Breastfeeding has been a taboo subject in recent years. As a side effect of the sexualization of women, even using breasts for what they are made for is frowned upon. Women are seen as sex objects to the extent that something as beautiful and natural as breastfeeding is considered obscene.
But this ad using a woman’s body to sell a cheeseburger is okay:
This is World Breastfeeding Week. We will be stories and pictures of breastfeeding all over social media. If, like me, you follow a whole bunch of natural parenting and mother’s rights groups, you’ll be seeing more than your share.
I remember the first time I had to breastfeed in public. My son was four months old and we were going on our first family vacation to Gettysburg. All of the milk I had pumped to take with us spoiled on the car ride down. My son refused to have anything to do with any food that wasn’t breast-milk. At first, I was mortified. I hadn’t planned on breastfeeding anywhere outside of our hotel room. At first, I huddled, embarrassed, under a swaddling cloth.
Before the end of the trip, however, I had gotten over that very quick. My son didn’t like being covered. It was late July. It was too freaking hot to spend half my time under a blanket. My son was a grazer. He ate all the time in short bursts. I didn’t have the time or patience to cover myself up or hide every hour or two when my son wanted his five minute snack.
So, I just started to do it whenever and wherever it needed to be done. I made a reasonable attempt to stay decent, but I didn’t drape a blanket over the two of us or hide in a bathroom. I found reasonably secluded spots without completely separating myself from the crowds and the sights. I tried to only uncover what was necessary. But I wasn’t going to let embarrassment ruin our vacation or let my baby go hungry.
Alleviating the stigma of public breastfeeding is going to be a lot more complicated than publicly feeding our babies. It’s going to take more than a pretty celebrity doing it in a magazine. The problem is two-pronged. On one hand, we need to learn appreciation for womanhood and motherhood. We need not be ashamed. But on the other, we face a society that is set on making women into objects. We are not only shamed, but used. St. John Paul II informed us: the opposite of love is not hate, but use. We are used as objects for someone’s sexual gratification, when we are made to help people. This second prong is going to be a lot more complicated than the first.