainstream media, I was very interested to read this letter to the editor of The Guardian in the UK.
The original article discussed the question of breastfeeding, and whether mothers who either choose not to breastfeed or who cannot successfully breastfeed, are made to feel like bad mums. There were three letters in response and the top one made for interesting thinking.
The woman writing says:
“while on maternity leave I rang the restaurant where I was planning to join my colleagues for our Christmas lunch to check if there was anywhere I would be able to feed my baby. The rather bemused answer was that I could do it “in the toilet”. The equation of breastfeeding with excretion says it all.”
I have two sisters and three nieces (two of which were breastfed) and yet I confess to exhibiting the classic signs of discomfort when someone breastfeeds in my presence. My own preferred coping technique is the eye-lock – hold their eye and don’t let go. Why on earth do I feel this way? Why are near naked women wandering around trade shows acceptable (and the photo I linked to there is tame to what I have witnessed at some shows where women have nothing at all on their top half), when a mother performing one of the most natural functions in the world is seen as grotesque enough to be confined to the toilet?
Have our sensibilities of proper and improper gotten totally out of control? Have we become more sensitive to breast feeding in public in recent years or has our increasing tolerance of sexualised images of breasts distanced us from our understanding of their proper function?
And please – among all the theory, lets spare a thought for the mothers. No woman should have to sit in the loo while they feed their child. No woman should be made to feel ashamed of her role as mother and provider for her baby. And surely no baby should be forced to eat their meal in a public lavatory.