Full disclosure: I breastfed all three of my children, and I never hesitated to feed them wherever I was, whenever they were hungry. They were exclusively breastfed (no other foods) for the first six months, and continued to breastfeed at decreasing intervals for many months thereafter. Breastfeeding is an extremely interesting topic for mothers who are breastfeeding, and for everyone else, it’s about as exciting as hearing about digestive complaints or what you ate for lunch yesterday.
No one cares except for you, and a very small, select group of people.
No one had to tell me this. I assumed breastfeeding was an intimate, private, personal relationship between a mother and child and boring to most people, as baby topics usually are. Teething, bowel movements, bathing, diapering, soothing, and the slow emergence of a child’s distinct personality are fascinating subjects for new parents and other soon to be parents, but no one else gives a rat’s ass what your kid ate yesterday or whether they can now babble the mmmmm sound.
Your snowflake is just like every other snowflake.
When a man was out at a restaurant recently, he was confronted with the presence of a woman breastfeeding her child – the woman seemingly oblivious to anyone around her. He took a shot of the woman, and asked his Facebook friends to clarify the issue for him:
OK moms out there. I know when a baby is hungry they need fed. I want to know if this is appropriate or inappropriate as I’m trying to eat my Fridays, there are little kids around. I understand feeding in public, but could you at least cover your boob up?! Your input is needed.
Feminist media went on a rampage against this man, calling his picture a “creepshot” and insisting he was “frightened” of a woman’s breast, and working themselves up into a froth over a woman’s right to not give a fuck about anyone but herself and her precious snowflake.
This isn’t the first time, either. When Karlesha Thurman breastfed her daughter in her graduation gown throughout her commencement ceremony, the same outrage happened, and once again, the people who would like to see a little discretion, and a little concern for the feelings and comfort of others were cast as troglodytes intent on controlling women’s bodies and denying infants food.
Here are the two breastfeeding photos in an imgur file, because unlike the photos I am about to post, they are NSFW.
The issue, however, is not about feeding babies and it’s not about controlling women and it’s not about misogyny or racism or classism or any other damn –ism the breastfeeding in public issue gets cast as: it’s about common courtesy. Which apparently, is not so common anymore.
Human bodies produce lots of fluids, and in general, we consider these fluids to be disgusting. This is likely innate, since many of our fluids contain pathogens that can be harmful to others and to ourselves once they are outside our body. Mary Roach wrote a book called Gulp: Adventures on the Alimentary Canal in which she explores many of the issues in a really accessible and hilarious way. If you’re not a fan of Mary Roach, I highly recommend her. Stiffed, Bonk and Packing for Mars are especially terrific!
Breastmilk is not comparable to other bodily fluids, in that it is meant to be consumed by another person, but it still evokes a lot of the primordial reactions other bodily fluids evoke. Feminists and left-wing writers in the media get all hung up on breasts, and assume it is the breast that is disconcerting, but that is because they are inclined to always assume misogyny and narcissism – it’s always about meeeeee! And my boobs!
This is nonsense. No one that I can find actually objects to breastfeeding – they object to the blatant, in your face disregard for the feelings of others – feelings that are prompted by discomfort with bodily fluids, not breasts. Understanding intellectually that breastmilk is a wonderful substance that creates smart, happy babies is one thing. Blood is a wonderful substance, too. It carries the oxygen that allows us to live! Stomach bile is a wonderful substance! It allows us to digest the nutrients in food! Ear wax is a wonderful substance. It captures particles of dust and dirt that might otherwise cause us to be deaf and miss out on Mozart’s Sonata in C or the latest Taylor Swift masterpiece!
I still don’t want to see your blood, vomit or used Q-Tip, thanks.
Feminists cast the issue of breastfeeding in public in terms of breasts, but there is an incoherence in their logic (I’ll wait for you to recover from the shock of hearing feminists are illogical). If breastfeeding is a banal, every day, quotidian thing that evokes no particular message beyond “infant nutrition”, then why do you care if anyone takes a picture? Why is an image automatically a “creepshot”? If breastfeeding is not banal, and carries with it a host of cultural messages, then why are you whipping your breasts out and tossing them in people’s faces and then acting like a spoiled brat when it garners attention?
You can’t have it both ways.
Here’s what I think: most of these women defiantly, aggressively breastfeeding in public are being jerks – they want the attention. They want people to notice them, and like rebellious teenagers who want their parents to die after they get a ride to the mall – they are immature assholes. I’ve spent a cumulative six years breastfeeding wherever and whenever I pleased, and I have never once exposed my breast to do so.
It’s called a baby sling.
This woman is breastfeeding.
So is this woman.
And this woman.
And this woman.
None of them are tits out in your face assholes about it, and I think it’s probably safe to assume they are not crippled with shame about feeding their babies the very best possible food they can: they are being polite to the people around them, who are not necessarily interested in the bodily fluids of other people, no matter how wonderful those fluids happen to be.
Common courtesy. There are very simple things any breastfeeding woman can do to practice a little discretion and consideration for those around her. One can buy shirts specifically designed for nursing:
But’s it’s just as easy to adapt your own clothing.
It takes a minuscule amount of effort, and costs nothing. It also requires that you care about the comfort of people you don’t know, and that’s the very heart of the matter.
There was a time when women were expected to care too much about the comfort of others and the whole martyr on a pedestal complex was fun for no one, but the solution to that extreme is not to promote the opposite extreme, in which women are encouraged to care about absolutely no one other than themselves. It often feels like feminism in particular encourages women to be belligerently selfish and trample over the needs of others without the slightest degree of concern (because that’s oppressive to women), all the while demanding that men be cognizant of women’s comfort and well-being at all times, and never, ever do anything that might cause them the slightest amount of discomfort.
Don’t make Dongle jokes – it makes me uncomfortable!
Don’t ask me for coffee on an elevator, it makes me uncomfortable!
Don’t sit on the subway in a way that’s comfortable – it makes me uncomfortable!
Don’t approach me on the street and say hello – it makes me uncomfortable!
Don’t speak first – it makes me uncomfortable!
Don’t ask me to negotiate for a raise – it makes me uncomfortable!
Don’t ask me to wrap Christmas gifts – it makes me uncomfortable!
The list could be ten times longer, it’s gotten so ridiculous. But heaven forbid a breastfeeding woman be asked to practice courtesy, discretion and consideration. Go fuck yourselves, you misogynist creeps who hate babies and want to control women!
Ultimately, these women thrusting their breasts into public spaces are jerks. They know they are jerks. They don’t care. They delight in forcing the wider culture to acknowledge their assholery, and admit there is nothing we can do about women who are petulant shitheads.
But there is something we can do – Mock them. Keep taking pictures of them. Laugh at them. Make fools of them.
Not that they need our help.
Tits or GTFO – it’s just a saying, ladies. Stop being so literal. Try a little valor. You know the better part of valor, right?
Lots of love,