9 Reasons you may be uncomfortable with seeing breastfeeding

by Jessica Martin-Weber

 

*Please note this article utilizes satire and sarcasm with humor.

Photo from Instagram user Jeniholland.

Photo from Instagram user Jeniholland.

We’re well into the 21st century yet breastfeeding appears to still make many people uncomfortable.  I keep hoping those individuals that get upset about the biologically normal way to feed a baby are really a rarity but, unfortunately, it still seems to be a hot button issue.  Regardless of how a woman is most comfortable feeding her baby, be it uncovered at the breast, covered at the breast, a bottle of expressed breastmilk, or a bottle of formula, plenty of people are uncomfortable witnessing a woman feeding her child and any form of breastfeeding seems to especially elicit vocal expressions of discomfort from others.  I identified 9 reasons people may be uncomfortable seeing breastfeeding be it on social media or in person settings and tried to offer some solutions in overcoming what is essentially a discomfort about babies being fed.  And that brings us to our first point:

  1. Agism.  Breasts aren’t the issue for you, nope.  You just don’t think babies and small children have the right to eat in public.  Or you think that every. single. time they do eat the experience should be charged with connection and intimacy between that child and their care-giver, staring deeply into each others’ eyes approximately 8-24 times a day and not witnessed by anyone else.  Those babies, they need to keep that stuff happening in private!  And yes, a baby or the needs of a small child should actually come second to your own personal comfort about what you witness.  Older people, that’s a totally different story, they can eat when they need to eat and for the most part, where they need to eat and how they need to eat it without harassment, expectation of high level bonding, or a blanket.  On the go, sitting at a table in public, while reading a book or talking with friends, it’s fine for those over the age of 2 to eat in public and even for them to post pictures of their meals on social media.  But those babies better at least keep it under wraps!  Spending some time watching just exactly how adults eat or watching this video could be key in getting you over your prejudices.  No?  You don’t discriminate against babies eating in public?  Ok, have you considered that you could have…
  2. Boob-phobia.  It’s a real thing, check it out.  Perhaps you’re uncomfortable by the sight of breastfeeding because you have Mastrophobia, a phobia of breasts (or cousins gynophobia, a fear of female parts, or papillaphobia, a fear of nipples) and seeing breastfeeding makes you want to run away.  Which maybe that’s what you should do, complete with screaming and waving your arms hysterically.  Or do what I do when watching a scary movie, hide behind a pillow only risking a peek here and there.  Actually though, if you do really have boob-phobia, you should seek professional help.  If that’s not it though, maybe it’s…
  3. Brainwashing.  Which is totally understandable and you can’t help the cultural conditioning that has brainwashed you into thinking breasts are truly only for sexual pleasure.  You’re a victim of marketing and fear.  Boobs aren’t for babies, boobs are for men/selling cars/selling beer/selling clothes/selling sex/selling music/selling movies/selling… selling, or at least that’s what the prevailing messages in much of society seems to be selling.  If this is an issue, walking around with a blanket over your head to cut out these messages could be the solution.  But maybe you are completely immune to marketing and the societal messages thrown at us from every which way, in which case it could be…
  4. Judgment.  You believe, and the reasons why are unimportant (certainly not fear or brainwashing), that breasts that aren’t properly shielded and covered belong to an immoral, immodest individual of low character.  Women that don’t keep those things contained and pull them out and stick them in the mouth of their hungry child must not have a shred of decency and you judge them for that.  Even if they define modesty or decency differently than you do.  Such as “it would be indecent of me not to feed my child when they are hungry…”  Heading to the bathroom to have your dinner may be exactly what you need to get you over this unfortunate character flaw.  Not a judgmental person?  Don’t care what other people do?  Then maybe you’re uncomfortable with seeing breastfeeding because…
  5. Insecurity.  It could be anything.  Insecurity about your own breasts (male or female), insecurity about your friend/father/husband/brother/son seeing someone’s breasts (which of course means you make sure they avoid all malls, sports shows, magazines, and movies), insecurity in seeing someone breastfeed their child when you didn’t/don’t breastfeed yours, insecurity that breastfeeding or not breastfeeding is some kind of mark of “good parenting”, insecurity that others may be uncomfortable with someone else breastfeeding and you feel the need to make sure everyone (but the breastfeeding pair) is comfortable, or maybe just insecurity that humans are all mammals.  Whatever it is, and it could be anything, you personally battle insecurity and rather than face it in yourself you project your issues on to others.  Sitting next to a breastfeeding mother while she feeds her child and having a conversation with her may do the trick.  Not insecure?  If you’re confident enough to not be threatened by a woman feeding her child, could it be…
  6. Confusion.  You get grossed out by the sight of breastfeeding because of two words: body fluids.  It freaks you out that body fluids are free-flowing from a woman right into her baby!  Who needs to see that, right?  It doesn’t matter that it’s only natural because, hello, pooping, peeing, and sex are natural too and you don’t want to see any of THAT in public either, right?  It’s certainly only a matter of time before they’re bottling those body fluids up and feeding them to children too, I’m sure.  Fake urine will be flooding the shelves in no time, specially formulated to be just like the real thing.  Aside from the obvious fact that you really can’t see it happening during the act of breastfeeding, basic biology helps clear this up a bit: breastmilk = nutrition, urine/feces = waste, genital secretions = not food.  Some time studying basic nutrition and biology and understanding the basic differences should fix that right up.  Get the difference and not confused?  Moving on then, maybe it’s…
  7. Misogyny.  This goes along with the brainwashing point but it’s a little deeper.  If you’re uncomfortable seeing breastfeeding because of misogyny, you actually hate women and consider them less than men.  As such, their bodies are purely for men and a woman that would dare exercise her autonomy in using her body as she should choose, well she’s just asking for it, isn’t she?  A breastfeeding woman is just rubbing it in your face, isn’t she?  How dare she act as though she independently has worth and power over her own body.  Besides, seeing breasts in use in such an a-sexual way is a bit unsettling.  You haven’t sanctioned this and it’s uncomfortable to think that you have something in common with human babies. The way through this could be quite painful: start listening to women and catch a production of the Vagina Monologues.  But you’re not a misogynist?  Totally down with women as equals?  Great!  So what about…
  8. Denial.  There are people that spend time researching the emotion of disgust and have a disgust scale.  What is it, why do we experience it, etc.  Some triggers of disgust are understandable, like food contamination disgust.  We don’t want to get sick.  Obviously.  So why are you disgusted by breastfeeding, AKA, feeding babies?  It’s possible, these researchers theorize, that you just don’t like to be reminded of your animality.  Humanity is good in your mind but anything that connects you to the animal side of humans grosses you out.  That humans are mammals (creatures with mammary glands that use their mammaries to feed their young) is a fact you would rather forget.  Watch some Discovery channel, you’ll have to eventually confront that breastfeeding our young isn’t the only animal-like behavior we homo sapiens have.  Not that?  Then…
  9. Unfamiliarity.  When we’re not used to seeing something it can be startling when we come across it.  This isn’t your fault, you’re just not familiar with this as normal and actually expect the alternative to the biological norm instead.  You just haven’t seen breastfeeding enough to be totally down with it.  The fix to this one is pretty easy, see more breastfeeding.  You’ll get over your discomfort the more you see it and soon it will become just as normal as it actually is.  Don’t worry, more and more women are doing their part in feeding their babies in public, with and without covers, and you’ll get more comfortable with it the more you see them out and about or posting their photos on social media so hang in there, there’s hope for you yet!

 

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 What would you add to our list?  Why do you think people may have issues with witnessing breastfeeding or encountering breastfeeding images?  If you’re uncomfortable seeing breastfeeding, why do you think that is?   Did you used to be uncomfortable seeing breastfeeding but are ok with it now?

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The Measure of Indecency

This post was originally posted here.


Hello! Up here! My eyes. You’ve been so busy staring elsewhere that you probably haven’t even noticed I have eyes let alone looked in them long enough to tell me what color they are. I admit, the color of my eyes can be hard to nail down, it really depends on what I’m wearing or the color of the frames on my glasses provided I’m wearing any. Glasses! I always wear socks with sneakers, I was talking about glasses. Ugh, why must you only see me for that? As though that’s all I’m good for. It’s not like they are new, they’ve been around as long as humans have and most everyone has them.

Excuse me, it bothers you when I walk? You do realize that the primary function of my ankles is to help me walk on my feet, don’t you? I see, seeing them used in a different way is gross. Uh-huh. Would you rather I just sit around with my feet up, my ankles hidden discretely beneath my pants or skirt until they are to be viewed and touched for pleasure? Hmmmm, this could complicate things, like my life. And caring for my children. So it makes other people uncomfortable to see a woman’s ankles when she’s chasing her children around, keeping them safe, providing them with the best opportunities and using her ankles as, oh, I don’t know, how they are intended to be used? I should be worried about offending other people? Interesting. I’m really far more concerned about doing the best I can for my children. Research shows that mothers that are able to should let their children run and be active and for that to happen best a mother needs her ankles to chase after them. Saving them only for her partner’s pleasure would get in the way of her children’s health! Oh, I can use them, you just want me to cover them up. With a blanket. Or one of those fashionable things made just for that.

Wow. That really makes it difficult not to mention, uncomfortable and likely dangerous. What exactly would be adequate coverage? Adequate and safe? When I’m using them to care for my children, how much can you actually see anyway? I know socks that reveal more and ankles are plastered all over magazines, billboards, TV, and movies to sell everything from sports drinks to cars to furniture. Honestly. I’m not showing any more than what you’d see watching a sitcom. Probably less, actually. And if you think that’s shocking, what about flip-flops and open toe shoes that reveal ankles AND toe cleavage? Nobody is insisting those be covered up. But a mother running around caring for her children, now that is disgusting. Please tell me, what is the measure of indecency we hold as standard? But another man seeing my ankles while I run after kids could be a turn on? Riiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiight. A woman doing the best she can caring for her children, using her body as it is intended is going to be an indecent turn on? Now who is disgusting? But there could be a slip and they might SEE something! Gasp! Oh dear, what will we do! Mothers around the world are seducing men left and right using their ankles as they take care of their children! What is the world coming to?!

Now you’re saying that it is ok to use them but not only do you not want to see them used “that way” but it should stop once the child is one? How exactly does that make sense? Excuse me, but my child still needs me and it is encouraged by the experts that mothers continue to chase after their children as long as it is mutually beneficial and both parties are comfortable with it. Seriously, I don’t see how there is a magic switch that is flipped when a child turns one that she would no longer need me to walk after her. She may not even be ready to walk herself yet at that point! No, there is nothing inappropriate about me continuing to care for my child that way and I’m offended that you would say there is. It doesn’t excite me sexually, I’m not that one-dimensional, thanks. I may run around and use my ankles in a fashion only appropriate with my husband in our private times along but trust me, I couldn’t even begin to compare caring for my children to making love with my husband! I am not abusing my child by continuing to trot after them. My ankles have more than one purpose and I can differentiate between their functions, it isn’t that difficult actually and I already do it with other areas of my body so why should this be any different?


Honestly, I am sorry it makes you uncomfortable but I really can’t help but wonder if that reflects more on your issues than my ankles and my mothering. Your issues don’t have much weight in my caring for my children, sorry. If other women feel uncomfortable with their ankles so exposed while they care for their children, fine. It doesn’t bother me and if they can figure out how to gallop around after kids while hiding under a blanket then more power to them. In fact, I’m impressed, I just can’t get it to work. So I’m going to continue doing what is best for my children and while I’m not going to parade around with my ankles just hanging out there all the time for the world to see, I’m not going to hide me or my children just to make you feel better. There is nothing wrong with what I’m doing, I’m not ashamed of my ankles or using them to race around after my children. Not every woman can, I’m blessed to be able to. And no, I’m not going to cover to protect your sensibilities. Maybe your sensibilities aren’t that sensible. It is, after all, only natural for a mother to hasten to protect and give her children her best. This is my best. If you don’t like it then put a blanket over your head!


Once upon a time in a bygone era, ankles were considered a sexually indecent part of the body for a woman to show, a flamboyant display of indecency if they were revealed. Other era’s featured fashion that regularly revealed the breast mostly bare including the nipples showing while covering most every other part of the body with clothing. What we consider indecent now was at one time the height of fashion and accepted by the majority of society. Likewise, what has been considered inappropriate and immodest exposure in the past are now considered commonplace even in most of the extremely conservative circles. This post was inspired by some some online conversations I read  and by this article. It is intended as satire regarding breastfeeding in public and “extended breastfeeding.” Not that I need to explain but for the record my husband completely supports me breastfeeding our children. Also, no ankle or foot fetish here. But aren’t these shoes amazing? I love them. Well, love to look at them. Wearing them, not so much. Seriously, what could be more sexy that a woman scurrying after her children in a pair of smokin’ hot, deadly heels?