I first saw this article posted on Facebook and I was immediately outraged. I wanted to comment: ” I am and work with PhD educated women and WE ALL breastfeed, we all pump and we all went to graduate school for Genetics, Immunology, chemistry, etc. We are far from incompetent!”
But I didn’t. Instead I went and found the original research article and read it. I was actually amused (although still outraged) about what the conclusions actually were. I was not, however, surprised by it. Basically, the authors found that breast are seen as sexual and women who are considered “sexualized” (i.e. slutty?) are deemed less competent. So for many college-age men and women (who were interviewed for the study) having your boobs out whether you are feeding your baby or stripping equal out to the same stereotype. Freaking ridiculous! It completely validates my opinion that breastfeeding is not only a mothering issue – it is a feminist issue. How much more can we do to say, “We are women, we are not sexual toys. We are mothers and daughters and sisters and we deserve to be respected as much.”
It brings me back to a recent trip I took with three other highly educated women (two of whom are pediatricians). One of the pediatricians actually said ,”I will not breastfeed. I just can’t. That’s not what breasts are for.” And it was all I could do to not scream at her. Really?! What are breasts for?! That is EXACTLY what they are for. Only now, especially in the western culture, have we made breasts into something else entirely. How is it that other cultures are clearly able to separate the sex from the nurturing and we are not? And how is it that a medical professional cannot separate her breasts from being biologically necessary for her baby and sexually necessary for her husband?
And to get back to the study, the fact that breastfeeding women are seen as less competent is surprising, considering that studies have shown that, particularly in America, it is the highly educated, higher earning women who exclusively breastfeed. As I said, I work with numerous women who have at least a master’s degree and we all breastfeed and pump well past 6 months.
Unfortunately, many people are not educated on the benefits to breastfeeding – not only to the baby but to the mother. It seems as though lately there is a strong push to bring breastfeeding to the mainstream and maybe we just need to “desensitize” everyone to it. As silly as that sounds, this study only proves that most people cannot be mature about breastfeeding and the benefits it has. It will only help that people like Michelle Obama and MomsRising.org make it part of improving the health of our country.