It happened to my mum in the 80s. Sitting in a café, she discreetly began to breastfeed the 9-month-old me when she heard two women behind her comment on how ‘disgusting’ and ‘inappropriate’ this was. My mum, who is not a person to let such a thing pass, turned to them and commented on how their chain-smoking was disgusting and inappropriate in a café filled with small children, and that what she was doing was perfectly fine.
This week, 24 years on, my cousin went on Facebook to share the rather disheartening tale of two women walking out of a café because she’d dared to breastfeed her baby there. This was in a large shopping emporium and my cousin was discreet. Still, women are judging other women for doing what is completely natural. What happened to the sisterhood?
In the same week, a brilliant online petition to ban Page 3 from The Sun appeared on Twitter and Facebook. ‘No More Page 3’ declares that Page 3 is degrading to women. It objectifies us and sends the message to men, women and, indeed, all the children who see it on their kitchen table every morning, that we are sex objects and should be treated accordingly. That this is still seen as socially acceptable in 2012 takes my breath away.
What I find shocking and depressing is how so many women in this country accept Page 3 yet judge each other for breastfeeding in public. Breasts splashed all over national newspapers in a gratuitous and titillating manner: fine. A mother feeding her baby somewhere other than her own home or a toilet facility: hideous. Breasts as sexual: totally acceptable. Breasts functioning in the way they were intended to, as a life-giving force of nature: unacceptable.
We need to sort this out. Our skewed cultural perception has gone on long enough. Breasts are beautiful. They can be sexual and they can be maternal. My argument is that the sexual aspect should be kept indoors and the maternal aspect allowed outdoors. Only then can we as a nation have a healthy attitude towards breasts.