I could talk about why it's so important for children to see breast feeding, and why it's actually a really good thing. But I'm going to save that for another post. Today I just want to talk about respect for women.
Would you ever dream of telling another woman what she should or shouldn't wear? Let's say you only feel comfortable wearing a one piece swimsuit to the beach. That's fine- it's your body, your choice. But would you walk up to a woman who was wearing a bikini and tell her that she needed to cover up? Of course not! It's her body- her choice what to wear. It would be disrespectful for you to walk up to another woman and assume that you had the right to tell her what to wear or not to wear, and which parts of her body needed to be covered.
Let's look at it from a bit of a different angle. Respect for women. In my mind, there is nothing more womanly than the acts of pregnancy, birth, and breastfeeding. These are things that only women can do. These acts are necessary for our species to survive. It doesn't get more basic, more instinctual, more womanly than this! In the past, women supported each other and taught each other about these things. They were a normal part of life. I wonder what has happened to our society when it's ok for a nursing mother to be shamed and put down by another mother! This should not be happening. When we're telling a mom that her most basic act of caring for her child is something to be ashamed of or hidden- that is disrespectful to women on the most basic level.
When a mom is told that she has to use a cover, or that she has to find a private location, or has to pump and feed her child with a bottle, it sends the message that her breasts are something to be hidden. She's told that her breasts are something to be ashamed of. And why? Because her breasts are sexual objects. If we only see breasts as something sexual, then we'll think that they need to be hidden. We might as well be saying, "Okay, I guess you can use your sex toys to feed your baby, but if you really must do that, you need to keep it under wraps. No one wants to see you using your breasts for a non-sexual purpose." See how degrading that is? See how limiting that is?
Some people argue- why can't the nursing mom just use a cover/pump and bring a bottle/sit in her car/stay at home? Well, why can't she? Besides the obvious answer, that it's her choice to do or not do any of those things, there are other truly legitimate reasons as well. Some babies won't nurse if they're covered up. Some people might like to eat with a blanket on their head, but others don't. That's pretty reasonable. You know what- maybe she just forgot her nursing cover at home, but baby is still hungry! As far as pumping- some women's bodies don't respond to a pump. Some babies(mine included) won't take a bottle. Pumping and bottle feeding was literally not an option for me, and it's not for a lot of women. Why couldn't she just sit in her car? Maybe she was dropped off wherever she was. Maybe she took the bus. Maybe it's 100 degrees outside, and her car doesn't have air conditioning. Staying at home is the most ridiculous option of all- would you want to be stuck inside your home for an entire year or even longer? I know I wouldn't. That's not a feasible option for any mother, and to even suggest that as an option is truly ignorant.
My point is that you can't paint all women with the same brush. You don't know my circumstances, and I don't know yours. Breast feeding is so important to the health and well-being of both mother and child, and it needs to be supported unequivocally, without reservation or exception. When you assume that a mother could or should have done things differently, you put her into a box- and that, my friend, is disrespectful.
I'm sure there are some people that have been reading, and have made it this far, and still disagree with me. But before you leave, and think that I'm wrong, I want you to take a look at one picture. I want you to really take a look at it- soak it in and really think about what it means.
There is a (presumably) Muslim woman, in a burqa, with her face covered. And yet she has her breast completely exposed to feed her child. Here in our "enlightened" culture, we see the burqa as oppressive. We argue that it objectifies women, that it places extreme limitations on women, and that it degrades them. And yet we don't realize that we're doing the exact same thing when we tell women that they must hide breastfeeding.