Oh hey USA, I do like to see you campaigning for a paid maternity leave scheme for yourselves.
That’s ultimately the problem for working moms at every income level—maternity leave, if it’s offered at all, is all too brief. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that new mothers breast-feed exclusively for six months and continue breast-feeding until the child is a year old. That’s much easier when you’re in the same room as your kid. The Family and Medical Leave Act requires companies to give employees only 12 weeks of unpaid maternity leave, and that applies only to companies with more than 50 employees and workers who’ve been with a company for more than a year.
If Americans are committed to encouraging women to breast-feed, the biggest help won’t be covering the cost of breast pumps. It will be catching up with the rest of the industrialized world by offering paid maternity leave for longer than a scant three months. (For perspective: Uzbek mothers get 18 months; Iranians receive 16.) Until then, we’ll be waiting here in this cramped pumping room.
From the Bloomberg Businessweek.
(More of my thoughts on maternity leave: Why you should support paid maternity leave? Because I already have it and you deserve it; Maternity leave as a human rights issue; We must not walk away from this fight; and Let’s get something straight about maternity leave).
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Posted in babies, body image, breastfeeding, feminism, feminist motherhood, motherhood, motherhood sux, sex of the icky parental kind, toddlers, work and family (im)balance on January 21, 2013 |
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This is a great, great piece from Cristy in Hanoi, formally of Two Peas No Pod about the curious logic behind men telling women to be discreet about feeding their babies.
Despite his absurd and highly offensive accusations that women deliberately make a public spectacle of themselves by “flopping their boob” out in public, Sharwood, like Koch, never actually dares to articulate why us breastfeeding mothers need to “think of the rest of [them].”
What is it about witnessing a breastfeeding pair that is so offensive to these people that it needs to be keep out of their sight?
What I think it is interesting is that Sharwood is very clear that this is not about the so-called “male gaze.” He is not offended because he views these breastfeeding breasts as sexual objects. In fact, as he proudly states several times in the opening paragraphs to his ‘article,’ he loves ogling at sexualised breasts. They are great. (Phwoar yeah, bring it on baby.) No, it would appear that the issue is precisely the opposite; these breastfeeding breasts that are apparently being thrust in his face (or, as he charmingly describes, flopped on to the dinner table) are not available to the male gaze. They are private breasts and shouldn’t be out in public.
It was here for me that this whole debate took on a disturbing level of clarity. You see, according to Sharwood (and his ilk), mothering is an ‘intimate’ and ‘private’ activity that should not be taking place in the public sphere. If somehow it does stray into that public sphere then it really ought to be careful not to become “a public spectacle.” This means that if for some reason a mother of young children does have to leave the house (which, by implication, is a transgresssive act in itself), then she should take every measure to ensure that her ‘private, intimate’ work of mothering young children does not take up public space, because it does not belong.
I have written a LOT about breastfeeding as a feminist issue previously and I’ve covered similar ground to this but I love the specific angle Cristy is taking in exploring the policing of women’s bodies in this post of hers.
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God, how much I love Rachel Cusk’s writing. This is from Cusk’s brilliant, recent essay, “The anorexic statement” in New Statesman.
The female form is inherently susceptible to this duality, but the difficulty with the anorexic statement is that once it becomes open to other readings it breaks down. At some point in the journey a line is crossed: the slim body becomes the freakish starved body, and one by one the anorexic’s grounds for superiority are discredited and revoked. She is not beautiful but repellent, not self-disciplined but out of control, not enviable but piteous, and, most disappointing of all, she is publicly courting not freedom and desire but death. Even she may find these things difficult to believe. How to go back, on that journey? How to retrace one’s steps? For in getting where she needed to go the anorexic had to sacrifice the concept of normality. In a manner of speaking she sold her soul. She can never be “normal” about food or flesh again. So, how is she meant to live?
If the anorexic arouses irritation, even anger, it may be this quitting of normality that is to blame, because the female management of normality is a formidable psychical task from which most women don’t feel entitled to walk away. By quitting it she exposes it, she criticises it as a place to live, and moreover she forces each woman who passes her way to choose between denial and recognition of her statement, disgust.
Is it disgusting to be a woman? Menstruation, lactation, childbirth, the sexualisation of the female body – in recognising these things as her destiny, a girl is asked to forget everything that her prepubescent instincts might formerly have suggested to her. In becoming female she must cease to be universal, and relinquish the masculine in herself that permitted her as a child to find the idea of these things disgusting indeed. Likewise that masculine is now embodied for her in men, so the question becomes – do men find women disgusting? The anorexic statement dispenses with that perspective. It returns the woman to the universality of the child, and from that fusion formulates itself: I find myself disgusting.
Thank you to Jen for this link, too.
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