Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Readers react to viral 'sexy vs breastfeeding' video

Last week, I showed you all this video and asked for your reactions. I wanted to see what problem or issue you thought the video was presenting, and what we can do to fix it.

Here's the video again, for reference.

(Disclaimer: I realize the reactions in the video may have been staged. But the reality is, many people DO feel the same way as the mall patrons in the video. Go look at the comments section on any news story about a woman being kicked out of a restaurant for breastfeeding and you'll see the exact rhetoric spewed by these "disgusted" people at the mall. Whether they are acting or not, they are portraying reality.)

The responses to the video were, not surprisingly, quite varied. But I found the commentary quite enlightening and thought-provoking nonetheless.

Many readers remarked on the presented double-standard, that a woman can show her breasts in a sexy manner but can't show them while breastfeeding.

"I was upset by this video," Andrea said. "I was upset that people called breastfeeding disgusting. I was upset that people felt they had a right to be so vocal about their 'disgust.' I was upset that that model had her boobs on display and no one commented in the negative. She was 'hot,' it was 'hot,' it was 'how her shirt is.' As the wife of a porn addict and the mother of a boy, this bothers me so much. The way society deems certain things acceptable and others not astounds me."

The apparent double-standard is problematic, especially because the intended use for breasts -- to feed babies -- is maligned. Kami said, "People no longer look at a breastfeeding woman and realize she is using her body in the way God intended her to."

Jessica S. agreed further, saying, "Breasts are NOT sexual organs as so many individuals will argue. Breasts are fatty tissue with milk ducts in them to feed the young our bodies produce .... Boobies feed babies!"

However, others disagreed, saying mothers should be more discreet while feeding their babies.

"Breasts are erogenous parts of the body and as such, elicit a sexual response when stimulated," Katie said. "Not to mention, breasts are sexual things in our culture. Whether or not it's right or wrong...it's true."

She continued, "
I do think breastfeeding needs to be normalized, but not in a "I can pull my boob out whenever I want because there's a CHILD TO FEED" sort of way. I think women can and should be discreet about breastfeeding, because whether we like it or not, breasts are already sexual body parts and should not be flaunted. But nursing discreetly, even without a cover, is totally possible."

Rebecca agreed, saying, "B
reasts are sexy. Of course I'm not going to teach that to my 7- and 3-year-old daughters because it's not applicable to them right now. But it doesn't make it untrue."

They and others commented that public breastfeeding should be a discreet activity, not one used to make a social statement with unnecessary nudity. But other readers said the decision to cover or not was up to the mother and no one else.

Breasts are sexual by nature, yes, and they are also tools by nature," said Darci. "I personally always tried to cover myself while nursing, whether with a shirt or a blanket, because I teach my kids any part of our bodies that we wear a swimsuit over should stay covered and private. But is it mine or anyone's place to instruct other women on how they should use their bodies? No. Is it my place to tell a person that what they're doing is 'disgusting' or 'rude?' No. I think smoking is disgusting and rude, but it's LEGAL and it's not my place to tell a smoker, 'You shouldn't do that here in public. It's disgusting.'"

Other readers saw a larger problem -- society's penchant for sexually objectifying women's bodies. "There is an undercurrent here that is even more disturbing," Amanda said. I could go on about feminism, body over-sexualization, and public shaming. But I think the biggest thing that makes me uncomfortable is that people are responding largely to both women based solely on their bodies, and not them as human beings. As in, what is seen of both women is merely 'her tits,' and not her humanity."

Jessica B. agreed with this disconnect between the body and the person behind it. "
It's sad that women's bodies are so often defined by the feelings that men get from them instead of the souls that reside in them."

When asked what can be done to fix these issues, the responses pointed largely to the normalization of breastfeeding, as well as calling attention to female objectification.

I feel like there aren't enough women out there who speak up for MOTHERS and advocate for MOTHERHOOD and what it entails," said Christi. "I was just talking about a similar topic with my mom and I asked her, 'Where are the celebrities who are standing up for mothers?' I just remembered that Alyssa Milano was just on Wendy Williams' show talking about breastfeeding. So there's one, I guess."

"There is so much needed to fix this that it can become disheartening at times," Jessica B. added. "Starting with our own children is definitely important. Using correct body terms will certainly help as well. Speaking up that it's okay for a women to cover while nursing and it's also okay not to. Teaching young children body autonomy. Putting an end to the "modest is the hottest" motto. Teaching young men that no matter how a woman is dressed, they alone are responsible for their own thoughts and actions."

Others said disturbed onlookers should simply avert their attention when something bothers them.
"I fed [my baby] once in public, last spring at the zoo. I got a few looks from people, but they quickly looked away when they realized what I was doing. Why can't everyone just do that?" said Beverly.

Amanda said, "
While I don't believe [breastfeeding is] disgusting, AT ALL, EVER, I also recognize that we are all operating on different tolerance, acceptance, and repugnance levels. Indeed, I am often required to look away from that which "disgusts" me in public. A person leaving their dog's crap on the sidewalk, for example. Or the person smearing mayonnaise all over their sandwich (shudder), to the child happily picking their nose and eating the boogers. Frankly, we are free to do what we will where we will, and especially when it comes to public breastfeeding, which is largely protected by law."

In the end, all readers agreed breastfeeding is a natural activity that need not be impeded by the discomfort of others.

eople need to be educated about the benefits and challenges of breastfeeding, so that they don't judge anyone who breastfeeds whenever, wherever, and however she needs to," Katie said.

And regardless of differing opinions on whether mothers should nurse their babies in public, readers acknowledged a need for mutual civility and respect.

"We, as a general population, need to recognize that we're not all going to be on the same side of the fence on this, but that doesn't make it OK for us to bash each other," said Rebecca.

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