breasts! babies!: breastfeeding in public…
by Ms. Joy
… Is not a terrifying thing. In fact, if you’ve ever had the opportunity to be breast to the wind you’ll know that they are not really that revealed. Babe’s face is mooshed in there and you can gently pull the top of your shirt down for coverage. Or, you don’t have to. Because you are a feeding a human and that’s not terribly offensive, but do you know what is offensive? Chewing with your mouth open and babies don’t actually do that. Anatomy lesson: The nipple stretches quite far into your baby’s mouth and if you’ve ever seen a cross-section, you might be surprised to know that your nipple is actually down babe’s throat.
Today is International Women’s Day and I thought it pertinent to touch on what is a very contentious issue for many in North America. Breastfeeding in public is another way of saying, “feeding a baby” but since the breast is a highly sexualized body part on a woman there are certain people who find it offensive that a breast is shown in public with a small, bald human attached to it. Breastfeeding is an acknowledgement that breasts have a function beyond the bullshit way they are used to judge a woman’s worth, instead of being used to titillate (yes, I did that), a woman’s breast is actively engaged in its most natural state. I would even go so far to state that breastfeeding achieves what women all over the world are trying to do each day: Remove the shame associated with our body and reclaim.
Many of the anti-breastfeeding in public arguments are predicated on the fact that breasts should not be shown in public and yet we only have to go as far as Facebook or the corner store to see multitudes of breasts on display in various states of uncovering, in both print and on women. The difference is that these breasts are fulfilling societal desires and expectations, they are pretty and not doing much other than that and while we may not want to admit it, a woman’s worth is still measured in how pretty and useless she is (case in point, a successful woman is described in typical “male” adjectives or stripped of her dignity – heartless, steely and of course BITCH). A breast engaged in breastfeeding ignores that “rule”, it is as beautiful as it is functional and ownership of the breast reverts back to the woman. Further, a woman who merges the home life with the public is somehow seen as suspect because she cannot possibly understand boundaries and that ever-present shame associated in women’s lives is revealed to be nothing of the sort and a figment of control.
When we, as women, state that another woman should not be breastfeeding in public because it is unnatural (really?), offensive and wrong we are actually stating the breastfeeding woman has no right to use her body as she sees fit.We are giving in to the sentiment that a woman’s body is a sexualized object, making us complicit with patriarchal mores that state the same. Breastfeeding, particularly in public, is as natural as spooning mashed carrots into a baby’s mouth but there is little sexualization encased in the spoon (we won’t touch on the carrot), the breast though is a totem to desire and breastfeeding denies that sexualization.
Your right to breastfeed in public is protected by law in Canada in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms under section 15 as all in Canada are protected from discrimination based on race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, SEX, age, or mental or physical disability. If you are discriminated against because you are breastfeeding, you are entitled to bring a complaint to the Human Rights Commission of your province (this deals with complaints between individual).
On a personal note, I have breastfed everywhere from a university classroom to the mall food court to the farmers’ market. I’ve received a lot of support in doing so but the most surprising was from an older gentleman who stopped by my stall at the Halifax market when I had Boy nuzzled in, this gent had been a sociology professor in a former life and he told me, “I wish we would see more women breastfeeding. It’s natural and those breasts are yours, women are breastfeeding all over the world right now and only here with do we get hung up on it”. Right on, sir.