Breastfeeding: not appropriate for those under 18

Kate Harding at Salon writes about a minor controversy in the UK over a breastfeeding awareness poster that depicts a little girl simulating the act with a doll.

“Distasteful, inappropriate and crude.” That’s how some people are describing a poster hanging in a hospital near Manchester, England. The grandmother of a patient there calls it “shocking” and “disgusting.” A health care assistant at the hospital calls it “highly offensive.”

What’s the oh-so-scandalous image? A picture of a little girl pretending to breastfeed her dolly.

The poster, placed in a children’s ward to promote Breastfeeding Awareness Week, reads, “It’s normal. Children copy their mothers. Teenagers do it! Celebrities do it!” Now, I doubt the folks behind the poster will be winning any awards for clever copywriting — or design, for that matter — but given that the image in question shows a fully clothed child doing nothing remotely sexual, the outrage is absurd. And tiresome. (And disturbing, in the case of the health care assistant who’s offended.) How hard is it to understand that breastfeeding is about nourishing a child, not exhibitionism? We’re still hung up on this? Really?

Some golden delicious stupidity can be found in the comments of the article Harding links to, in which highly offended mouth-breathers insist the poster is exactly the same as a picture of a child unrolling a condom or simulating sexual intercourse, claim it could give pedophiles ideas on how to convince potential victims to cooperate with them and lament society’s insistence on poisoning young minds with such “adult matters.”

Tell me, at what point as adults do we forget that breasts serve another purpose besides filling out a shirt? It seems ludicrous that this still needs to be clarified, but there is nothing, N-O-T-H-I-N-G sexual about breastfeeding, even if it involves a nipple going into another person’s mouth.  It’s also not like using the toilet, which is the argument those who are against the idea of breastfeeding in public like to use.  A lot of these people also like to describe giving birth as “shitting out a kid.”  Biology, go learn you some.  As Harding points out, there is nothing more insidious or disturbing about a child pretending to nurse a doll than if she were using a toy bottle.  If you see something sexual or obscene about it, you may want to sit down and have a long soul-searching session with yourself, determining if perhaps some professional help is in order.

There’s some premium grade hypocrisy in telling women that our children will grow up to be sickly and retarded if we don’t breastfeed, yet breastfeeding is something that should be done in private, lest it offend the delicate sensibilities of others.  It seems that breasts are to be considered sources of nourishment only to the bearers of them, as for everyone else they’re big, porny, obscene reminders of sexual intercourse that will render the very fabric of society to shreds if we have to look at them for too long.  Unless they’re in a Victoria’s Secret catalog, then it’s okay.  Don’t worry if that doesn’t make sense reading it, it didn’t make any sense writing it either.

At some point, clearly during this strange new era in which parents now believe their children have to be wrapped in cotton batting and never allowed to watch, read or listen to anything that may let them know there’s a world that exists outside their home, breastfeeding became one of those topics that kids are somehow too innocent to handle.  It’s the reason both LiveJournal and later Facebook gave for banning users from posting breastfeeding related icons and photographs, that the images were “inappropriate” for children.  You know what’s inappropriate for children? Having parents who are so uptight they can’t even bring themselves to explain what breastfeeding is.  That’s all it would take, you know, your kid sees a picture of a woman nursing her infant, he or she asks “What’s that lady doing with her baby?” and you answer “She’s feeding him.  It’s something mammals have done for millions of years.”  You won’t be poisoning your child’s mind, or forcing him or her to grow up too soon.  I promise you, your kid won’t turn into a crackhead giving BJs in a bus station restroom because you taught him what breastfeeding is.  He or she probably won’t even find it that interesting, likely just nodding and then returning to his Legos, or VeggieTales, or picking his nose, or whatever it is small children do to amuse themselves.  Kids don’t care, they just accept the world and its mysteries and fascinations as is.  They don’t become self-righetous and judgmental until much later.  It’s adults who have psychotic meltdowns over that kind of thing.

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4 Responses to “Breastfeeding: not appropriate for those under 18”

  1. andrea nyc usa Says:

    Simply and beautifully said. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

  2. Christi Bass Says:

    Not to mention, a lot of older siblings see this kind of thing on a regular basis.

  3. Well said. I never understood the whole fuss over a natural method for a mammal to feed her offspring. Oh, the horror!

  4. *I* don’t see the fuss over *breasts*. Men get to walk around bare-chested. Whether I’m feeding a baby or not, I want the same right.

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