A quest to make sense of it all. Or a sense to make a quest of it all.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Latching on.

So this morning I was scanning msn.com (a ritual I'm finding less and less use for, as the articles linked are rarely this interesting), and stumbled upon this. Basically, a lady in Michigan was awaiting her turn in court (for a boating ticket) when her 5-month old son got hungry and fussy. Sitting in the back of the courtroom, the lady discreetly began breastfeeding the baby. The judge called her to the front and embarassed her, and told her what she was doing was inappropriate.


This really bothered me. I did a little sniffing around and found that Michigan is one of five states that don't permit public breastfeeding. Wait, what? That's a thing? There are actually laws against feeding a hungry baby in public? Yes, there are. Apparently, a lot of people feel that b-feeding violates public indecency laws. Right now, the subject is being hotly debated all across the interwebs...because there are enough people who are offended by the sight of a breast as to create a debate. Even most of the people who are pro-titty hasten to add that breastfeeding should be done in a "discreet" manner, so as not to make passersby uncomfortable. That the mother should use a blanket to completely cover the activity, or turn her back, or even go to a public bathroom to feed her child.

Let me get this straight: you think a baby should have to have his meal under a blanket, where he can't breathe fresh air or see his mother, so that you don't have to see a breast being used for its primary and intended function.

That's effed up, America.

What is it about this that makes people uncomfortable? Is it the skin-flashing? Please. The baby's mouth covers the nipple, and his head obscures most of the breast from view. And that's if the mom has her whole milker out. Most of the time, that's not the case and there's just a sliver of skin exposed between buttons. You see more at the beach, or the pool. Or the mall. Or the grocery store. We don't bat an eyelash about walking past Victoria's Secret ads wherein a woman is depicted in a near-orgasmic state, back arched, head thrown back, bosoms spilling almost out of her bra. A particularly skimpy bikini might raise a couple eyebrows, but it won't cause a public outcry. Let's get to the meat of this issue, if you will. We know why people are made uncomfortable by public breastfeeding.

Because our culture has forgotten that that fetishized and sexualized part of a woman's body actually has a biological function, and folks don't want to be reminded of that. Dudes are way happier thinking of breasts as something pretty and distinctly girly to play with. Ok, they are. They are supposed to entice. Guys are supposed to see a nice rack and be interested, at least on the simplest of levels. It's a visual cue that immediately lights up the "knock her up!" part of his brain. I like to picture that part of his brain as looking a lot like this.

That doesn't mean guys are walking around actively looking for fertile ladies. It's been my experience that most of them get asthmatically freaked out at the idea of pregnancy. No, it just means that nature fixed things so that we would be attracted to each other based on obvious signs of virility and fertility.

The problem is that nobody wants to see a breast being used in any non-sexual capacity. We've gotten so far out of touch with our bodies and their functions that it makes us squirm to see something as natural as a baby nursing. We say, "That's private! Intimate! Out of our sight!" Well, it's not private. It's a meal. It's the healthiest meal for an infant. We don't freak out and tell moms and dads to take that nonsense elsewhere if they whip out a bottle, or a jar of Gerber's. Some of the naysayers claim that something being natural doesn't make it ok to do in front of everyone, and compare it to defecating in public. That's...too stupid a comparison for me to spend any time on, other than to shake my head. No, what's at the bottom of this, is that we've been brought up in a world where breasts are pretty, airbrushed accessories, with no purpose but to titillate. They're lifted up, pushed together, even cosmeticized with bronzers and sparklies, but they are, under no circumstance, to be actually utilized.

Preposterous. To all the above, I say: STFU...and grow up.


Anonymous said...

Nice Beetlejuice reference. I think the set design of a lot of Tim Burton's films can be described, in short, as "subconscious." I won't elaborate on that, though I am sorely tempted to.

You know, as I read this I got so angry, and then as you addressed it I wanted to cheer.

It is all about the sexuality and not about the function. It's about this fantasy of existence that people accept to be reality because of their repeated bludgeoning with media, in all forms, depicting a reality laced with the lies of capitalist marketing, and slimily-worded sales pitches that seek to incite within you a real, honest belief that you can (and should!) show your house love by buying an $800 pre-lit Christmas tree this year. And myriad other garbage. Life looks like this, real women look like this, real mean act like this, patriots buy these brands, popular people wear these clothes, cool people do techy things using these overpriced, designer machines. Your life is only worth the collective cool of your economic wherewithal - your house, car, style, and ever-growing collection of crap that adds all these neat little details for people to admire about you you you.

See Marshall McLuhan, see hyperreality, see eight million other things - I'll send you a bibliography.

This just fits in perfectly with what my research project is blossoming into (well, at least one of its better-intentioned tangents), and I am cutting myself off because apparently the only thing I can do these days is communicate in lectures ranging from twenty minutes to two hours.

Someday I'll email you what I cut and pasted into a Word document to finish later.

Very nice argument. Well said, and three cheers for breastfeeding anywhere.

sarah saint said...

Your response reminded me of George Carlin's bit about "having stuff." So sharp, that guy.

I feel ya. I get more irritated every time I look at a magazine or (briefly) watch MTV. Not because I'm getting old and crotchety, but because I don't appreciate being told I'm not pretty enough or thin enough by all these ads, in between articles and programs that tell me how important it is to be "real." Really? Am I supposed to heartwarmed by this article about how one doesn't need anything but a loving spirit for Christmas? Because on the next page, there's a model who clearly wants to have sex with me, and is telling me this by the way she's splaying her Photoshop-long legs to sell me a diamond necklace.

Everything is fake and hypersexualized. Form's more important than function.


theogeo said...

I'm kind of looking forward to my first public breastfeeding experience. I've traditionally been pretty modest so it's odd to be on the side of an issue that will have me whipping a nip out at Target. But one thing is for sure — once you have pushed another human being out of your vag in front of someone you previously tried to impress with your sexiness, your notions of modesty and body consciousness get readjusted somewhat.

Which is to say I don't give a fuck who sees my boobs as long as it means my son is full and happy and not screaming.

So, bravo for this post!