breastfeeding

Thanks to a recent TIME Magazine cover that features a young mother breastfeeding her three year-old child, there has been an elevated amount of online buzz about the appropriateness of public breastfeeding in a civilized society.

While many people have zero problem looking at boobs all day if they are presented in a sexual context, when the human breast is presented as nature intended – as the primary source of nutrition for young mammals – those same people get all nervous and squishy inside.

If you, like many Americans, feel highly uncomfortable looking at the TIME Magazine cover yet feel fine about the bevy of sexualized boobies that are mediated continually to grace our collective consciousness, it might be time to re-examine what you think that you think about sex.

While sex is a beautiful and natural experience, how we perceive sex is largely a cultural construct that each society creates. Everyone knows that sex sells – however, connecting sex to its natural and inevitable outcome of childbirth tends to put a damper on the whole situation. This isn’t good for selling products or making money, which is the mainstream media’s #1 goal. Therefore the connection between breasts and feeding children is downplayed to the point of disgust for some people with small minds, otherwise known as BOOBS.

Boobs argue that breastfeeding should not be permitted in public, forgetting perhaps that once they were babies as well. Maybe they just want females with babies to stay home altogether, so the public doesn’t have to witness this fragile stage of life. Perhaps they are angry, because in America we celebrate sex but are scared shitless of intimacy. A breastfeeding woman is shunning the former in favor of the latter; a choice that ignorant “boobs” can never comprehend.

Good for the baby and good for the mother, breastfeeding is highly encouraged by medical professionals. If you travel around the world, you will notice many more mothers like the TIME Magazine cover, women who breastfeed their children for several years more than is “appropriate” in our modern culture. For most of human history, babies have been breastfed for years. It is only with the advent of contemporary sexual culture that our society has determined that breasts and babies should be separated at a much earlier age.

In modern America, breasts are defined culturally as sex objects first and milk bags second. When this social construction is turned on its head and priority is given to a baby’s hunger over a man’s sexual desires, both men and women grow uncomfortable with the unordered situation.

While our culture is evolving, we aren’t there yet. Breastfeeding women today still face a backlash from ignorant boobs who don’t want to think about the icky connection between Rihanna’s rack and the cute little baby who needs breakfast. This sort of divided thinking is a relic whose remains still pollute our atmosphere.

Take heart, breastfeeders of the world. As women gain more and more financial power (females are already out-earning men with college degrees), issues that have long been relegated to the feminine realm will turn into important matters of public policy. Childcare, breastfeeding and pregnancy will no longer be “women’s issues,” but rather important national initiatives that must be taken care of before the work can be done.

Image: Raphael Goetter