Wednesday, 31 July 2013

You can only breastfeed in public if you're pretty

Me and my husband like to wind each other up.  He likes to say things about breastfeeding that he knows will make me rant.  I make ignorant statements about computers to give the same effect.  We thrive on irritating each other.

This morning's exchange began innocuously enough.
He said. 'My mate Matt went to (well known high street department store) the other day.  He said he saw a woman breastfeeding outside the men's toilets.'
'Oh yeah?  Cool' I replied
'He said he doesn't like it when it's in your face.'
'What? She got up and waved her boobs in his face?  That's a disgrace!'  I grinned.
'Haha, that's what I said.  I said that it was probably the only chair in the whole shop'.  I was feeling proud.  How well trained my husband has become. Defender of the breastfeeder.  'He said there were loads of chairs though.'
I replied archly 'I bet he really hates all those billboards with scantily clad models too.'
Husband gets that cheeky grin where I know he's trying to annoy me. 'Course not.  But they're pretty.'
'So it's alright to breastfeed in public, but only if you're pretty?

Now, I need to point out here that he does not believe any of this.  Or at least he'd better not. It was designed solely to get my goat.  Please don't get wound up (that would only make him happy :) )  But it did make me think.  There are two points here.  Firstly, I get a bit complacent sometimes about public breastfeeding, even though I blog about it.  I've been getting my boobs out in public for nearly three years.  I'm pretty brazen about it.  I don't look around to see who's staring, I get on with my life.  I probably wouldn't even notice 'a look' anymore.  So I actually am surprised when I hear that it bothers people.  I expect Matt just did an inward British tut and pretended not to look.  But what a shame, not that it bothered him, but that he even noticed.  Do you see a teenager playing with their phone and take any notice? No, because you see it everyday.  A woman sat in a shop quietly feeding her baby shouldn't actually even arouse interest in an ideal world.  In my opinion anyway.  To me that's the ideal - normalised.  Breastfeeding no longer interesting, just something that happens.  Something that passes into our subconscious for when we need the skills ourselves.  Something that gets talked about in everyday boring conversation, not in headlines. Something that we see so much that when a woman has her first baby we can all offer her support.  Something that is so uninteresting that we don't even care about the breast v bottle thing anymore and we just let mums get on with it.

Secondly, there is a lot of publicity about the issue of acceptable nudity, including the 'no more page three' campaign.  I wonder if there is some basis in this idea of attractiveness making it OK?  Whether my husband thinks I'm pretty or not, when I am sloping about town with no makeup, sleep deprived and drawn faced I don't think I'm an oil painting.  With puke, spit, snot, paint, glue and god knows what else on my clothes.  Do people look and think 'eugh, I don't want to see her boobs.'  If there any truth in this, it is appalling.  If there is anyone out there who truly looks at a woman breastfeeding, even if she looks like a foot, and doesn't think they are seeing something beautiful they need a slap.  Anyway, attractiveness is in the eye of the beholder, some people think I'm pretty and some don't.  Some people don't think Kate Moss is pretty.  What does it even matter.  Nine times out of ten you won't even see any of her flesh - it is just that knowledge that that naked female flesh is under there, and a baby is feeding - oh my god we can imagine it!! Help, help!!  Women have nipples!! Are we not aware that everyone is naked under their clothes?  In houses and in toilets up and down the country there are pretty and ugly women baring their breasts and feeding their babies with them. Do you look at a toilet and shiver in horror at the thought of what aesthetically displeasing act is going on in there (and I'm talking about breastfeeding).  No? Well if you can't see it, if you can't actually see a baby latched onto a nipple (and you'd have to get creepily close to see that) then who cares! If the image you see displeases you then don't look.  Get over it, it's only a bit of skin.  

Ah, seems the rant my husband wanted just happened.  Darn, he wins again. Good job I broke my laptop last night so I can think up some particularly thick comments about it.

Sisters, shall we put on some lippy, some heels and a nice dress before we breastfeed our babies?  No, I thought not.  Let's just raise our unplucked (because we haven't slept in 5 years and have no time to even do a wee let alone pay any attention to our appearances) eyebrows and do a good British tut at the idiots that don't support us.  Or any mother.  What business is it of anybody else's whether I feed my baby with my breast or a bottle?  As long as we are happy, healthy, informed, supported and confident that what we are doing is right for us?  You know what I do?  I see a cute baby and smile at the poor tired mum.  That's it.  If I can see a breast it matters not (except the little inner lactivist that thinks 'hooray, a bit more normalisation').

It's world breastfeeding week and the theme is 'Breastfeeding support, close to mothers'.  Lets support the hell out of each other.

1 comment:

  1. Applause and standing ovation!