"What message do we send about the roles of women?" -Anna Quindlen
I breastfed Boots (my little girl) until a few days before her third birthday. I breastfed Bubba (my little boy) until he was two and a half. Altogether, I spent over six years of my life either being pregnant, breastfeeding, or doing both simultaneously.
At this point, several of you probably think that I'm insane. Others might consider that quite normal. Normal breastfeeding behavior is one of those things entirely dependent upon your culture.
Formula is the norm around here though combination feeding has gained traction. No matter what a mother chooses, someone is ready to guilt her. I know many wonderful mothers that have formula-fed, many that have breastfed, and many that did some combination thereof. There isn't a mother I know that doesn't strive to give their children her very best, whatever that may be.
It's funny to me that not all that long ago, wet nurses were the norm if you were unable/unwilling to nurse your child. Now, at least here, the idea of a woman breastfeeding a child that isn't hers is seen as basically criminal. Yet we all pay to drink other mammals' milk. Goats and cows usually, 'cause that's not weird. (I totally drink cow's milk.) Is it the pasteurization process that makes it acceptable? Apparently! Mothers willing to donate their breast milk are often times required to do so for no compensation while the companies that take it, pasteurize it, and sell it at $4/ounce. I'm glad formula exists, it serves a vitally important purpose. I do wish people would contain their squeamishness for the greater good though. Donated milk, in whatever form it comes, does formula's job better.
That isn't how our society works though. No, our society says that breastfeeding is obscene and should be hidden away. Think that is merely the crazy rants of a few? How about we look at what the largest virtual society on the planet has to say about it. Facebook.
Some images banned from Facebook (FB) for being graphic/obscene:
A collection of images judged by FB as being protected under Free Speech:
Facebook's hate speech, graphic content, and nudity policies:
Facebook does not permit hate speech, but distinguishes between serious and humorous speech. While we encourage you to challenge ideas, institutions, events, and practices, we do not permit individuals or groups to attack others based on their race, ethnicity, national origin, religion, sex, gender, sexual orientation, disability or medical condition.
People use Facebook to share events through photos and videos. We understand that graphic imagery is a regular component of current events, but must balance the needs of a diverse community. Sharing any graphic content for sadistic pleasure is prohibited.
Facebook has a strict policy against the sharing of pornographic content and any explicitly sexual content where a minor is involved. We also impose limitations on the display of nudity. We aspire to respect people’s right to share content of personal importance, whether those are photos of a sculpture like Michelangelo's David or family photos of a child breastfeeding.
I completely fail to see any humor in any of those images. I do see an attack on women, for no reason besides the fact that they are women. Does that count as gender discrimination? You'd think so. Sadistic pleasure? Yep, sounds right.
Let's talk about those "limitations on the display of nudity." This is how FB answered the question of whether or not they allow breastfeeding photos:
Yes. We agree that breastfeeding is natural and beautiful and we're glad to know that it's important for mothers to share their experiences with others on Facebook. The vast majority of these photos are compliant with our policies. Photos that show a fully exposed breast where the child is not actively engaged in nursing do violate the Facebook Terms. These policies are based on the same standards which apply to television and print media. It's important to note that the photos we review are almost exclusively brought to our attention by other Facebook memebers who complain about them being shared on Facebook.
Typo notwithstanding, they struggle to be consistent with this policy. So many mothers have had their photos taken down or even been banned from their account or page over photos like these:
Facebook has gotten better about what they ban and delete over the past few months, but it hasn't stopped. I can't help but look at their criteria for what is "appropriate". No fully exposed breast. Apparently the fatty tissue of the breast is okay. Alright. Pictures of men with their tops off aren't banned. So it can't be the nipples or areolas, right? Wrong.
Female breasts have been so sexualized that even if there is a baby near by, a fully exposed breast is seen as too obscene. Even if the exposed breast of only a comic or a fountain. Facebook is a representation of our society at large. Our society appears to condone violence against women, even joke about it. Our society only grungingly accepts that the primary function of female breasts is to feed our children. Do not look at those images and tell me that rape culture doesn't exist.
So. What message are we sending?
I don't automatically have an issue with any of these images. We shouldn't be afraid of our bodies. But why is it always the women?
These are the only naked men I could find. The women are all posed with those seductive, come hither looks. When the men do it, it's funny.
What are we saying?
What are we saying?
That women are sexual objects to be used, to please, to serve, to fuck. My problem isn't that Playboy and Maxim exist. Sexuality and sensuality are normal. And hey, Playboy has good articles. We don't need to ban porn. But why is it always the women getting naked and offering their bodies as advertisements? It is because our society had led both men and women to believe that the female body is something that can be bought? Owned? Taken? Stolen?
If a woman is using her body to feed her child, she needs to toe the line so as to not be offensive. If a woman is using her body to sell tickets or get money, that's totally acceptable. I don't claim to know where the line should be. Context matters. How the individual feels matters. What I can't stand is the hypocrisy, the double standard. The "women will shut up and listen because I have some mansplaining to do."
Breasts, male or female, are not obscene. Using them to feed a child is not obscene. Breasts being pleasured as a sex act is not obscene. Private? In most cases, but even then it shouldn't be seen as offensive. Our bodies are not obscene. Let someone walk down the street naked. What will I tell my children? That they are comfortable with their body, good for them. As long as they aren't simulating sex acts with unsuspecting strangers, I'm cool.
Maybe we should all walk around naked out in public from time to time. Take away the mystery. Take away the shame. Take away the guilt of having genitals. Our bodies are our most precious resources. They are fatty, buff, curvy, hormonal, sweating, farting, menstruating, itching, burping, blinking, thinking, imagining, working packages of anatomy. Cherish your body and don't let anyone call it