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.