No, I am not finishing that joke. I am not that lame.
But seriously. Remember when we were talking about feminism and the message breastfeeding advocacy sends sometimes? It happened again yesterday when this image circulated Facebook. And I kind of hate it. It must seem like I have some sort of weird hate-boner for breastfeeding right now, so I feel like I have to rush to defend myself: I don’t. I may not be breastfeeding anymore, but I still think it’s important. I still consider it an amazing thing. But that doesn’t mean I ought not not talk about the things that make me raise an eyebrow.
Two years ago, when I was first getting my breastfeeding advocacy on, I wouldn’t have batted an eye at this. Of course your breasts are happy, bouncy fun time and functional! Hooray breastfeeding outloud! But now I look at it, and it ties my stomach in knots. What is this saying? Is this saying the right thing?
I’m left wondering — was I part of the problem then? Or am I overstating the problem now? Is there putting too much pressure on the breastfeeding movement to do it perfectly? I was to to discuss this later, because we need to get to the issue here. The image. From the article The Posters That Celebrate Cool, Multi-Tasking Breasts, we got this:
There are three of these posters, designed in 2008. So really, this old news, but it’s still icky news. I don’t mind the other two — though I don’t understand the “Get a free drink” thing, do they pass out free screwdrivers to moms in the UK? Because if so, we’re moving.
But this? I’m not sure if I should start as “sexualized” or “this woman is being portrayed as property.”
This is tricky, because sexualized is the point of this poster, obviously. The poster assumes a heteronormative relationship, which is problematic, but not my issue. I would be just as bothered by this poster if it said, “bond with your woman.”
I’m bothered because while it’s trying to tell parents, “You can continue to have sexual breasts while breastfeeding.” It’s actually an important message; more partners need to be aware that while it may seem like it in those first couple months, you don’t stop being sexual because you also happen to make milk. Sexual in a different way, absolutely, but not done. Ideally it’ll cut down on premature weaning for sexual reasons.
It also touches a part of me that’s bothered to have sex and breastfeeding on the same poster. Part of the reason breastfeeding is so stigmatized in the United States is that it’s seen as a sexual act — that our breasts are exclusively sexual. So while this says, clearly, “No, you can do both,” it does it in a way that seems to add to the sexualization of breastfeeding, rather than detract from it.
Here’s my big squick; I went from just being slightly bothered to grossed the hell out. It’s an image that shows a faceless woman with one breast being portrayed as “for her baby” and the other as “for her man.” Where’s the third breast for her?
While nursing my usual snuggly nature would turn into touched-out really, really fast. I mean, in the matter of minutes. I would smack hands away from me when it got to a certain point, because fuck you this is my body! and this triggers that for me. I want to reach in their and pat everyone’s hand away and go, “Stop it, this is her body, get your hands off.”
While we ought to make sure parents understand that their bodies are also sexual, we need to also send the message that their bodies are still theirs. We put so much emphasis on when mom will start having sex again, when she will be working on getting her body back, and oh, is she breastfeeding? We put so much emphasis on the motherbody that it worries me we’re not sending a loud enough message, “Hey, it’s okay. Just love what you have.”