Boobs on display

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.

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2 responses to “Boobs on display

  1. I breastfed the Wee Man for a year and two weeks.

    Believe me, you are so knackered that whipping them out in public rapidly does not become a big deal. It becomes totally normal – something that you are doing ten or more times a day – and so is routine rather than embarassing/ problematic.

    It always amused me when people had issues with it. Yes, I did tell them off. But I also understood that to them, its probably unusual. To me, totally part of the routine.

    I know a university lecturer who breastfed her kids in the 1960s. she didnt get maternity leave then, so baby went with her everywhere. She breastfed in lectures (and kept lecturing) and tutorials (and kept tutoring). How cool is that? Although I will never forget my colleague’s faces when I talked to them about work matters whilst simultaneously feeding the boy… they tried to be so pc, but quite clearly didnt know how to handle it.

    In my experience, a happy mother is a happy baby. for me, feeding was easy. I understand for a lot of people it isnt. In either case (breast or bottle), though, mothers with young babies deserve support, not condemnation. (You should contrast the help given to dads with young babies, versus the help you get if you are mum struggling with a buggy somewhere, etc).

  2. I was very lucky. I fed for a year, and never had any complaints about doing it in public (all the Mums even sat and breast fed in Church without anyone batting an eyelid). In fact the only acknowledgement I ever got was the odd knowing look from a Mum of older children, and the occasional “well done” from someone telling me they either missed feeding or couldn’t do it themselves and were glad I could.

    At the end of the day, you can feed a child showing a lot less flesh than you would on the beach, and most people don’t even notice. It’s sad when people do find that a baby having its lunch makes them uncomfortable, but I always figured if anyone did complain they had the choice of a breastfeeding Mum or a screaming child in their cafe. I know which they’d have gone for…

    And no way would I EVER feed my baby in a toilet!

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