Wednesday, January 23, 2013

a brief rant (on maternal breasts)


I have no use for parenting dogma.  At best, I find it rather irritating. It assumes a sort of moral superiority that begs to be taken apart at the seams. We're all just slogging through the trenches, doing the best we can with what we've got. This shit, as I've been known to point out, is difficult. At worst, I find it harmful. And here's an example of how and why I find it thus...

Doing a search on Dr. Google for some unrelated issues, I've recently stumbled across some particularly yucky statements about breastfeeding.  Uttered by self-professed feminists.  Statements that included gems such as "Everyone should breastfeed," "There is no excuse to use formula," and my personal favourite, "formula should be taxed" (I could write a whole separate rant about the class-based violence of this particular statement, but it shall have to wait for another blog). 

And for the record, I breastfed both my babies for a total of three years. I breastfed through excruciating pain, bleeding nipples and three, count 'em three violent bouts of mastitis.  Never once did my care-providers suggest that bottle-feeding might be an alternative.  Though I likely would not have taken up this option, it would've been kind if they had).  I'm not saying I don't believe in the value of breastfeeding.  I do.  I believe.  I'm a believer. I believe the world should be a breast-feeding friendlier place and I have whipped my boobs out in every imaginable corner of this city and along several highways to boot (and heck, if asked especially nicely, I still might!)

I don't, and here I mean emphatically do not, however, believe that pushing us baby-carriers (What? What's that you say? You mean those are actual people?!) to do things that, for whatever reason, cause stress or emotional discomfort, makes any kind of good sense.  In fact, I find it ridiculous and all kinds of offensive. 

The aforementioned statements about the moral superiority of breastfeeding blow my bleeping mind.  Blow it right out my ears.  I've said it once, I've said it twice, and I will keep saying it until I'm blue in the face. Mothers are people. Folk. Women-people-folk. Women-people-folk who need to be able to make autonomous choices about what they do and do not do with their bodies. Arguing that women should *have* to breastfeed because it is better for babies, helps with attachment, its more child-centred, blah, blah, blah is really not all that different than saying women should have to bear the babies resulting from unintended zygote-making bc it's more child-centred. Or that women should have to stay home with their children because studies have shown this results in healthier offspring.  Seriously. Maybe breastfeeding is better for children.  Maybe it does help with attachment. (Though, for the record, there are many, many ways of building attachment, breastfeeding being just one of them.  Just ask my children's other mother, who did not breastfeed our children. Trust me when I say that they are all mightily attached).  As feminists, it behooves us to be equally concerned about the welfare of those whose bodies might undertake the work (yes, work) of breastfeeding.  Anything less than this is profoundly anti-choice, anti-woman, and anti-feminist.

Bodily autonomy is bodily autonomy. Pro-choice is pro-choice. Our bodies do NOT belong to our children, past, present or future.  My body did not belong to my children when they inhabited it and neither does it now. Breast feeding is a choice. Formula feeding is a choice. Anything in-between, yes, also a choice. We need to trust women to make the best choices they can for themselves, depending on their resources and the life circumstances they find themselves in.  

And you know what? 

They will.  





12 comments:

  1. That was thought-provoking, T, so thank you for that. :)

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  2. I just stumbled across this through my Google alerts and I'm so glad I did. It is FANTASTIC. It irks me to no end that the feminist community hasn't come out raging against this hypocrisy; the very people who claim to be pro-choice end up claiming that choice has no place in the breastfeeding debate.

    So thrilled that you have spoken out - and so eloquently, at that - about this. Not ranty at all.

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  3. Thank you! I totally figured I was going to get flamed for this one. ;)

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  4. Still breastfeeding my 21 mo and I couldn't agree more. The hypocritical holier-than-thou attitudes and the misinformation spread by some breastfeeding advocates horrify me. Thank you for that.

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  5. I especially loved the comment how the other mother is attached to the children. It usually is just the one parent, no matter the family dynamic, that does the breastfeeding, but the children attach to all family members (they like lol).

    Very well written! <3

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  6. Amen!! I can't pick out a single specific point I liked best because I like it all. On a well known parenting blog I once read that formula should only be available on perscription - this by self identified feminists. I was ASTOUNDED. The right to not use our breasts for feeding is as important as our right not to use our uterus for breeding. And the class implications of the current discourse need to be examined. So bravo to you. You have a new follower.

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  7. Oh, Audacity. That statement is *beyond* astounding.

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  8. On the same note, a child' s body does not belong to the mother. So she should not be able to make a choice to harm the child' s body. Whether the excuse is inconvenience, irresponsibility, etc. I don' t mean formula, as that does not harm. It may not be the best, but it is not harmful. Calling an unborn child a zygote to take his or her personhood away in order to make it more acceptable is like calling the mother a carrier and nothing more. I am not saying a woman should have no rights. But I always find it disappointing when people stand upon their soapboxes shouting for rights and choices while also declare it perfectly fine to take away an innocent person' s basic right to life, while taking away all future choices from that child. People can go round and around about "viable" and when life begins. But the fact is none of is remember the womb and can answer with any real experience when awareness and all that begins. It is just an excuse to put the feelings and choices of one person above the choices of another. I won' t even get into the disregard for any choice on the father' s part. It is not about woman hating and wanting to take their choices away. It is about not allowing the choice of one to harm another. After all, though it is hard and can change a person' s life to have an unplanned pregnancy. The reality is still that in most cases the woman chooses to have sex even though pregnancy is always a possibility. No one HAS to have sex. That IS the woman' s choice in most cases. So it is only expecting a woman and a man to take responsibility for the CHOICE they already made while allowing a growing, innocent, being to retain his or her right to life.

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  9. um yeah. this is not the blog, nor the blogger, to get into a debate about reproductive freedom on or with. period.

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  10. The difference between abortion and breastfeeding as a mother's 'choice' is that the rights of another sentient human being has to be taken into account. For that reason mothers should be given as much societal support as possible to breastfeed or breastmilk feed their babies.

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  11. I agree that mother's should be given support for breastfeeding. My point is that there are plenty of good reasons a woman, importantly also a sentient being, may not be able to or desire to, breastfeed that sentient being she has given birth too. And when we become a culture that forgets that women, too, have bodies and rights to them, we become a culture that supports anti-feminist ends under the guise of pro-woman ideology. And I'm sorry folks - formula feeding ain't poison. It's probably not perfect - nor is breast milk - as god knows I breast fed my kids some wine-soaked boob time and again, I know plenty of smart, well-adjusted, healthy people who were formula fed. I'm saying we need to recognize women's rights to make their own decisions about their own bodies. And support them equally.

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