They are used to sell anything from cars to pavement services to burgers to beers. Shoved into too-tight bikinis on 20 foot tall billboards and stared at shamelessly on buses or at work, they cover Hollywood posters, fill up movie screens, and are displayed with prominence on the cover of fitness magazines. They are breasts. Our cultural obsession with breasts from the small ones to the very large, to the fake versus real heated discussions taking place on social media and even news reels has become a fetish of its own. We love breasts; and who can argue with that statement? They are out and proud and accepted as part of everyday life.
Until they are placed in the mouth of a baby.
It is one of the most natural acts in the world – a mother feeding her child. We all started there. When we came screaming into this world, blinded by the unfamiliar lights and surrounded by strangers; our bodies passed from one rough hand to the next, it was our mother’s breast that provided us a warm, safe haven complete with a familiar smell and our first taste of food. Not only does breastfeeding provide a mother and child a unique bond but it is a necessary and healthful part of human life. Unlike manufactured formulas, breast milk contains unique antibodies that provide protections against viruses and bacterial infections.
Yet we publicly shame and harass women who breastfeed in public. Either asking them to cover up or leave the public space, it is suggested that the woman herself would be more comfortable “somewhere private” and “out of public view”. Such comments hint at the perception that what they are doing is indecent and vulgar, and beneath these comments is the idea that breastfeeding is an act that must be kept hidden. It’s twisted logic. As sex objects, public sexualization is accepted, even encouraged. But when used to nourish, they are pushed aside.
As women, our bodies are policed much more than men. Why is it that men can go shirtless and freely bare their chests in public but women cannot? When we get dressed, there is a litany of questions a woman must consider before walking out in public. Is this blouse too tight? Are my nipples visible through this shirt? Is my skirt too long or too short? Does this outfit have just the right touch of femininity to it without being too sexual? When our bodies are sexualized they can then be handled as objects. But as soon as a woman takes control over her own body in direct conflict with many of society’s unspoken rule of modesty, than she becomes a threat and must be either shamed or ridiculed for her behavior.
This morning a photo of active duty military moms breastfeeding went viral on Facebook. It was posted by Tara Ruby Photography and is in support of the Fort Bliss P3T Program and the Breastfeeding in Combat Boots movement. It’s a strong statement that directly challenges many of the taboos about breastfeeding in the US. Here are 10 amazing women fighting for our country who are also moms. It doesn’t make them less professional nor does it sully the uniform. Instead, it is a statement about what and who they are fighting for and they should be applauded for that instead of shamed.
The next time you or a friend or even a stranger are breastfeeding in public and are attacked for doing something shameful, take a stand and know your rights. Breastfeeding is beautiful.
Forty-nine states, the District of Columbia and the Virgin Islands have laws that specifically allow women to breastfeed in any public or private location. (Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin, and Wyoming.)
Twenty-nine states, the District of Columbia and the Virgin Islands exempt breastfeeding from public indecency laws. (Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Illinois, Kentucky, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Utah, Virginia, Washington, Wisconsin, and Wyoming.)
Twenty-seven states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico have laws related to breastfeeding in the workplace. (Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Georgia, Hawaii, Illinois, Indiana, Louisiana, Maine, Minnesota, Mississippi, Montana, New Mexico, New York, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Oregon, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, and Wyoming.)
Seventeen states and Puerto Rico exempt breastfeeding mothers from jury duty or allow jury service to be postponed. (California, Connecticut, Idaho, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Dakota, Utah, and Virginia.)
Five states and Puerto Rico have implemented or encouraged the development of a breastfeeding awareness education campaign. (California, Illinois, Minnesota, Missouri, and Vermont.)