"Don't see the need for this sorry. It's just vulgar show boating:I have a BABY, look! Aren't I worthy! Well, news flash, we have toilets and not so public areas where you can still do what is natural, please use them! And by the way, I am very much a feminist."
That was a response to picture that I made into a meme. This one:
The idea that breastfeeding or reproductive rights beyond abortion, has no place in the public discourse of feminism and equality boggles my mind. I know that there is an idea that breastfeeding is anti-feminist and that too boggles my mind.
So let's start with the belief that this is vulgar. In our vernacular there are various definitions of vulgar. Given the context of the picture and the comment made I assume she meant either of the basic definitions, those being: lewdly or profanely indecent or morally crude, undeveloped, or unregenerate : gross.
Having nursed four babies in my life time I've known and dealt with many people who strongly believe that breastfeeding is vulgar. There are those who proclaim breastfeeding is "just fine with we me as long as I don't have to see it", but once it's done in public, it again becomes lewd and vulgar. The question then is what makes the act of feeding your child in public profane, indecent, and morally crude? Is the fact that the child has his or her mouth attached to the breast? Is it the fact that a part of the breast is exposed? A strong argument could be made that the mere idea of using the word vulgar as a description of public breastfeeding is itself rooted not in feminism but misogyny. After all, the issue time and time again goes back to the belief that breasts are sexual organs. There is also the point that our Puritan roots as a culture dictated that not only women should be covered from neck to ankle, but that it's the woman's responsibility how a man reacts to seeing her skin. Not his. These are the beliefs from our cultural roots that controlled our bodies, took away our choices, and dictated our worth. Today it rears it's ugly head again by telling women they are morally bankrupt for daring to show skin while feeding their child as nature intended and as our wonderful bodies allow us to. We are again being told to cover our bodies and that the shame of our bodies is a virtue rather than a socially constructed hindrance. Keep in mind hindrance is putting it nicely.
Now how about this sentiment: "It's just vulgar show boating:I have a BABY, look! Aren't I worthy!"? Of course I already addressed the "vulgar" part, but I have to say the "show boating" really got me thinking. I laughed at it first, but that is usually my reaction to something I find utterly ridiculous. Then it got me to thinking. What does she mean? Is she inferring that I'm showing off and think I'm special because I had a baby and I breastfed it? Does she not understand the overall purpose of the The Big Latch on? The event I was participating in when this picture was taken? I will admit, there are many moments when I look back on my pregnancies, labors, and births and feel pretty fucking proud of myself for doing it not only once but four times. But I don't expect anyone else to understand that or value it in the very personal and spiritual way I do. I certainly don't breastfed in public because of those reasons. I breastfed in public because my child is hungry, fussy, or tired and because I'll be damned if someone tells me I can't. Simple as that.
So, I read that sentence a few times and I was reminded of something a woman who claimed to be feminist said to me. She was very adamant that "breeders give feminism a bad name". Especially those like me who act like "having the ability to get knocked up and suffer through pregnancy and natural birth makes you special." Remembering that frightful conversation help me to come to the conclusion that maybe that sentence was a jab at my worth and my ability to call myself a feminist. To that I say breastfeeding is very much a feminist issue. If I choose to feed my child with milk my body produces for him or her and I choose to do this by allowing that child to nurse from my breast, how does it not become a feminist issue when someone says I can't or shouldn't do it because of how it makes them feel, or because their own set of morals. How is that any different from telling a woman how she should dress, speak, act, or think? How is that different from telling a woman who she should vote for (or if she even has the right to vote at all), or when she can have sex and with who? How is it different than forcing her to keep an unwanted pregnancy, be violated medically, or dictating what her overall worth is in this world? How does limiting bodily choices for a breastfeeding mother differ from limited the bodily choices for a woman without child? All because of some other persons prescribed set of moral standards and expectations?
In closing, I'd like to hear from others. How can a person call themselves a feminist and have such a negative attitude, no not just negative, judgmental attitude towards public breastfeeding? How does that work? How can you believe that public breastfeeding and feminism are mutually exclusive? Or what is your argument to say that it isn't? What do you think?
PS - I know I didn't address the toilet comment, but only because it's been said and addressed ad nauseam and because it's unbelievably ignorant.