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Breast Feeding: Making Grown Ups Vomit

Any regular follower of mine knows that I am the world's biggest fan girl for Salma Hayek. She is beautiful, she's a self-described feminist, she fights to make a place for women of color in general and Latinas specifically in the world of entertainment, AND she's an advocate of breast feeding!

So what's the problem here? Apparently, 1) it's eeew, grooooss that Salma is breastfeeding her own child, who is now about 14 months old! and 2) it's even eeeew, grooooosser that Salma breastfed a child that wasn't her own. Yuckiness.

Except, as a Latina mother who breastfed her own children until they were 2 and 3 respectively, and saw several mothers from her own community pop a shirt open to feed a child that wasn't their own AND as a woman who comes from a long line of women and community members who fed other women's children rather than their own (wet nurses anybody?), I have to wonder--what the hell is the big deal?

And do the people who are so upset and grossed out by this realize what the rest of the world is looking at THEM and thinking? How immature, how childish, how blatantly wrong it is to feel grossed out by a child drinking milk--and how disgusting it is that so many think a cow can feed a human child better than it's own mother can?

What kind of world have we come to when it seems more natural to advocate for desperately *impoverished* women to *buy* canned milk rather than feed her child for free? And what kind of world have we come to when a woman can be attacked for breaking the boundaries of traditional 'advocate'--stand and look amazed/sympathetic/kind/helpful, shake a hand and move on?

Any woman who has breastfed knows when watching that video--that child was *hungry*. Why do we find it so disgusting and gross that a woman of means and wealth gives him something to eat?

I am not a big fan of the breastfeeding wars. In my own life, I found breast to be best--but I also know plenty of women had to return to work within days or weeks of having their child, and breastfeeding simply wasn't an option. I don't sit judgment on those women and I think it's a false dichotomy to say we have to choose either one or the other as being 'better.'

What I *do* think is entirely obnoxious is the hard line attitude that the U.S. in particular seems to hold for breastfeeding women. As if what we do with our own bodies is somehow wrong or disgusting--unless we do it to satisfy social ideas of what a woman's body is supposed to be and do (i.e. get naked for money).

Breastfeeding children that aren't a woman's own is something that has been happening since humans existed. Maybe instead of considering other women of the world 'gross' for doing what has been done for eons, we should consider what has become of *our* society that we are so disconnected from our bodies and from our children that performing a natural function is enough to create such an outrageous response?

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Comments

8 comments have been made. Post a comment.

*quiet applause* I

*quiet applause* I completely agree on all points.

I'm a female adult American citizen and I think much of the attitude of horror/disgust at our bodies and their functions stems from the puritanical origins of the US and the continued stranglehold that religious groups have on our governing processes. We're so very peculiarly confused. Sex and violence abound in entertainment and advertising and yet more laws keep getting passed to 'protect' us from ourselves based on the guidelines of a single, non-majority, moral perspective.

Religion and politics aside, I think the kind of things to which you're referring are always blown out of proportion by the press, for no better reason than to garner attention and 'sell' copy/bandwidth/attention of one kind or another. It's ridiculous.

I am as pro-breast-feeding

I am as pro-breast-feeding as the next feminist, but I think what bothered me about this video is that why did Salma pull out the breast if the baby's mom can't give the baby breastmilk? So Salma feeds the baby once, but then what happens? She won't be there the next time. Why not give the baby and the family formula? Maybe I'm misunderstanding the situation but I think that in most of the celebrities-visiting-poor-places events, the "solution" to poverty (breastfeeding the baby, adopting a child in Angelina's case) is short-lived and not ultimately benefiting the community.

I believe at one point

I believe at one point nursemaids were a sign of being rich and for someone who is obviously more wealthy than the families there to breastfeed a child who is not her own is a sign of deep generosity and caring, in my humble opinion. But it sounds like her motives were out of a motherly compassion. I doubt the only thing she did while visiting Sierra Leone was breastfeed another woman's child. If it was the only thing she did, eh, she could have done more, in that I agree with you.

Something I've noticed in

Something I've noticed in the recent Salma Hayek publicity storms is that Hayek copped a lot more abuse for breastfeeding her own child than for breastfeeding this baby in Sierra Leone. Whether that's because her baby is older than this one, or because of some Othering mechanism at work, I'm not sure.

Thank you so much for this

Thank you so much for this eloquent and reassuringly sane response. Ms. Hayek performed a kind and natural act when she saw a child in need - what could be more worthy of our support? I find it insane that anyone would prefer that child be left to cry in hunger just so they wouldn't have to face their own prejudices when they happened to come across the video on YouTube. Priorities?

My only response to anyone "grossed out" by breastfeeding in general or by a mother nursing a child not her own: feel free not to do it. Other than that, what business is it of yours?

It takes a village to raise a child

Somewhere along the way we forgot that community, not immediate family, is the fundamental unit of society. Thatcherism has us all convinced that we only need to look after our own family in order to survive in the world. Unless you live on acreage and you and your family grow your own food and generate your own power, this is not the case.

Communities (and social groups, extended families) still play an important role in the development of all humanity as social beings. It is our families who provide us with support when the chips are down, our friends give us opportunities to enjoy activities as a group and many people still join knitting circles, sports teams, churches, etc. as a way of connecting to an outside community which support each other in various ways. Whipping a breast out to feed someone else's child is simply one more way that one woman can support another (and a child).

Western society has this cognitive dissonance about breasts that they're both shameful and tantalising at the same time. We accept Shakira shaking them all about in a video clip but as soon as one's actually put to its biological use, well, that's just disgusting, isn't it? One thing you can say about fundamentalist puritans is that they're at least consistent about their treatment of the female body as a shameful object. The rest of society can't decide whether it wants to vomit or wolf-whistle.

But of course.

It's a sad, sad thing for anybody to be disgusted or "gross"-ed out in anyway about it. And most especially if the disgusted or grossed out person is a grown-up, adult woman. Like, W-T-F?

So what's the whole purpose of your two buns there then, right?

And like what's written, would one so shallowly knight them the purpose of being utilized as a cheap victim of sex? Would one so shallowly grant men, and their bodily monstrosities, the luxury of your own breasts but would not let grant the rightful grantees (i.e. the babies or children) such luxury?

Yes, some women may be exempted from the breastfeeding act only, and if only, they are physically unable to, or if by doing so they may cause any sort of damage. But for the rest of the world, breastfeeding should be completely acceptable, if not exercised.

Big, big YES to breastfeeding!

Still not sure

I understand we're still suffering from rediculous puritan biases in our culture, especially in places where religious doctrine trumps education, free thinking, and sadly rights. But how as a society, those of us who don't have our heads buried in our own asses can possibly allow women to continually be arrested and prosecuted for breast feeding in public. It is the single most natural interaction between a mother and her infant regardless of what mammal species you are dealing with. Once again those who get uncomfortable suppress science and rational thought to feel better. Sheesh