There is hardly a week that goes by without some sort of personal affront being directed at a breast feeding mother. The latest story concerns a TOWIE star’s, Billie Faiers, sister who was photographed breastfeeding her baby while sun lounging. Before that the actress, Jaime Winstone, suffered online attacks after posting a photo of herself breastfeeding.
If this isn’t breast shaming I don’t know what is!
Breastfeeding is a natural thing and a normal occurrence but a quick glance from the negative comments left in response to these articles show opinions being divided along private-public lines. Public breastfeeding seems to offend some people’s sensibilities who view it as a private act that should be only done at home i.e private domain. On the other hand others, quite rightly, view breastfeeding in pubic as a natural occurrence and are accommodating of mothers needing to feed wherever and whenever required.
The private-public divide is a regressive binary view that does not help mothers in any way.
Public opinion that attempts to consign breastfeeding into the private domain is effectively making life much harder for mothers and curtails their freedom of movement. It is intimidation. Having a baby can be a rather lonely experience in itself for all sorts of reasons and the last thing a mother needs is to be ridiculed for feeding her hungry baby outside the home.
‘The Milk Trucker: The ‘Controversy’ of Breastfeeding and an Artist’s Response‘ is a chapter written by Dr Rachel Epp Buller featured in a MIRCI journal titled: ‘Motherhood Activism, Advocacy and Agency’. Dr.Buller is a feminist-art historian-printmaker and a mother of three children. While her work concentrates on attitudes in America all of it could just as relevantly apply to the debates in the UK. For instance, she argues that culture and the popular sentiment promotes the “lactating body as a controversial body to be censored”.
|Motherhood Activism, Advocacy, Agency $10|
The hypocrisy over breasts is also called out and is described as being “a study in contradiction”. The prominence of breasts in the ‘Sports Illustrated’ swimsuit issues feature alongside positive news reports with pictures of celebrities breastfeeding in news stands. Ordinary women, however, do not receive the same adulation, according to Dr Buller, even though the ‘Breast is Best’ campaign is promoted by medical personnel and milk formula companies. So breastfeeding mothers are subject to different rules according to their status in the celebrity fuelled media world.
Different breastfeeding campaigns and protest actions are mentioned in the chapter and parallels can be drawn with the protest that took place last year in London outside the Claridge’s Hotel after a mother was told to cover herself. Publicity about mothers who are negatively featured for breastfeeding in public can be seen as being “instances of maternal surveillance” that attract ‘good’ and ‘bad mother’ labels.
All this proves that the personal is certainly the political when it comes to breastfeeding.
A mother who is breastfeeding in public should not have her personal choice judged on notions of breast shaming.