Saturday, February 14, 2009

Straw Man (Mildly NSFW)



I've been mulling over this post for a while. It's more one for the girls than the guys, so let the adorable baby above be your warning.

Some time ago, I got in trouble on MySpace for a picture similar to this one:



It wasn't this one exactly. The one it was is on another, nonfunctioning computer, so I cannot use it as my example. Anyway, the MySpace breastfeeding controversy was the forerunner of the Facebook breastfeeding controversy.

I find Facebook's issues with nursing especially amusing since this is my Facebook profile picture:


Yes, the first picture of me shows more breast, but really, not by much. And yet it's the first one that is considered improper for public gatherings.

The Facebook controversy has exposed, again, one of American society's dirty little secrets. We don't get breastfeeding. Especially not if-gasp-the woman has the nerve to nurse in public. Especially if it's, like, at the dinner table. Where people are eating. Because, gosh, we just can't go around feeding babies at the dinner table when everyone else is eating.

This "controversy" comes up, and I hear the same tropes from the anti-nursing crowd. We support breastfeeding, they say, just do it discreetly. You can't go around whipping a boob out. You could traumatize a small child. You might even give a boy the impression that breasts are used to feed babies. And we can't have that, can we?

Know what my favorite argument is? "Sure, breastfeeding is natural. But so is going to the bathroom, and we don't do that in public."

I shouldn't even address this. I shouldn't even have to address this. The people who make this argument should be patted on the head and sent off to mop the floors, because that's about all their cognitive powers are good for. But I keep hearing this, and so I am going to address this.

Breastfeeding is not analogous to urinating. Duh. It is FEEDING A BABY. The ONLY thing it is analogous to is--wait for it--EATING. To compare it to anything else is a straw man argument, and a particularly poor one, at that.

If you can tell me--honestly tell me--that you do not want to see any babies at all being fed in public, then I will support you in stopping breastfeeding in public.

If it is the exposed breasts/implied sexuality that offend you, then I expect to see you no longer buy Cosmo or Maxim. I expect you to actively boycott any mall with a Victoria's Secret, Abercrombie and Fitch, etc. I expect you to never again play World of Warcraft, Grand Theft Auto, or even the Sims (any version, given the ability to install nudity hacks). I expect a heated letter-writing campaign any time a local TV news anchor wears a low-cut top.

Let's be consistent here, folks.

Breastfeeding is not sexual. The key word here is not breast, but feeding. That's another argument I've heard. "I don't want to have to explain to my child what you're doing." The heck is there to explain? "She's feeding her baby." I had to explain to my children a couple of weeks ago what was going on when a woman on the bus prepared a bottle of formula. Somehow we all survived the trauma. (For the record, although my kids have sometimes witnessed bottlefeeding, this was the first time they'd ever seen a bottle prepared. They had no idea what was going on.)

So, breastfeeding offends you. And? Formula feeding offends me when it's unnecessary (and let's be honest, most of the time it is unnecessary). We have no protection against offense.

And if you feel sympathy for the offended, just remember...something you do probably offends them too, whether it be your SUV, your gun, or your cross. It's not a game I, for one, care to play.

8 comments:

Dave said...

Careful! Diane Cibrian is going to try to re-zone your blog!

Sabra said...

As long as I don't try to wash any cars, I should be fine! But you are right, she takes it to a whole new level.

Murphy said...

I'd be interested to hearing your thoughts on the recent Salma *sigh* Hayek 'controversy'. For me, it wasn't so much the breastfeeding of a child (on camera) on a humanitarian trip, but the fact that it wasn't her child which kind of made me pause. Thoughts?

Sabra said...

You know, Murphy, breastfeeding someone else's child isn't as big a deal in other cultures as it is in ours. Popular as Salma Hayek is here, she's not American. Maybe this is commonplace in her part of Mexico. I know that in some cultures, cross-nursing isn't even blinked at.

My only issue, and it's a mild one, is that the nursing seemed to have been done as a photo-op. I don't think nursing random children is common anywhere. If this was, say, her sister's baby whom she nursed on a regular basis, I honestly would have no problem with it. There's some "worry" over issues like the volunteer nurser's diet/health, but really, when was the last time you heard about melamine-contaminated breastmilk?

Jay G said...

The only problem I have with breastfeeding is that we just don't get to see enough of it...

;)

John B said...

I have no problem with the breastfeeding. I'm all about the breasts. I'll be doing 60 miles over three days in august in Seattle for the Susan G Komen foundation against breast cancer.

Like Denis Leary, I'm ardently pro-tit!

beautifulwreck said...

I don't think Salma did it for the photo op. She is a lactation activist and has been very vocal about breastfeeding, extended breastfeeding, etc.
But I really don't care, I think it was a great thing to share with the world and has brought a lot of attention to shared nursing and cross nursing. LLL practically forbids, even among women who know each other, which is why I never pursued being a leader. The fact I spent six months sharing breastmilk with my best friends baby with her pediatricians blessing should be enough in the eyes of naysayers.
Excellent post Sabra BTW.

knitalot3 said...

I would bet men object to breastfeeding very rarely.

The problem I see is where do you draw the line? Breastfeeding a six year old? What if he is only five and a half?

Whipping it out at a kindergarten t-ball game with no bra and no attempt at modesty bothered me a little, but only because I didn't feel like it was my place to have to explain to other people's children what the woman was doing.

I breastfed my last two children for over a year. Our country could save a ton of money in WIC checks if more women would breastfeed.