Monday, May 10, 2010

Comment turned post

Here is my response to jp's comments on this post about breastfeeding in public. I started to post it in the comments section, but it simply got too long and unwieldy to do so.

Well I object that you believe that a part of the body that is associated with sexuality and titillation cannot be exposed even when it's in the context of breastfeeding. While I personally don't find anything at all upsetting about breasts (quite the contrary), if you take your breast out, regardless of intent or purpose, there is a chance that there could be a scene or the reaction may not be positive. As you are certainly aware of we live in a highly religious society, much of which has huge objections to nudity if it isn't on television.

If people don’t want to be exposed to partially exposed breasts, my advice for them is to stay at home. There are a lot of women running around flashing way more boob in their clothes than they’ll ever see when I breastfeed my child. There are lots of things that various religions object to. That’s the joy of living here. You get to see 17 year old girls with “juicy” written across their bum, people of all shapes and sizes with their butt cracks hanging out and women in outfits that would better be left in the bedroom. You get to see homosexual couples, people in various religious attire and mixed-race couples. All of these are offensive to someone. That doesn’t mean we ask them to go somewhere else.

Also, some women do flop out their breast in a showy manner at times. Morgan and I were walking down Canal street heading to the Subway one day and I just happened to look left at a woman sitting on the other side of the glass, not breastfeeding, no child at her tit anymore and boob just out for all walking by in New York. Did I point, stare, or go in and tell her to cover up? Of course not. Did I think that her decision to give everyone walking by on Canal street an extended show was a strong choice, yes.

There are always going to be people on the extremes. What you saw was an anomaly, not the norm. That being said, she still had every right to nurse her child as she saw fit. Was it a statement? Perhaps. Does it matter? No.

The great majority of women aren’t out to make a statement or flaunt their rocking nursing boobs. They’re out to feed their children. I do my best to do it in a manner that is discreet as possible, but the bottom line is, I’m going to feed my baby. As I mentioned before, most people are completely oblivious to the fact that I’m nursing, thinking that the baby is just sleeping. You’ll find that in the great majority of situations, this is the case.

I think that it is great that there are laws on the books in most states (something like 40+) to ensure that breastfeeding is allowed and something like half the states in the country exempt it from public indecency laws. But saying that people should just get over it is short-sighted and narrow minded of you. Not that you don't know this, but people have a very, very wide range of beliefs on sexuality and the human body, and seeing a breast even in the context of feeding a child certainly makes some people uncomfortable.

And I’m uncomfortable when people use profanity around my children. If I object to their language, I can exercise my rights and walk away. Personally, I’d rather my kids be exposed to breastfeeding mothers any day than people who swear like it’s going out of style.

The thing that really got to me about this particular story was that the objections were voiced by other mothers of small children in a play space designed for small children. If you don’t expect to see breastfeeding there, where would you?

And all that said, lots of things are natural and lots of things are lawfully protected and some of either or both of those things are going to raise a stink if you do them. I can drop my pants and naturally take a shit anywhere, but I don't and I think that most people are happy about that.

I hate hate hate when people say this. It’s disingenuous and designed only to get a rise out of people. You know as well as I do that breastfeeding a child and defecating in public are completely separate issues. For one, you are making the space unhygienic, dirty, and smelly.

I'm not attempting to be obnoxious about it, but not everyone can just turn off their association of breast with sex when a woman is breastfeeding, so it becomes an unusually touchy subject for some.

Ah, but you are trying to be obnoxious, by your very choice of language and tone, you’ve made that abundantly clear.

I also have another question to expand on the original post. The time that you were asked to use another room, based off the two posts it seems that this was a time you were not attempting any cover, were the "teenagers" both gender?

No, I was certainly not “attempting any cover.” Perhaps you and Morgan will have a different experience with M, but both of my boys tolerated a nursing wrap exactly until they were strong enough to pull it off of their heads. In this case, I asked my friend before I started feeding F if she had a preference as to where I nursed him. The teenagers were of both genders.

Sorry, one more thing about this that I think may be a bit related (maybe not) that may explain occasional parental tunnel vision. As a parent some things just become almost anti-sexual when its related to your child, at least thats been my experience. When Morgan is breastfeeding or pumping I can honestly say that during those times her breasts are completely uninteresting to me. Shockingly so. I think that I'm completely desensitized to them during those periods.

And you’ve made my point for me. Breastfeeding is not a sexual act. I don’t think it takes any special parental tunnel vision for breastfeeding to be construed in a non sexual way.


jp said...


jp said...

Btw - I wasn't being disingenuous when I used attempted to use a comparative between breastfeeding and other acts. There are plenty of things that are lawfully protected and allowable in public and I think that if you do them you bring yourself into a situation where scrutiny may be attached. You seem to see it very clearly how you would like the world to function in relation to breastfeeding and how it is treated. I don't see it so clearly, but I'm more than happy to concede the subject.

nana said...

well said, jenn

Jenn said...

A truce then. I completely understand that not everyone sees things the way I do. That's why I try whenever possible to schedule our outings around F's nursing schedule. When it's not possible, I do my best to be discreet. The facts are, however, that breastfeeding is a right protected by law (in 44 states) and that if it makes people uncomfortable, they are more than welcome to leave the vicinity.
Thanks for a interesting debate.

jp said...

You betcha, and thus a truce was declared (pinky shake).

And again, the only thing that I'm really disappointed in here is that breastfeeding isn't explicitly protected in all 50 states and a bit dismayed that it's only exempted from indecency in about half the states.

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