Friday, July 25, 2014

Impossible Standards, Breastfeeding Edition

Someone I know very well and love very much recently had a baby. Therefore, the issue of breastfeeding has become a very apparent to her, and to a lesser extent, to me.

In the US, breastfeeding has come to be seen as both mandatory and obscene. And both of these are ridiculous and impossible. I still don't have an intimate understanding of how hard it is to be a parent, but I feel like I understand it quite a bit better than I used to. It seems to me that it's mind-bogglingly difficult even without people constantly flipping out about what you do and don't do with your breasts.

Firstly, since it came to light that there are health benefits to breastfeeding the baby, people treat mothers who don't breastfeed like porno-dealing monsters. This completely ignores the fact that some women don't have breasts at all, whether due to cancer or being born without them. Also, unless you want to try out waking up every 90 minutes to spend a half hour with a tiny human clinging to your chest all night every night, I don't think you should be flapping your mouth hole. But even if you have, don't be judging.

It seems to be remarkably difficult for people to imagine that other individuals have different lives and limitations than they do. Single mothers, for example, would have a very difficult time breastfeeding exclusively compared to mothers with partners. Also, some women produce less breast milk than others and either have to use formula sometimes or let the baby go hungry. Some women don't produce breast milk at all. And some women have any number of any kinds of problems, including poverty, illness (physical or mental), other children, etc etc until the end of the universe that may prevent them from being able to do what you think is best for a baby that isn't yours, so STOP.

And here's where everything stops making sense. People are super intense about the breastfeeding thing to the point where they super judge people who don't breastfeed and treat them like crap, yet at the same time, breastfeeding in public is treated like an obscene act.

Talk about your things you can't win.

This needs to stop yesterday. First of all, no, boobs are not sexual organs. Something that turns you on is not automatically a sexual organ and therefore obscene. Some people are turned on by legs or hair or feet, and we don't require those to be covered up anymore. Breasts are a secondary sex characteristic, in the same way that facial hair and a deepened voice are considered secondary sex characteristics. The only reason women aren't allowed to show their breasts in public in the US is because we arbitrarily decided that they're inherently sexual and therefore obscene. It's 100% pointless.

Enlarged breasts that are capable of producing milk (let's not forget that all people are born with breasts, including cis men) were meant to feed babies. That's all. If you're turned on by breasts, that's a learned reaction. It is not innate. Cultures where breasts are not sexualized exist, and the people in those cultures think we in the US are weird.

"But the men will be distracted!"

I couldn't give less of a fuck about that heteronormative excuse if I tried.

Mothers have it hard enough. If breastfeeding is supposed to be so fantastic, then make it easy for them. Leave them the hell alone if they have to do it in public. Don't stare. Don't act all grossed out. Get over yourself and grow up.

And if people really can't handle it, then why, as a certain new mother pointed out to me, aren't there breastfeeding stations all over the place? They should be in every store, in every park, at bus stops, everywhere. It would be so easy to set up. Just a little structure with a curtain and a bench.

You can bet that if cis men produced the breastmilk, there would be breastfeeding stations at every corner. Actually, we wouldn't even need it, probably. Because no one would bother them or call the cops when they had to feed the baby.


saber86 said...

Oh, the US has thousands of breastfeeding stations all over the country! A mother can even change her baby's diaper too!

They're usually called women's public restrooms.

::hairball retching sounds::

Were I a baby and my mom had to breastfeed me in a public bathroom, I would be more likely to associate being breastfed with unpleasantness or "eeeww icky smell I don't wanna be here doing this now." I mean, if I was hungry enough, I'd eat, but I seriously doubt I'd be happy doing it. Way to start potential psychological damage early, America. Feh.

Lindsey Weedston said...

Right?? Way to ruin every baby's favorite part of the day.