We're here visiting the good ole' U.S.of A. Steven deployed to Afghanistan recently, so we took a few weeks to fly home and visit the family and friends. The flight was hard, just in case you were wondering, (you WERE wondering) but that's another post, (unless I choose to block it out of my memory forever).
There's a lot of thing I enjoy about visiting the states, after being away. There's a lot of things I hate about visiting the states. I'll discuss the one that bothers me the most about our culture:
SEX. SEX. SEX.SEX. SEX.
Raise your hand if you just cringed! Now take that hand and use it to navigate towards the "exit," on this page, because this post is not going to be for you.
Or perhaps it IS.
I've become so saddened by the state our culture is in right now. Over-sexed. So much that I'm not sure we even notice it anymore.
I'm sure you hardly batted an eye at those. You've seen those clips one hundred times. They're practically white noise.
How about these photos?
The other day I posted a shared story on Facebook, describing one woman's story of being treated badly on an American Airlines flight because she was nursing her baby without a cover.
Heaven forbid. "There are children on this flight!"
This hits home for me, not just because I breastfeed, but because I've never had to deal with some nasty comment from someone uninformed. Europe has a whole host of problems, but seeing a woman breastfeed isn't one of them. I'm not sure how I would feel if someone were hateful to me in a restaurant, or store, because I was nursing a child. I think I would probably be very hurt, and confused. I don't think I would be able to just brush it off. I also believe strongly in extended breastfeeding, which comes with its own host of prejudices, (but that's a different story).
This particular post got me into a fairly involved debate over whether or not it's reasonable to ask mothers to "cover up" during nursing sessions in public places. For a lot people the issue seems cut and dry: cover up your breasts, (because I don't want to see them when a baby is attached to them) when you're around me, and we won't have a problem. This is oversimplification at its very worst. Breastfeeding can be complicated. Covering up an infant during breastfeeding can actually make it impossible to breastfeed them. Covering up an infant can be uncomfortable, for both mom and baby. Ultimately, covering up an infant presents an additional, totally unnecessary hardship for a mother who is trying to feed her baby. Most women are not feeding their babies in public to make a statement, though I'll concede that some probably are. But for the sake of argument, let's say that women are only trying to feed a child---no ulterior motive involved. Why then,does it make people so uncomfortable? Children are being undervalued, and so is breastfeeding.
In America, I think it's three main reasons:
1. It's strange. Let's face it, it's not everyday you see a woman breastfeeding in public, (covered or not). You may or may not see it more than once, but you likely don't witness it everyday, or even every week. Most women would prefer to nurse their babies in the comfort of their home, or in a quiet secluded spot--but sometimes this isn't possible. But even if it were possible, it still shouldn't be expected of the mother to remove herself from a situation.When a baby's gotta eat--a baby's gotta eat. Formula fed infants are fed on schedule, breastfed babies are not; they eat when they want to, and a variety of factors influences when they want to eat. And yes, wanting to eat and needing to eat are the same.
2. "I'm uncomfortable...but I don't know why." A lot of people really have no idea what makes them uncomfortable. No one wants to admit that they see breastfeeding as sexual. Because, well, that's embarrassing. Deep down we know it isn't sexual...but...still...it's kind of sexual...right? Right?! Wrong. So people will list off rationalizations for why they're uncomfortable---none of which actually answer the question of WHY breastfeeding in public is wrong, or indecent:
"I don't want to see your breasts!" What if you literally can't? What if the combination of the top of my blouse, and my baby's head are covering me entirely? Why are you STILL uncomfortable, (I'm also totally naked under these clothes--by the way)?
"I don't want to have to explain this to my children." Which part causes you to shudder at the idea of talking this over with your child? Is it the nudity? Or the milk coming out of the breast? Or, perhaps, is it your own lacking of understanding on the topic? Get enlightened, parents. Because news flash: in a world filled with rape, genocide, murder, poverty, AIDS, discrimination, a-moral behavior, and just general "hate" towards others---I think feeding a baby with your body, falls under the "easy" category of discussions to have with you children.
3. Breasts are for sex! Here's the one no one wants to claim. Yet, my impression is that it's really the biggest reason. We're so used to breasts being solely for sex. Children, obviously, are not for sex, so breast + children = unnatural. Possibly immoral. But only so long as it's not out in the open. Out of sight, out of mind. Cover up--and we don't have a problem.
And that's my biggest issue. Women in America have been so objectified, that our breasts, God given to produce nourishment, have been reduced to merely things we stuff into lacey contraptions for men. Any other function is, "too weird!" or even, "gross!" Well, I've had it. I've had it with being a woman, and constantly having to worry about some man not taking control of his own thoughts. That's right sir---my,"dear Christian brother"---it's YOUR responsibility to keep a clean mind; not mine. Because let's face it: at the beach, there's no difference between this:
We've been telling our daughters over and over and over again, that it's their fault if they're objectified. Look at dress codes for high schools: 98% of the content directly applies to female students. There's even a dress code for elementary schools! How sick is that? A six year old can't wear a spaghetti strap top. Why? There is nothing sexual about a pre-pubescent child's body. What are we telling our kindergarten daughters about their identities? We're telling our daughters to dress modestly, so as not to frazzle the men folk. Where is the male responsibility? If a woman decides to wear a short skirt and a push up bra, is it her fault if a man chooses to lust after her? No. It isn't. That is a sin that the man will answer for---not the woman.
Now, don't get me wrong. I think there is certainly value in dressing modestly, (I dress modestly by our culture's standards), and In being modest. I don't think modesty is an issue when it
comes to breastfeeding---because breastfeeding is not sexual. I plan on encouraging my daughter to dress modestly, not to protect her male peers, but because SHE is a person, a person with values that extend far beyond how beautiful her body is. She shouldn't unnecessarily flaunt her body, because she is not a sex object.
I plan on telling my son that he is responsible for his own thoughts. When he chooses to look at woman and think sexual things---he doing just that, CHOOSING to degrade her, even if she in fact is degrading herself.
I think my husband sums it best. Steven has more integrity and moral fiber than anyone I know. He also values femininity, and motherhood. He understands that children are always-and-only blessings from God, and ultimately they are people. He's also an American hero---so....you know, he's got that going for him:
People are offended by breast feeding in public with no cover because they do not really view babies as people the way the view grownups as people; they do not believe infants have rights, feelings or value; and they view women as only sexual things rather than real people. This a dehumanizing argument. I find it quite interesting that "society" would choose this mountain to die on in the realm of public sexually explicit behavior. The fact that we even correlate breast feeding with public indecency is disgusting, a-moral, and repulsive. The moment people gauge decency by that which offends modern society, we have lost our ability to
know right and wrong. Babies are the foundation of our society and ought to be valued as such, but instead we think our modern, screwed up, warped informed spectrum of comfort ought to outweigh the mode by which an infant is fed; regardless of how uncomfortable it may be for the child or mother.
Shame on our society. Blaming a woman or child for your inability to maintain custody of your eyes or mind is heinously sinful. If a man objectifies a woman while she's feeding her child that is HIS mortal sin and not hers. Luckily we have never had to nurse Ava uncovered in America, but I would literally lose my mind if someone tried to shame Blayne for feeding our baby in a way that is natural and comfortable. If you're ok with eating outside with a blanket over your head in the summertime to keep people from being offended, then maybe there's something to talk about, but otherwise you may ought to reconsider using societal norms as a way to inform your conscience as it relates to feeding babies. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us.