We live in a world where giant photos of lingerie clad women adorn storefront windows, where Sports Illustrated swimsuit models don’t even wear swimsuits for the easily accessible annual edition. Porn magazines are not exactly hidden from wandering eyes. But god forbid a mother breastfeed her child in public. Put those boobs away ma’am, unless they are being sexually displayed for the male gaze in public.
Recently, a mother in Austin, Texas had just finished spending $150 at Victoria’s Secret when she asked a sales associate if she could feed her baby in a dressing room. The young mother was turned down and told to nurse her baby in the outside alleyway. In a store that literally features breasts everywhere; a woman was told she could not even feed her baby in private because patrons of the store could not handle knowing that a woman had her breasts out for non-sexual purposes in the lingerie wonderland.
Although this case is outlandish to the point of sounding like a satirical piece that The Onion would publish, it is a glaring illustration of how women and their breasts are treated. Our current society exists in a strange state where women are sexualized to a point that young girls have to adhere to strict dress codes in school because their bra straps might distract their male peers. Women are encouraged to be sexy, but are then called sluts for daring to show their skin. Yet somehow, they are told by men and women alike that feeding their babies in public is gross and unacceptable.
In another case, two members of the National Guard were photographed breastfeeding their children while in uniform, causing outrage and cries that they were “disgracing the uniform.” The mothers were participating in a campaign for National Breastfeeding Awareness Month and wanted to encourage other mothers to not be afraid of breastfeeding in public.
Society cares far too much about breasts. We overemphasize and over-sexualize them to the point where breast cancer campaigns aim to “save the tatas,” instead of saving women with the cancer and we uphold laws and ideas that classify women’s chest as being too explicit to be exposed even though they are almost anatomically similar to a man’s chest.
A mother should be able to feed her child without feeling fear or social pressure to hide or go to unnecessary and wild lengths to make everyone around her comfortable. Society needs to stop looking at breastfeeding mothers and racing to their Facebook pages to share how “disgusted” they are and instead view it simply as a mother tending to her child.