by Jessica Martin-Weber
Ah, the bru-ha-ha. A celebrity shared a picture of herself breastfeeding her child. She’s a hero! She’s so natural! She’s supporting women! She’s a REAL mom! She’s a show-off! She’s a bitch! She’s pampered! She doesn’t look like us REAL moms! She makes breastfeeding look unattainable! She’s making women that don’t breastfeed feel bad! She’s pressuring women to breastfeed! She’s a sanctimommy! BRU.freakingHA.HAAAAAAAAAA.
Everybody has an opinion on it from commenters on Facebook and twitter to talk show hosts and bloggers. They all must say something about it. Apparently, me too.
Would this picture have been such a big deal if Gisele was holding a sandwich in one hand and feeding herself claiming multitasking as her team worked on her? Or if she had an iPad set up and was FaceTiming with her child as a nanny gave them a bottle? Or if Gisele was spooning baby food into her toddler’s mouth? I highly doubt it. Because while the uproar appears to be about a great many things such as whether or not it’s multitasking, or that normal moms don’t have a beauty team, the flashpoint is clearly that breastfeeding is involved.
Oddly enough, the focus has not really been on that she was pictured feeding her 12 month old daughter, the age of her little girl has hardly come up at all. And the team working on Gisele didn’t seem to notice or care at all. Maybe we are making progress?
I’m not one to get starstruck nor do I care what celebrities are doing. It’s not a big deal to me personally the fashion, decorating, or lifestyle choices someone famous makes, I’m going to do what I do because it feels right for me and fits my values and tastes. Decisions like breastfeeding and how they birth hardly seem like a big deal, they’re humans doing what humans do. I don’t want to herald every star that puts her baby to her breast to feed them, that just seems a little… extreme.
But I am committed to normalizing breastfeeding so I do see the value in celebrities sharing that they are breastfeeding because I recognize that people look up to them. Just as stars can normalize a fashion trend, inspire people to get their colon checked, or connect with nonprofit charity work, so can others be inspired to view breastfeeding as normal or at least ok because someone with notoriety has done it. And who am I to say how someone should be inspired? They see Kim Kardashian, Gisele Bündchen, Pink, Angelina Jolie, Miranda Kerr or some other celebrity breastfeeding and think “hey, maybe it’s not so bad and I could do that” that’s a good thing so why not?
Just as I understand how a celebrity sharing images of breastfeeding their children or talking about breastfeeding publicly helps normalize it, so do, I believe, the efforts of us incredibly normal, average, non-celebrities. When we share our pictures and talk about the realities of breastfeeding, we’re helping create a culture that will eventually stop considering it newsworthy when a celebrity does the very normal, average, human behavior of feeding their baby. A woman using her body as it is biologically intended to feed her baby won’t cause gasps of shock any more, perhaps it will be as normal as the marketing we accept every day that uses the female form to sell stuff. Eventually, all the trolls and naysayers won’t have any buttons to push on the matter.
Gisele has said some things in the past that have made me cringe and I have a funny feeling she’ll say something cringe worthy again. But this moment of sharing a picture of herself feeding her baby while she was working isn’t one of them. The majority of mothers don’t have a team available to them to do their hair, make-up, and nails. The majority of mothers also don’t have to look impossibly impeccable as part of their career even after flying 15 hours and getting only 3 hours of sleep, they don’t have the pressure of adhering to an artificial standard of beauty for their livelihood. The majority of us moms are short on sleep and long on too much to do but we all have our own version of what that looks like. My multitasking doesn’t look exactly like yours and nothing like Ms. Bündchen’s. My multitasking also doesn’t look like that of a women in extreme poverty in a third world country or a mother struggling to feed her kids in the slums of New York. Doesn’t make any of it less real. Dismissing someone’s version because we can’t relate or maybe we’re even jealous or because we judge them isn’t helping anyone. Such immature responses could actually be damaging. Declaring “REAL moms…” or “REAL women…” don’t experience life as or look like someone else objectifies that person.
People, particularly women and especially moms need to stop that right now.
What’s “real” has many different expressions.
Is this the world we want for our children? A society that trivializes the reality of someone else simply because they can’t relate? A society that dismisses the good of an act because they are personally offended that it doesn’t look a certain way? A society that attempts to marginalize someone that can have influence simply because they are jealous? A society that can only support those whose reality is just like their own?
I hope not.
What all these women need is pretty simple: support. Even if you’re different than me, even if your reality looks different from mine, even if your choices are ones I can’t understand, even if we can’t relate: I SUPPORT YOU. Natural birthing or highly medicalized birthing, breastfeeding or formula feeding, safely cosleeping or safely separate sleeping, working outside the home or stay at home parent, no processed foods or all processed foods, and everything in between as long as you’re not intentionally abusing or neglecting your child and have the access you need to make fully informed decisions according to your personal circumstances and available resources: I SUPPORT YOU. Because anything else only serves to divide, keeps marginalizing women, and drag us all down.
I’m going to go out on a limb and state the obvious here: celebrities are normal, real people. Normal, real people that can help change things.
Gisele Bündchen has a life I can’t even imagine, bet she can’t imagine mine either. I multitasked writing this post while cuddling a sick 5yo and breastfeeding an active 19 month old. In my pajamas. The same way I answered emails, talked with my site host, interacted on Facebook, texted with my children, and worked. Sometimes I multitask breastfeeding my toddler while speaking to a couple hundred people about sex. A typical day for me, normal and real, different from Gisele’s day which for her was no less normal and real. Though I can’t relate to her life, I appreciate her and all the other women in the world celebrity or not, that are sharing the very real aspect of caring for their children through breastfeeding. As they continue to do so, maybe when my own daughters are breastfeeding their children, there will be more important and interesting matters discussed by society and the media than how a woman is feeding her baby.