Dr. Wendy Walsh: Our highly sexualized culture has gone too far when women (read: nature's nurturers) are claiming that breastfeeding is gross. When women begin talking like men in terms of sexuality -- and disparage their own bodies -- then you know that this third wave of feminism hasn't done much to truly liberate femininity. Instead, we have colluded with the boys' club in order to masquerade as equals. This is not equality. Sexualizing our breasts is fine. Breasts are beautiful. But confining breasts to all things sexual and sentencing them to a life without maternal power is sad servitude to all things male.
But I'm getting ahead of myself. Here are the facts that have me ranting over my morning coffee today.
Recently, Kathryn Blundell, the editor of leading British parenting magazine Mother and Baby, wrote an editorial entitled, "I Formula-Fed. SO WHAT?" In it, she called breasts "fun bags" and said, "Seeing your teeny, tiny, innocent baby latching on where only a lover has been before feels, well, a little creepy."
Meanwhile, on this side of the pond, that wise sage Kim Kardashian -- whose own boobs are limited to working the night shift -- tweeted this to her fans a few weeks ago: "EWW Im at lunch, the woman at the table next 2 me is breast feeding her baby w no coverup."
I understand that eyebrows get raised by the public display of this natural beauty, for I once staged a research study for my psychology dissertation on breastfeeding and romantic attachment. While interviewing nursing mothers, I learned that one of the most common reasons that women quit breastfeeding is embarrassment about nursing in public. All over Europe, paintings and statues of the Madonna (the real one, not the one who vogues) depict her nursing, yet our American culture still can't get past the idea that breasts are more than sexual objects.
Even though breastfeeding is on the rise today (compared to the 1970s), it is in uncomfortable competition with racy messages. Sexy women are hot. MILFs are hot. Women who nurse are "creepy." Fortunately, these increasingly sexualized media messages are commingling with the powerful chant of a growing body of women who still think like women. Women who know that breastfeeding contributes to healthy attachments and good health all around. Women like Bettina Forbes, who cofounded "Best for Babes," a group that normalizes breastfeeding and shows that nursing moms can be powerful, sexy, glamorous and nurturing, all at the same time. Thousands of women follow Forbes on Facebook and are what I like to call the real feminists.
When women hate their own bodies' natural functions, they need to stop and think. Whose sentiments are being recycled? I'll tell you whose: Those of a dying patriarchal culture whose boys' club would prefer that you enslave your boobs to serve them.
And here's something to throw back in the face of anyone who thinks that breasts are only "fun bags": According to one of my all-time favorite studies, guess which kind of woman is most likely to choose to breastfeed? The woman who is most comfortable with sex, erotica and her body. Prudes don't breastfeed.
Kathryn and Kim, we hope you're listening!