I was at a party recently where a young father was getting a lot of attention as he spooned baby food into the mouth of his 6-month-old son. Several men were gathered around, enjoying the antics of the baby boy, who giggled with every bite.
Only a few feet away a young mother was
Both parents were doing the same thing – feeding their children – but the woman was getting the job done in a more intimate way. No one appeared to be shocked or disturbed, but neither was there a cluster of people gathering around her as they were with the man and his kid. Everyone was allowing the mother a realm of privacy in a busy room.
It seems as if people should be able to do the same for
A couple of websites I’ve come across credit the
Quindlen wrote that column in 1994 about something she did back in 1983, yet all these years later, public breastfeeding remains a renegade activity in many locales. Last year, breastfeeding flash mobs hit public places in the U.S., the U.K., Canada and Australia to protest bans on women feeding their babies where other people might see.
The Great American Breast Fixation has been with us a long time and seems stronger than ever. Breast implants are a big business, from Southern California to the Redneck Riviera on the Gulf Coast. Clothes that lift, shape and present breasts like fruit for inspection are no longer available just from Frederick's of Hollywood and are no longer sold primarily to strippers. Push-up bras and tight, low-cut tops are hot items in shopping malls across America.
From business offices to high school classrooms, modest displays of cleavage are commonplace. Bolder up-front fashions are standard at dance clubs, proms, beaches and bowling alleys. Breasts are so out in the open in America these days that it has become ho-hum.
Yet, when a new mom exposes far less skin while trying to satisfy a hungry baby, some people still get upset. Yes, some of them are crudely sexualizing this maternal function, but many others with a more traditional way of looking at the world are simply made uncomfortable when they observe a breastfeeding woman. For them, nursing is a purely private act and it should stay that way.