Today I woke up and saw another dang article about another dang photo of a woman breastfeeding her baby and how everybody’s in such a dang tizzy about it.
But this one was super-different because there were TWO women breastfeeding and (gasp) they were in military uniforms. (Interestingly, they were referred to as airmen. Airmen with boobs.)
Forty-seven of our United States have laws in place that protect women who breastfeed, which is to say, it’s legal in most of the country.
Yet, every time it is captured on film, people get all excited because there it is: a big, fleshy boob. And there are no rappers anywhere to provide context, and nobody is trying to sell you a Jacuzzi tub or get you to test drive their SUV, and nobody is salivating and it’s just a boob and a baby and a biological, natural function.
Boobs. More than half of us have them, carry them, check them for lumps, wash them, dry them, and dress them every single day.
Let’s get. The hell. Over them.
I’ll admit, it’s always a surprise for me when I walk into a coffee shop and there she is, Mother Earth feeding her spawn right there by the bean roaster. But it’s not her issue that I’m surprised; it’s mine. It’s my conservative upbringing and the messages I grew up with, which told me that bodies and bare skin represented sin and shame rather than nature and beauty. It’s my modesty and my personal history that causes my surprise, and these are not any mother’s problem, nor her baby’s.
As I sit there congratulating myself for not staring, I generally have to go through a whole systems check about how I feel about breastfeeding. Is she wearing pasties and dancing on the table? No. Is she in a school-girl outfit, singing Britney Spears tunes at the top of her voice? Not in most cases. Is she doing something all mothers need to do? Der. Do I have any right to tell her how to do that? Or to hide in a closet so I don’t have to react? Of course not.
And poof! I’m over it.
In a civilized world, we do not sexualize babies or children. Why would sexualize feeding them by treating the act as indecent?
Anyway, the alternative, I’ve learned in my research, is to wake up some morning to find like 200 lactating moms outside your door with babies on their boobs because they’ve organized a “nurse in” to protest your ignorance. It happens. In 2005, Barbara Walters told the world (or whoever it is that watches The View) that mothers who breastfeed in public made her uncomfortable, and BLAM next thing you know it’s a teat-fest outside ABC headquarters. Same kind of thing happened to Target Corp. in 2011, prompting nurse-ins at stores all over the country. Udderly awesome! (Sorry.)
Let’s move on from them.
But they have a sexual function! some say. That’s why it’s indecent! That’s why I get all squirrely!…
Your hands also have a sexual function. So does your mouth. Nobody’s asking to you cover those up, and most of us are not interested in living in a culture that would require us to.
So next time you’re at Barnes and Noble, and you see more boob than you’re used to seeing in the history section, I’d first suggest relocating to the magazine section for a little perspective. Or, you might remember that it’s the mother’s legal right, that it’s your right not to stare, and that it’s just a boob.
Get over it.
Caroline Burau is a freelance writer in White Bear Lake, Minnesota, and author of Sugarfiend and Answering 911: Life in the Hot Seat. You can also follow her on Twitter (@carolineburau) or www.carolineburau.com.