Breastfeeding in Public Part 2

Thank you for all of your comments from the first post. I’ve LOVED this debate. I just wanted to clarify a few points that I think were getting a bit skewed in all of the comments. To catch anyone up who didn’t read the previous post, we are debating the appropriateness of open breastfeeding which is by my definition breastfeeding publicly uncovered exposing the breast for all to see.

I am pro breastfeeding. I have no problem seeing a woman’s breast or seeing a woman breastfeed. Rather, I wish women were less closed off from each other. I remember going to the lady’s locker room at the pools in Iceland where I would have to strip down to my birthday suit, walk to the showers, wash myself in an open shower room with a bunch of other nude women of all ages and small children, then put my swim suit on to go outside to the pools. I have to admit, coming from a very closed nudity background, it was a bit uncomfortable at first. But then, I came to almost enjoy it. It was liberating to see what other women actually looked like without clothes. Girls who looked super skinny and perfect in their clothes would undress and I’d look at them and say, “Wow, they don’t look as good naked as they did in those jeans. I guess its not just me.” Or I would see women who have had children and have stretch marks and saggy boobs and say, “Oh, so those are the changes I can expect when I have my own children.” I felt like it really relieved many of my insecurities.

My issues with open breastfeeding have nothing to do with my own discomforts as it does with other’s discomforts. Particularly with men who WERE NOT raised around breastfeeding AT ALL, but also with men who’s discomfort does NOT come from sexifying the breast during breastfeeding.

Here’s an example to illustrate the latter man. We’ll call the example man Billy Bob. Billy Bob is sitting in the library studying when he looks up and notices a woman with something written across her shirt. He stares at the writing for a bit contemplating the words. After a moment or two, he notices this woman staring back at him only she’s got a disgusted look on her face and only then does he realize that he’s been staring straight at her boobs for the past 5-10 seconds. A few days later, Billy Bob is out doing some shopping for his grandma’s birthday and sees his wife’s friend who had just had a baby a few feet away. He starts to approach to congratulate her when he notices that she is breastfeeding. Realizing that there is no way to look at the baby without looking at the breast, and not wanting his wife’s friend to think he is trying to stare at her breast, he quickly ducks into the nearest store hoping that this woman didn’t see him.

My point from that example is that avoiding open breastfeeding is NOT ALWAYS about sexifying the breast, which seems to be the main drive for pro-open breast feeders to feel the need to expose everyone to breastfeeding. Rather, women themselves have set up so many boundaries to avoid sexual harassment and to avoid being seen as an object that many men have decided to simply stay FAR AWAY from the line of any type of situation where they might be accused of sexually harassing or objectifying a woman.

Maybe it is because of my own background and my own father’s extreme discomfort around breastfeeding, but overall, I feel that there are so many religious, personal, cultural, and other reasons people may have against open breastfeeding that I feel there should be more respect given by open breast feeders to those around them. That is why I feel that those who wish to practice open breastfeeding should stick to their homes, friends, and family where they can ask and be more sensitive to those who may be against it. If one does feel like they want to take bolder steps, breastfeed in a park or other OPEN places where those who don’t want to be around it can avoid it if they wish. Whipping a breast out in the middle of a crowded grocery store can be very much like cornering a rat in a cage. It shows NO respect for the feelings of those around them. Using a blanket to cover the mother is a way to show respect. Even if the baby pulls it down and exposes the breast, I think people will feel more respected.

In the mean time, if you would like to open breast feed, you are more than welcome to use my house. Both Xan and I have no problem with it in our home. 🙂



Filed under Natural Baby Care

9 responses to “Breastfeeding in Public Part 2

  1. I fully support women's right to breastfeed in public. However, I do not think that women should open breastfeed in public. No matter what you think SHOULD be the case, breasts HAVE been sexualized and to act as if they haven't isn't smart. I also don't think that the nipple is the only part of the breast that is sexual. The nipple is the only part that isn't allowed to be exposed in movies or when you're just walking down the street. But women who expose pretty much everything else are still doing it in a sexual way. There is no way that you can say that just covering up the nipple takes the sexuality out of the way that many women dress these days. So the rest of the breast is sexualized too.On the other hand, I heard this crazy story about people who were such extremists about breastfeeding that it made me laugh. A friend of mine, Emily, went to visit her sister, Jane, in a neighboring city. Jane was at her sister-in-law's house, so that's where Emily went to visit her. While they were there, both Emily and Jane needed to nurse their babies. Jane let her sister-in-law know that she was going to nurse. The sister-in-law and all of the rest of the women in her family got up and left the room. Emily was really confused by this. Jane explained that none of the women in her husband's family breastfeed, and they all think that it isn't natural and they don't like being around it! This was so strange to me, but all of their family was that way. This just goes to show how much family and culture have to do with the way you see things, breastfeeding and the sexuality of breasts included.

  2. I get what you are saying about having respect for those who may be uncomfortable by it, but that argument could also be used for women who wear very revealing clothing. Even here in sheltered Utah, I have seen some shirts/dresses that reaveal more of the breast than breastfeeding a baby does (except for those few seconds of getting the baby to latch on). Personally, seeing someone wearing such clothing makes me more uncomfortable than seeing a woman nursing her baby. The former IS exposing the breast in a sexual way, where the latter is not. So, I think if we say breastfeeding women need to have more respect by not exposing themselves in a public place by feeding their baby with no cover, then we should ask the same of women who like to wear revealing clothing. I do, however, believe that women have turned this into a more difficult situation for men by the reactions like those in your example. We need to think twice before we assume a man is staring at our breasts for a sexual reason and react accordingly.

  3. I will leave a short comment, as I probably said too much last time. I love your Part 2. For me, these thoughts take me in a totally different direction. Thank you for bringing up this wonderful topic for discussion!

  4. I do think that women should show more respect by not wearing revealing clothing. Unfortunately, there's really not much I can do (or would do) to stop people from either kind of public exposure because I really don't feel like it's my place. However, if people hear my opinion, it may change theirs!

  5. This is an excellent debate! I think it is disrespectful to dress in clothes that are too revealing. It makes people uncomfortable just like open breast feeding (pretty much the same thing).Actually, it makes me think of another easily debatable topic. Foul language. They have a right to say it, but don't I have a right not to hear it?

  6. Jenny, I think that is a perfect comparison. And I am sad that you edited your comment, because you were right on with your example (I got it because I am subscribed to the comments). I think this is what I was trying to say at one point in the previous post's comments – How do we balance the rights of somebody to do something and somebody else not to witness it?

  7. There is something bothering me about this discussion – we are concerned because somebody else's actions are making us uncomfortable. Why is it their job to make sure we are comfortable? I think we should look at it another way – Instead of "How should they change?" maybe we can think "What can *we* do in those situations to make ourselves comfortable?"

  8. Dang, I am sad I missed the first part of this discussion!!As a mother who has breastfed in just about any place you can imagine, I understand what you are saying. I, however, have a different spin on it. Yes the breast has become sexualized, but the issue is deeper. Much deeper. When I breastfeed in public, I do so under the cover of the blanket. I do this because breastfeeding is an intimate act between me and my baby. I also do it out of respect for those around me. This whole argument of "women have the right" to do whatever is archaic. Obviously women and men have the right to do whatever they want, but it doesn't leave them free of the consequences. The liberating of breastfeeding came about as part of the whole sexual liberation of the 60's. If we understand that idea, we will understand why the argument isn't as simple as it might seem.During the late 50's, the women were sick of the repression they experienced. They decided to break away from it and become more like men. Not only in the workspace, but in sexual expression. Women felt it unfair that men could have sex with whomever they wanted without having the consequences. Thus, they broke with tradition and declared sex as separate from procreation and free for women everywhere to enjoy. At no costs. (This is where abortion comes in, but I don't want to discuss that.) In light of this new freedom of (sexual) expression, women felt that covering while breastfeeding was inhibiting these rights. They started uncovering themselves.The reason for this history lesson is because we need to understand the reason behind this discussion. The argument comes from women's lib. I am not saying whether I agree or disagree with this, I am more stating the facts.Breastfeeding is very natural; however, arguing about whether it is appropriate in public or not is really another platform for women's lib to assert their opinions. Personally? I think that covering up shows respect for yourself and those around you. As another person stated, I dress modestly for the same reasons.

  9. Amber – I disagree with you. Maybe women's lib and the 60's is where it started, but personally, that doesn't even come into consideration when I think about whether or not I am going to use a breastfeeding cover.It is interesting that your example includes sexual freedom, because I just read an article yesterday that concluded that rather than everybody being free to have sex with whomever they choose, the opinions have gone the other way – now both sexes see any person who sleeps around in a negative way.Anyway, my point is that you state "we need to understand the reason behind this discussion. The argument comes from women's lib." It might have *come* from or originated with that argument, but I don't think it is that argument anymore. We have changed, the culture and the population have changed, and so the argument has changed.

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