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Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Cultural acts of liberty: public breastfeeding

I'll cut to the chase: the mother of my child breastfeeds in public. I support her in this, and we do it in spite of all the "discomfort" it creates.

People have tried to politely suggest to us that the sight of a baby breastfeeding from an exposed breast is an act of gross public indecency. To which, I have always replied in the rudest possible terms that language will allow.

Of the people who've shown visible objections, I have to say--quite honestly--they have disproportionately been Muslims (there's quite a few in the area we live). In fact, I once observed a Muslim family with three children, a fully-cloaked mother, and the long-bearded father go into an absolute panic when they realized she was breastfeeding in the Starbucks at Brookfield Place on the lower concourse level in Toronto. It was quite amusing. The parents placed their hands over their children's eyes the best they could. Six children's eyes to cover, and only four hands to do it with. But they evacuated the scene with great haste, to say the least.

It's obviously not just Muslims. But they stick out in my mind, because they seem to be the ones who are most visibly panicked when they encounter it.

Other people have more privately told me, that the reason they have a problem with it, is the fact that men will sexualize her in their mind, in response to seeing her partially exposed breast. Which seems to me, to be the exact same argument fundamentalist Muslims make for requiring their women to fully cloak themselves in public.

Having a baby in this busy, modern, world is not the easiest of things to manage. Particularly for a modern woman.

I must say that the general expectation that women should plan their day around finding adequate hiding places to protect the sensibilities of a bunch of luddites should--in my opinion--be quite low on the priority list for said women. For Sarah and myself, it's completely off the priority list.

Talk amongst yourselves.

Posted by Mike Brock on August 26, 2009 | Permalink

Comments

Freedom,

The black racial discrimination argument is not valid. I could also say that child porn will be acceptable in the future because of the so called "progression" of community standards. This of course is nonsense but it wouldn't surprise me if some of the mouth breathing druggie defenders here would actually defend even that. Manitoba's community standards are definately conservative. For you, a single individual, to claim on behalf of your entire Manitoba community that they would tolerate the open display of breasts while feeding a child is simply laughable! Seriously, it is actually laugh out loud funny!

Posted by: Beachgirl | 2009-08-27 1:58:06 PM


"The black racial discrimination argument is not valid."

Why not? At one time the "community standard" was institutionalized discrimination against them in the for of Jim Crowe laws.

"Manitoba's community standards are definately conservative."

The government in Manitoba has been NDP for 10 years, they are liberal socialists. Plus you are commenting about this "community stanard" thing again which is meaningless. I am part of the community, and my standards are different than other people, so what is the community stanard.

"For you, a single individual, to claim on behalf of your entire Manitoba community that they would tolerate the open display of breasts while feeding a child is simply laughable!"

I cannot comment for anyone but myself. The fact is though that breast feeding in public happens here and very few people make a fuss about it.

Posted by: Freedom Manitoba | 2009-08-27 2:20:27 PM


This point may already have been made, but breast feeding nudity is much less than gay pride parade nudity. So I trust there are none on this post that would suggest we accept the one type of nudity, lest we be considered homophobic, yet oppose the other.

Posted by: TM | 2009-08-27 3:56:11 PM


I honestly don't get why some people are so hung up on nudity.

Posted by: Freedom Manitoba | 2009-08-27 4:00:27 PM


I honestly don't get why some people are so hung up on nudity.

Really? I honestly don't get why some people are so hung up on corporal punishments, capital punishment, and the fact that Americans exist.

Posted by: Shane Matthews | 2009-08-27 6:21:22 PM


I find it humorous that breasts make people uncomfortable and spark such debate.

Why are female breasts sexualized? Why should breastfeeding be considered indecent?

When my daughter is hungry, I feed her. I've been nursing her for a year, often in public, and have yet to experience any negative reactions. In fact, the response has been overwhelmingly positive.
It is healthy and natural to breastfeed baby, and I see no reason to hide what I am doing.
It's interesting- since nursing my daughter, I've come to appreciate the true purpose of my breasts: life-sustaining nutrition for my child.

Posted by: Brittany Gardner | 2009-08-28 12:04:18 AM


In reply to the poster arguing from the position of 'Community Standards'-
The fact that a community has established beliefs does not make them right.
Is/Ought fallacy.

It takes progressive minds to see past tradition, and realize that the future is of our own design. Hence the importance of grasping rational philosophy.

Posted by: Brittany Gardner | 2009-08-28 12:12:50 AM


Don't break your shoulder patting yourself on the back, Brittany. The future belongs to us all, not to just a self-anointed few. And just because an idea is new does not make it better. Only successful ideas get to be old ideas in the first place. Most scorn for tradition comes not from older people who know the history and are thus in a position to question, but from younger people who simply do not care nor know any better.

"Why are female breasts sexualized?" Why do women like men's butts? The question has no rational answer, and it serves no purpose to ask it, except perhaps as a thought-provoking exercise. In any case, the whole point is that in a civil society, people are at least somewhat accommodating to the sensibilities of others. People who do not care, as you apparently don't, are therefore frowned upon as selfish and obnoxious. You may not be hurting anyone, but neither is the person who lets the door swing shut in your face.

Posted by: Shane Matthews | 2009-08-28 6:53:09 AM


Hence the importance of grasping rational philosophy.

Posted by: Brittany Gardner | 2009-08-28 12:12:50 AM

I agree. My wife has breast fed every one of our children, when in public she covers up because that is what she's comfortable with.

Posted by: Freedom Manitoba | 2009-08-28 8:49:55 AM


"Only successful ideas get to be old ideas in the first place. "

Slavery was around for thousands of years, and still is in some places. Seems like it was pretty sucessful. Does that make it good or right? Nope.

Posted by: Freedom Manitoba | 2009-08-28 8:51:36 AM


Only tight-ass puritan conservative types are afraid to see a woman's breast. Their own lack of self control scares them, causing them to beg for laws that remove temptation. It makes me laugh that people are so afraid of nudity. The human body is a perfectly natural, and beautiful thing. When i see a woman breastfeeding I see someone who is unafraid to be a dedicated and nurturing mother.
People like mathews want to control everyone elses behaviors because they are unable to control their own impulses.

"Some people find that urophagia (the consumption of urine) heightens the sexual experience. Is any of this sounding familiar?"-mathews

interesting how someone who is offended by a bare breast on a mother looking after her baby seems such an expert on perverted sex and pedophelia.


Posted by: DrGreenthumb | 2009-08-28 10:19:10 AM


I nursed every one of my 4 kids. And because of my busy lifestyle, it was often in public (and in a big city). There were never any negative public reactions. But largely because I was discreet. In fact, I don't think anyone else *ever* realized I was actually nursing.

Yet - having nursed my own 4 kids, I myself am uncomfortable when a woman publicly bares all and feeds her child without at least attempting to be sympathetic to the fact that she is in public. It seems that women have this sense of entitlement now, that nursing is positive and natural (and it IS) so they should throw discretion and propriety to the wind and be as carefree and nonchalant with it as they want (regardless of whether it may make someone else less than comfortable).

It does not take a rocket scientist to figure out how to be at least even somewhat discreet while nursing. So for heavens sake, think about how someone else might possibly feel, have a little respect for their feelings, and be at least moderately discreet.

Posted by: ProNursing | 2009-08-28 12:15:35 PM


I wish people would have a sense of boundaries. Yes, people do sexualize breastfeeding, it makes people uncomfortable, so why do it?

This "I do what I want where I want when I want" attitude is what ruins society. Consideration and common sense should prevail.

Legal or not legal-- who cares? Where's common courtesy? I don't get to eat where I want, either.

I must say that the general expectation that women should plan their day around finding adequate hiding places to protect the sensibilities of a bunch of luddites should--in my opinion--be quite low on the priority list for said women.

Speaking as a woman who's breastfed three children, they're quite capable of taking that responsibility.

Posted by: SUZANNE | 2009-08-28 1:14:07 PM


oooooh mommmy I just saw a booby, I think I'm traumatized!! pffffft People do not have a right to not be offended. reminds me of an expression, you don't like it? TOUGH TITTIE!, lol

I don't like guys wearing speedo's

Posted by: DrGreenthumb | 2009-08-28 2:08:47 PM


An interesting aspect of this issue that hasn't really been addressed is as follows:

It's been argued that women ought to respect the desires of others and either breast feed in public inconspicuously or not at all.

But it is clear from this discussion that the desires and expectations of others do not form a unified bloc. Some people are indifferent to public breastfeeding. Others are more in favor of it (perhaps as a feminist issue, etc.) Others may prefer that public breast feeding not occur, but not very strongly, and so on.

When someone like Suzanne says "Consideration and common sense should prevail," what she means (I think) is that the woman should heed the desires of one group of people, and that THAT group deserves respect and consideration.

But if the desires of others don't form a unified set, I don't see why it necessarily follows that the desires of the Prudes ought to be given greater consideration than the desires of the Lewds. It's clear that, at least in public places, the Lewds and the Prudes can't both have their way.

If Lewd Mike Brock wants to see more breasts in public places, and Prude Suzie doesn't, why should Suzie get her way? What ethical principle is at work favoring Prudes over Lewds?

Posted by: Terrence Watson | 2009-08-28 2:20:20 PM


Slavery was around for thousands of years, and still is in some places. Seems like it was pretty sucessful. Does that make it good or right? Nope.

I see you have fallen into the common fault of applying modern ethics to historical situations.

Posted by: Shane Matthews | 2009-08-28 2:37:28 PM


I don't like guys wearing speedo's

Unfortunately for you (if fortunately for the rest of us), Greenthumb, it is society at large that sets the rules, not you.

Posted by: Shane Matthews | 2009-08-28 2:38:49 PM


If Lewd Mike Brock wants to see more breasts in public places, and Prude Suzie doesn't, why should Suzie get her way? What ethical principle is at work favoring Prudes over Lewds?

Well, Terrence, it's like this. Almost no one will be offended if you do NOT breastfeed conspicuously, whereas many people (including me) will be offended if you DO breastfeed conspicuously, so the former course is the more considerate one.

Like most men, I don't have a problem with the undraped female form. But a person considerate of other people's sensibilities will be less than impressed by the crasser forms of vulgarity. Mike revels in the obscene language he hurls at people who dare ask him to be more discreet, reveling in the discomfort he causes, snarling his defiance to the world. Civility does a lot more to hold a society together than extreme interpretations of liberty and property rights, and if this really the way he acts in public, he could use a lesson in it.

Posted by: Shane Matthews | 2009-08-28 2:45:45 PM


Shane Matthews-
What is it about breastfeeding a child openly that makes it seem vulgar to you?
This discomfort you claim to experience suggests the issue stems from your own psyche.
Perhaps your own mother denied you the breast, or made you feel wrong for desiring it.
Even if you cannot recall your experience directly, it is not beyond comprehension that your own childhood experience of female breasts have influenced your emotional response.

If a child is allowed to suckle freely for their entire infancy, I would think they are less likely to attach stigma to female breasts. Whether in the form of shame, over-sexualization, or repulsion.

Posted by: Brittany Gardner | 2009-08-28 4:08:03 PM


So mathews are you saying you LIKE men in speedos?

can't say I'm surprised.

Posted by: DrGreenthumb | 2009-08-28 4:53:28 PM


My vote goes to Pro-Nursing who summed it up perfectly. Of course there will always be others determined to use a natural activity to shock and as a soapbox.

Posted by: Alain | 2009-08-28 5:00:48 PM


I see you have fallen into the common fault of applying modern ethics to historical situations.

Posted by: Shane Matthews | 2009-08-28 2:37:28 PM

Red herring.

Posted by: Freedom Manitoba | 2009-08-28 6:49:45 PM


If a child is allowed to suckle freely for their entire infancy, I would think they are less likely to attach stigma to female breasts. Whether in the form of shame, over-sexualization, or repulsion.

Absolutely, and this is the point. The only reason we've come to view the naked body as hyper-sexualized is because we've been conditioned towards attitudes that you should only see a member of the opposite sex, in particular, naked if they are your significant other.

It's further exemplified by the fact, that tribal people's all over the world--even today--run around butt naked (both sexes) and obviously do not view nakedness as inherently more sexual than clothed-ness.

Sexual fetishes also demonstrate that sexualization can manifest itself in arbitrary ways. For example, one guy may find women with long hair to be much more "sexualized" in their mind, while some other guy find short haired woman more "sexualized".

There's a lot of psychological evidence that what constitutes sexual signals in the human mind is socially constructed, and is evidenced by the differences of sexual signals across different cultures and across history, and even with fetishes within our own culture.

There was a time when obesity was considered attractive in men and women, because it was a sign of health and wealth. Today, no so much.

So it's pretty reasonable to assume that the sexualization of the woman's breast, at least in the way we do it today, is a social construct. A construct re-enforced by the "forbidden fruit" nature we've built up around it.

What some here are suggesting, is that women should continue to uphold this social construct to protect the sensibilities of others. But what social good, on balance, does that serve? I think it has a negative social cost.

Some of Sarah's mom-friends, opted to avoid breastfeeding all together because of the social stigma around it. And that's a negative for the health of babies.

The social cost of the stigmatization of public breastfeeding, particularly with women who live busy, urban, lives, and cannot afford to be at home all the time, would seem to be higher than simply respecting that stigma.

Shane makes some interesting and twisted attempts at trying to justify that tradition is good(tm) by virtue of having survived for a period of time. His ability to diddle-daddle into these fallacies of logic, and place arbitrary walls around his examples and dismissing the obvious parallels (like racism and women's suffrage) just shows that he's a rationalizing machine running at high RPM. Sorta like Kent Hovind.

The truth is, my parents were uncomfortable with Sarah breastfeeding in front of the family at first. Now both of my parents admit it doesn't bother them at all. Didn't take much exposure for them to get over it. And Sarah is able to comfortable spend time with the family, instead of being expected to go find some quiet room, and socially exclude herself, which is what some here believe should continue to be the case.

Posted by: Mike Brock | 2009-08-29 10:14:41 AM


Good summary, Mike.

Posted by: Brittany Gardner | 2009-08-29 5:21:37 PM


But you said that the elected representatives do what the majority wants. So what it is, is it what they need or what they want?

But you said that the majority didn't want the stimulus package for banks and that Congress did it anyway. So which is it?

Posted by: Shane Matthews | 2009-08-29 5:56:54 PM


What is it about breastfeeding a child openly that makes it seem vulgar to you?

Anything showy, gaudy, or tactlessly or tastelessly done is vulgar. Breastfeeding is hardly unique in this regard, but it does happen to be what we’re discussing.

This discomfort you claim to experience suggests the issue stems from your own psyche. Perhaps your own mother denied you the breast, or made you feel wrong for desiring it.

Perhaps your need to get personal shows what a poor debater you are.

Even if you cannot recall your experience directly, it is not beyond comprehension that your own childhood experience of female breasts have influenced your emotional response.

Yes, it is. The brain does not become capable of forming memories before the age of two or three, and breastfeeding usually ends long before then, although I do recall one case where a woman was ordered by a court to stop breastfeeing her six-year-old son. Now there’s a person with issues.
If a child is allowed to suckle freely for their entire infancy, I would think they are less likely to attach stigma to female breasts. Whether in the form of shame, over-sexualization, or repulsion.

Debate revolves around about what you can prove, not what you think. It’s not a case of revulsion, but rather a preference for decorum. Although I do realize that concept is lost on some people.

Posted by: Shane Matthews | 2009-08-29 6:03:59 PM


Of course there will always be others determined to use a natural activity to shock and as a soapbox.

My point exactly, Alain. I’m not much impressed by people who use their kids as political props, either.

Posted by: Shane Matthews | 2009-08-29 6:24:49 PM


So mathews are you saying you LIKE men in speedos? Can’t say I’m surprised.

Why do you want to know, Greenthumb? Are you cruising for a piece of ass?

Posted by: Shane Matthews | 2009-08-29 6:25:56 PM


What some here are suggesting, is that women should continue to uphold this social construct to protect the sensibilities of others. But what social good, on balance, does that serve? I think it has a negative social cost.

Reasonable accommodation, to the point of not being in-your-face about it and screaming at people who ask you to be more discreet, is hardly the end of civilization, Mike. If you can bring yourself not to gloat publicly about it, so much the better.

Shane makes some interesting...

AD HOMINEM. POISONING THE WELL. Interesting that you should begin a lecture on my supposed fallacies with several of your own. Mike, we are talking about social morals, which are not logical constructs. Your pedantic hectoring over logical fallacies is thus unproductive and inappropriate.

Posted by: Shane Matthews | 2009-08-29 6:32:57 PM


Is anyone listening to Shane anymore?

Posted by: Mike Brock | 2009-08-30 9:57:54 AM


He is always good for the religious right (is there a religious left?) view. It seems like he argues about everything just to argue. The guy has an opinion on everything. Keeps the blog posts flowing though.

Posted by: Steve Bottrell | 2009-08-30 12:02:55 PM


Is anyone listening to Shane anymore?
Posted by: Mike Brock | 2009-08-30 9:57:54 AM

I'll bet there are more people that read his posts than listened to your "live radio show", which was about 8 people the last time I bothered checking it out.

BTW. What ever happened to the "Hot Air Room"? Was it cancelled for lack of interest. Here's a tip for you if you ever decide to resurrect it, rename it the Jay Curry Show.

Posted by: The Stig | 2009-08-30 12:46:21 PM


Red herring.

No, your appeal to an unrelated subject was the red herring.

Posted by: Shane Matthews | 2009-08-30 1:28:45 PM


Rarely am I the type of person that wants to put regulations on basic human rights. Nor personally do I think that breastfeeding in public is an indecent act. My only wondering is why should all public places be considered equal? While I can understand that breastfeeding in a park may not cause a lot of hysteria, mostly because those who do not want to witness it have the opportunity to go somewhere else, I have witnessed a woman expose her breast and nipple to a whole office of small school children at a public school, repeatedly. These students are not old enough to logically understand this is a natural act, and therefore it does cause quite a stir among the children and the families that hear about it from their young children. These children have to be in the school and cannot go elsewhere when they feel uncomfortable seeing a nipple or breast. It would be nice if those woman who feel that breastfeeding is their natural right also take a discretionary approach in certain situations. Some woman take it TOO FAR and this is coming from a woman.

Posted by: Law must be redefind | 2009-10-07 4:15:05 PM



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