Dr. Wendy Walsh: Our highly sexualized culture has gone too far when women (read: nature's nurturers) are claiming that breastfeeding is gross. When women begin talking like men in terms of sexuality and defile their own bodies then you know that this third-wave of feminism hasn't done much to truly liberate femininity. Instead we have colluded with the boys club to masquerade as an equal. This is not equality. Sexualizing our breasts is fine. Breasts are beautiful. But enslaving breasts to all things sexual and sentencing them to a life without maternal power is sad servitude to all things male.But I'm getting ahead of myself. Here are the facts that have me ranting over my morning coffee today.
Recently Kathryn Blundell, the editor of leading British parenting magazine Mother and Baby, wrote an editorial entitled: I Formula-Fed. SO WHAT? In it, she said breastfeeding is creepy and called breasts "fun bags" and continued with "seeing your teeny, tiny, innocent baby latching on where only a lover has been before feels, well, a little creepy."
And, on this side of the pond, that wise, sage Kim Kardashian --- whose own boobs are limited to working the night shift -- tweeted this to her fans: "EWW Im at lunch,the woman at the table next 2 me is breast feeding her baby w no coverup."
I understand that eyebrows get raised by this public display of this natural beauty, for I once staged a research study for my psychology dissertation on breastfeeding and romantic attachment. While interviewing nursing mothers, I learned that one of the most common reasons that women quit breastfeeding is embarrassment about nursing in public. All over Europe, paintings and statues of the Madonna (the real one, not the one who Vogues) depict her nursing, yet our American culture still can't get past the idea that breasts are more than sexual objects.
The sexualization of the breast had very early beginnings. Back in our evolutionary past, when humans got up off all fours and became bipedal, women evolved to grow larger breasts for sexual attraction. Now that we were upright, our lovely derrieres couldn't be seen from our front side, so breasts got bigger as a kind of, ahem, yes, frontal tushy. Men liked the view on both sides now, and all our lovely orbs signaled our fitness to reproduce.
But for hundreds of thousands of years, breasts still had a day job, and the sight of a nursing woman was commonplace in all cultures around the world. For millions of years, up until 1932, every human being was breastfed by their mother, auntie, or wet nurse. It was how humans survived before infant formula. During World War II, when women were needed in factories to build weapons, mostly male pediatricians convinced women that this new product made from whey (a cheese by-product) was better than human milk. It also allowed women to leave their babies for longer periods. Anyone who has nursed a newborn knows that feeding schedules are based on a child's needs, not a clock. And, sometimes their need is to just suckle and be comforted, so working full-time is possible, though tough.
Even though breastfeeding is on the rise today, it is in an uncomfortable race with racy messages. Sexy women are hot. MILF's are hot. Women who nurse are creepy. Fortunately, our increasingly sexual media is co-mingled with a powerful chant of a growing body of women who still think like women. Women who know that breastfeeding contributes to healthy attachments and good health all around. Women like Bettina Forbes, who co-founded "Best for Babes," a group that normalizes breastfeeding and shows that nursing moms can be powerful, sexy, glamorous, and nurturing all at the same time. Thousands of women follow her on Facebook and are what I like to call the real feminists.
When women hate their own bodies' natural functions, they need to stop and think. Whose sentiments are being recycled? I'll tell you who. Those of a dying, patriarchal culture whose boys club would prefer that you enslave the boobs to them.
And here's some news to throw back in the face of anyone who thinks that breasts are only "fun bags." According to one of my all-time favorite studies, guess which kind of woman is most likely to choose to breastfeed? The woman who is most comfortable with sex, erotica, and her body. Prudes don't breastfeed.
Kathryn and Kim, we hope you're listening!