Why do I have a National Geographic shot of a topless African woman? The fact is, when I searched for a tasteful shot of a western woman’s breasts, all I got were images like this:
I was looking for breasts and I got boobs. The boobs were all covered up but big, pushed up and yes, titillating. The women in the pictures were all in provocative poses. In the odd picture where a woman was topless, she had her hands obscuring her own breasts by fondling them, as if they are so fucking amazing that even she can’t get enough. Our culture is so invested in sexualizing boobs that they are best displayed being played with by their owner, or literally wrapped up in mystery, only to be busted out and exposed in the interest of enhancing sex.
Before I lose any more readers to masturbation, let me move on to the other half of this post, the breast. Under a search for “breastfeeding” is where I easily found the bared chest of a western woman:
This image is perfectly acceptable on the net. She’s all breast. Hanging loose. Not playing with herself. I had endless pictures to choose from.
Why then, in 2013, is there still debate going on about women breastfeeding in public?
I was recently talking to a male friend of mine about this very topic. I am an advocate for feeding whenever, wherever. This doesn’t mean that I often expect to find myself in line at a grocery store behind a nursing mother who’s concurrently paying for her purchases. It does mean that if she needs to stop and find a place in the store where she can attend to her hungry baby, she has every right to do so without being hassled.
Anyway, back to my male friend. He said that he is also for breastfeeding, but with some restrictions. Oh, I asked? For example, he didn’t want to find himself in a fine dining restaurant and have a woman at the next table “whip it out” while he was trying to eat. Not appropriate, he said.
Hmm. I took a few deep breaths.
I tried to explain to him that the first problem with his scenario (aside from the obvious breast whipping imagery) was that only a fool would bring a baby to a fine dining restaurant. Once you have a baby, meals are not eaten hot, in full, or enjoyed until that child is about eighteen years old. Fine dining? Nope, not in any new parent’s vocabulary.
However, to play his nightmare out, I asked him why it would be a problem for him to witness a woman breastfeeding at a fine dining establishment. Well, initially he said that it would be too distracting. He would expect the woman to practice some modesty. Then he went on to say that if his partner was nursing, he wouldn’t want her displaying her
breast boob because that was something for him alone to have the privilege of viewing. Essentially, her boobs were for his pleasure alone.
After a short but intense adverse reaction to this revelation, I then steadily queried, the breast would be for the baby’s pleasure, no?
He’s a smart guy (mostly, which is why his opinion shocked me). He got it. And this is where use of one of those feeding tents came up.
A more ridiculous thing I have never seen. Truly. A god awful cloak hooked around a woman’s neck in an array of ugly prints meant to look what, fashionable? A woman’s breast is not behaving in a boob enough way, so the solution is to cover it up, hide it’s functionality away?
My friend saw this as a reasonable compromise. He saw it as liberating for the woman who wants to breastfeed but doesn’t have the confidence to do it in public. Full circle back to the question, why doesn’t she feel comfortable enough in the first place? Could it be because of the sensibility of guys like him?
I see these absurd cover ups as bondage. I see it as losing ownership over our bodies. I see it as a weird medieval punishment for using our boobs as breasts. I see it as a way to cover up anything breast related that doesn’t act as enticement, so our breasts remain purposeful boobs to our men. I can’t help it. I see big, ugly pieces of cloth wrapped like cow bells around women’s necks as shaming.
Women who breastfeed in public tend to be discreet and simply intent on meeting their child’s needs. It’s not for show. It’s not to make anyone uncomfortable. It’s not to say that a woman will never use her breasts again for her and her partner’s sexual pleasure.
Breastfeeding is completely natural, hygienic and beautiful. Maybe instead of giving out nursing tents we should be distributing blindfolds in our fine dining restaurants.
Oh for fuck sakes.