Breastfeeding: Natural but not Performance Art

I’ve gotten a little tired of the whole breastfeeding in public controversy. It seems that, as usual, people are incapable of finding that very reasonable middle ground between full-swinging tits-out with baby’s mouth and demanding that mothers pump ashamedly in the darkness of their homes.

I can never quite figure out what either side is so hysterically upset about. Do the naysayers, for example, really expect nursing mothers to just abstain everywhere save their bedroom closets? What exactly are they worried is going to happen when we see a suckled breast? Maybe it’s too glaring a reminder that we are animals, that motherhood can be as clumsy, wet, and sticky as baby-making. Or possibly it is that age-old desire to control women’s bodies in whatever way we can, even to the point of whimsy.

As for the pro-public milkers, the men and women that caterwaul in their support for indiscreet, topless anywhere-anytime suckling, I have to wonder what their arguments are. There is nothing sexist or discriminatory about the expectation of prudently choosing the venue for your baby’s feeding. Natural or not, I wouldn’t want to see one change their child’s diaper while I was dining and nor do I wish to see suckling while I sip away at my postprandial coffee.

There are plenty of natural behaviors and processes the human body requires, either with others or alone, that I think are best done in private or in the least, discreetly and without fanfare. I don’t like seeing people spit, scratch their balls or ass, nor do I want to see someone shit, masturbate, make-out, or fuck in public. These are all natural and entirely necessary daily necessities of the human condition. In the same way we don’t need to shame ourselves for engaging in them we also don’t need to politicize them, putting them on needless public display as though they are the equivalent to brushing one’s hair or cracking our knuckles.

Of course nursing mothers shouldn’t have to run to the nearest closet or restroom every time their newborn requires milk. But can’t we agree that a restaurant or café may not be the best place to do it? Or maybe, if one must, can we not be respectful enough of others to just throw a napkin over the shoulder?

It amuses me to consider how feminists expect people to police their language to totalitarian extents in defense of their fragile sensibilities while at the same time dismissing the concerns of others. These are the same people who created the concept of the ‘safe space’ where the uber-sensitive can hang out without fear of being intellectually challenged or hearing a word they don’t like.

Living in a society is as much about compromise as it is about gain. By living in a community I have an ease of access to resources that I wouldn’t have on my own in the woods. At the same time I cannot do everything I would like to do or how I would have it done, all the time.

Like so many other things in America, it seems breastfeeding has become a needless political issue around which feminists and others have decided to take a resolute stand for one reason or another. But merely because some people feel the act of breastfeeding, natural and necessary as it is, is beautiful does not mean it has to become performance art. Conversely, there are times and places where, distasteful as one may find it, breastfeeding will inevitably occur and the disdainful are free to turn their heads or change rooms.

My point here is that not everyone appreciates your body, behavior, or ideas the way you or others do. Further, we are not entitled to the love or adoration of strangers. That being said, we can be reasonable and wise about when we engage in bodily processes or intimacies, both respecting the sensibilities of others while delivering a resounding ‘fuck you’ to those who expect us to pretend it never happens.


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