Because every time a woman exposes a part of her body for a reason that's not specifically for the male gaze it's deemed "controversial" or "inappropriate," we have yet another story of a mom being shamed for nursing her child in a public place. It must be a day that ends in "Y."
Brei Michelle Theisen was recently breastfeeding her 14-month-old daughter at a local pool when she was told to cover up.
Theisen wrote in a Facebook post, "...am I supposed to starve my child because someone is uncomfortable with themselves or because they are sexualizing breastfeeding?" She goes on to say that the manager suggested she feed her child in the bathroom instead. "I'm speechless and people wonder why moms are so scared to [breastfeed] in public," she wrote.
Theisen also rightfully points out that it's not against the law to feed a child in public (currently Idaho is the only state with no law protecting nursing parents). However, unfortunately, most states do not have enforcement provisions on their laws, which means that if someone does harass you or tell you to cover up, you likely don't have much legal ground to challenge them on.
The most absurd part of this story is that it happened at a pool. It's cool for people to lay around in bikinis, but not cool for parent to nurse their child because it's "inappropriate?" British poet and spoken-word artist Hollie McNish tackled this very contradiction in a poem she wrote called "Embarrassed." The poem was turned into a short film that asked, "Why is titillation accepted and sustenance rejected?"
I'm not saying anyone should be worried about wearing a bikini to the pool. Women certainly have the right to wear a swimsuit without being considered "titillating." But the double-standard of men who are okay seeing women's breasts when they're chilling by the pool, but not when they're feeding their child is just tiring.
When we're out in public, women's bodies are treated as if they are not our own. Instead, they become objectified and exist as something for men to comment on, ogle, or admire. And if we break from our accepted role as sex objects in our patriarchal society, we get shamed for it. Which is why, in 2017, we still face backlash for breastfeeding in public. Hell, even Mila Kunis got shit for it.
I posted a breastfeeding selfie on Facebook two years ago and a "friend" of mine reported it. So I posted another, and they reported that one, too. Like Theisen, I decided to fire back and ended up going viral for my response to the shaming, posting a long message on Facebook about how, not only is breastfeeding not an inappropriate act, but that I wasn't even violating any of Facebook's policies by posting my selfie.
It's time for people to do better. Some people have boobs, and some of us use those boobs to nourish our kids. Get over it.
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