By now, I’m sure many of you have seen the viral video of a social experiment conducted by video maker JoeySalads that compares a woman breastfeeding in public places to a woman wearing a revealing shirt to find out how people react differently to each. The question this video experiment tries to answer is if public breastfeeding isn’t really about how much breast is being revealed, but if the manner in which it is exposed is what creates the tension.
If you haven’t seen the video yet, you can check it out below.
When I saw this video for the first time, I immediately thought two things:
- There is no way this wasn’t scripted.
- Wait…..what if this wasn’t scripted?
If recent dialogue in the news and across the blogosphere is to be believed, this really is a problem — women are actually being marginalized for breastfeeding in public. Still. Now. In 2016. It was nearly three years ago now that a friend of mine published a post after she was nursing her daughter under a cover in a church lobby and ended up leaving because of how poorly she was treated. Clearly this is still an issue that hasn’t changed much in three years.
Now, I’m not blind to the fact that this particular “social experiment” could also be criticized for marginalizing and objectifying the women in the tiny top deemed “sexy.” That’s a post for a different day. For right now, let’s focus on the nursing mama and the way people respond to her in this video.
Did you hear the predominant word that was repeated over and over?
The more I thought about it, the more I realized something from my personal experience with breastfeeding….and it might not be what you expect.
Breastfeeding, in my experience, was indeed kind of disgusting.
Now, before everyone just scrolls down to the comment section to start clicking away at the keys to tell me what a horrible mom I am and that I’m setting the feminist movement back fifty years, etc, etc, please allow me to explain what I mean.
I am a mom of three sons. I breastfed each and every one of them, starting from those first precious moments after they were born. Every one to two hours, I was at their beck and call. The sole source of nourishment for those tiny babes. I did it. I nursed all three of those kids for several months and at the end of it, I was able to pump my fist in the air in victory and demand my Boobie Badge of Honor.
But it was gross. And sometimes? It was even disgusting.
I had mastitis and cracked, bleeding nipples at the same time. Every latch felt like a pit bull’s jaws were chomping down on my breast and I winced as I wiped the blood away before applying the Lansinoh cream. Yuck.
Many nights, I would wake up drenched from my breasts experiencing let-down in my sleep. In my zombie-esque state, I would peel off my pajamas and then struggle to get my bra off because it was glued to me by semi-dry, sour milk. Eventually, I would just give up and my husband would awake to find his bride half-dressed, one boob out, reeking like the refrigerator had died and everything in it had turned. Gross.
Supply was never really a struggle for me. In fact, I had milk to spare. So much so, in fact, that the very mention of a baby, the thought of a baby, a baby showing up on a commercial or any other sort of stimulus that even remotely related to a baby would cause my automatic sprinkler system to kick in. Have you ever been in the check-out line at the grocery store and had to stick a baby wipe down your shirt to mop up the river of breastmilk that was collecting in your belly-button? Ick.
On numerous occasions, my milk came out so fast and furious that I shot my baby right in the face.
Between the sour milk I now wore as perfume, the pools of breastmilk showing up in random places all over the house, and the constant need to change breast pads and the breastmilk diapers (gag!!!), I stand by my assertion that breastfeeding was, in fact, a bit disgusting FOR ME.
What was NOT disgusting was the tiny hand that reached up to clutch my finger as I stared down at this perfect creature while he ate. What was not disgusting was the view from above. What was not disgusting was the ability I had to give my child something that no one else could. What was not disgusting was the sacrifice, the stamina, the determination, the triumph and the joy that comes when you persevere through something that proves to be more challenging and maybe even a little ickier than you anticipated and you give it your best shot anyway because you are a mom and that baby needs you.
And you know what else?
No woman should EVER be called disgusting.
Whether she is nursing her child or feeding him formula. Wearing a cardigan or a crop top. Yoga pants and five-day hair or a mini and stilettos.
Shame on us.
How did we get to the place where we can prattle on and on about equality and fairness and acceptance, but that we seem to think that certain issues are fair game for us to act like bullies and go to battle on the moral high ground? Suddenly, we forget all about compassion, empathy, self-control and love and opt instead for judgment, pridefulness, spite and hate.
Now that’s disgusting.
I don’t have the answer to this. There is no viral video, no blog post, no legislation, no ordinance, and no movie star going on a talk show that will be able to change the opinions of the masses to the point where this kind of conflict can be resolved.
It doesn’t even matter if that video is real or scripted. I’d be willing to bet that every single person reading this post has, at one time or another, been made to feel disgusting because of the way they were judged by someone else. At the end of the day, the issue isn’t even about breastfeeding in public. It’s about seeing people through a different lens and choosing to respond accordingly, honoring them with the dignity everyone deserves.