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Baby Talk Magazine Controversy

For goodness' sake.

The cover of this month's Baby Talk (link has a photo of the cover) shows a baby breastfeeding and is causing such an uproar that a survey of over 4,000 people showed 1/4 were offended (?!?) or disgusted by the photo. The magazine has been receiving comments such as:

"I was SHOCKED to see a giant breast on the cover of your magazine," one person wrote. "I immediately turned the magazine face down," wrote another. "Gross," said a third.

This short article bespeaks of the strange dichotomy in our society. One one side is the you-gotta-breastfeed-because-it's-the-only-right-thing-to-do-for-your-baby; on the other, nurse-that-baby-in-the-bathroom-I-find-it-repulsive. How can any woman win?

I don't even know what the answer is in a tug-of-war such as this.

If we could de-sensitize society to bare breasts nourishing infants and toddlers (as much of Europe and the rest of the world is), it could all be a non-issue because women would feel more comfortable out and about with their nurslings. Who wants to be stuck at home with a baby for months and months on end? Women who dare venture out while nursing are often met with tightly pinched faces and looks of disapproval simply for feeding their child.

Yet, bottles are met with some of those same squinchy faces and tsk tsking frowns.

What's a mother to do?!

What is there in our culture that has to make all of this so polarized? Don't we have other things to worry about? War, maybe?

A little segue.

If I were pregnant right now and was waffling about whether to nurse or not, I would really be leaning towards breastfeeding because of the thought of a possible upcoming war in our own country. If it seemed impossible to feed babies during the Katrina disaster, let's multiply that by thousands of times if bombs began falling in our back yards. (I am not usually a worry-monger, but right now, I think it's something to seriously consider.) If nothing else, I'd want to be close to my child physically and be able to guarantee food for my child. If women aren't nursing in Israel or Palestine (or Afghanistan or Iraq or or or), I cannot imagine how they would be getting nutrition to their children. Something to consider.

I still don't know what to do about those moms who want to nurse so badly and simply do not have milk production strong enough to do so. It just doesn't seem fair that women who despise nursing leak for months on end, yet some women cry every day because they want to nurse so very much, yet cannot get even a drop of milk from their nipples. Where is the justice?

(It reminds me of women with infertility issues having to endure the pain of watching babies thrown into dumpsters. How heartbreaking it must be seeing drug addict women have kid after kid even as they can't conceive and keep even one pregnancy viable.)

It all just seems to go 'round and 'round.

I don't know the answer.

I do know the cover of Baby Talk is beautiful and those of us who find it so MUST tell them lest they think those who believe breasts are only for sexual arousal are the majority. Please, lactivists, please get all your women, your LLL groups, everyone... to thank those at Baby Talk.

Email them here. Please.

Reader Comments (15)

i emailed them - and i love the lactivists term! i still am in awe over whomever called that cover gross - shame on them!

July 31, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterMisty

How could anyone find that photograph gross? Why can't American society accept that breasts have a function other than a purely sexual one?

July 31, 2006 | Unregistered Commenterselzach

(It reminds me of women with infertility issues having to endure the pain of watching babies thrown into dumpsters. How humiliating it must be seeing drug addict women have kid after kid even as they can't conceive and keep one pregnancy viable.)

Humiliating, no (at least not for me). But heartbreaking, absoultely. Thanks so much for mentioning it this way, I sometimes feel ignored/forgotten/misunderstood.

July 31, 2006 | Unregistered Commenter"Loving Pecola"

Heartbreaking is a better word. I'll change it.

Thank you for correcting me.

July 31, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterNavelgazing Midwife

I emailed them-thanks! Women show more skin than that all the time on magazine covers(heck, local beaches or malls show an awful lot of female flesh too!). It they had, say, a woman's fingertip covering the breast instead of a baby's face/lips it wouldn't be such a big deal to people. Yet about the same amount of flesh would be showing.

July 31, 2006 | Unregistered Commentersajmom

it does terrify me that I HAVE to depend on formula to feed my daughter, to keep her growing and healthy....

I so wish we had a practical milk banking system, one that was actually affordable, for healthy babies, as opposed to HMBA or Prolacta...preferrably one that did not pasturize the milk.

But between CA's own requirements for a "tissue bank", litigation fears, and the power of $$$...it'll never happen...so mom's like me have to either rely on formula, or the genorosity of moms we happen to know, who have milk to spare.....

Human milk should not "cost" $3 an ounce when it's given by the donors, who can afford it? So human milk ends up "reserved" for NICU babies...or being used to help the formula companies bring their products even closer to the gold standard-breastmilk. So we instead are forced to rely on the oh-so-nice formula companies who help create the shortage of milk in the first place....

How about some serious research into lactation failure/relactation/breastfeeding management for starters......so we're no borrowing research from the dairy industy who has a financial reason to want their cows to produce more milk, and it would be nice in the AAP had the ethical fortutude to refuse money from the formula companies...money earned by compromising the health of babies....

...I'll crawl back into my hole now....

July 31, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterOpening Pandora

on people leaving babies in dumpsters- in a few states there are laws that allow a mom to drop a baby off-- remember not that many years ago children could be left on the steps of churches of people's doorsteps and it wouldn't be a crime-- now it sort of is and a move to hiding things even more than in the extreme repressive days - there still needs to be a way to drop your baby off no questions asked--
as for breastfeeding-- sexualization of breasts is so rampant, it is part of the negative twist about breastfeeding--

July 31, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterAnonymous

Yay! Hooray for boobies!
My email sent to BabyTalk:

"What a gift the image on the August issue of Baby Talk is - not just to us mothers, but to the whole of humanity. Images like this one help normalize the act of using breasts the way they were meant to be used. Only a handful of years ago, images appeared on magazine covers that rightly elevated the image of a pregnant belly to the ranks of a respectable sight. Hopefully in a few years, women who need to breastfeed in a public place (and as any breastfeeding mother will tell you, it IS a necessity) will no longer have to guard themselves and their children from spiteful remarks made only out of ignorance. Baby Talk, thank you for helping lead the cause to tear down these walls!"

July 31, 2006 | Unregistered Commenterwanderglow

"Breast milk! It's what's for breakfast, lunch and dinner!"

Amazing that the cover got so many negative responses. Absolutely shocking. "Gross"? Why? Because that woman has a body image that is a product borne of modern magazines/tv/movies. She only views herself and other women as sexual objects. What a damn shame. Her boyfriend sucks on her nipples and that's terrific and it feels good and and she can't make the mental leap to having a baby do the same thing in order to eat. Sad. Sad. Sad.

I wrote the magazine an encouraging email, too.

July 31, 2006 | Unregistered Commentermissbhavens

A couple of thoughts:

First, I look at those statistics and think to myself "WOW! 75% found the cover to NOT be offending!" I like to see the positive. :^D

Second, the breasts ARE sexual objects. But so is the vagina. And they are also used to bring our babies into the world and to nourish them. There is absolutely NOTHING wrong with the breasts being sexual as well as nurturing. Why does it have to be one or the other? I am sure baby doesn't really mind sharing them with mom's partner. :^)

August 1, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterAnonymous

I agree that breasts are sexual objects- but the way that they are sexualized as if they are objects for the participation in adult- adult sexual activity rather than mothering a child--- It crossed my mind when I wrote the first post- but I do think that the Playboy image of breasts can be a detriment -- If I had to carry out my thinking about repression in the US I would think that these are some mutations left over from Puritan ancestors...

August 1, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterAnonymous

People need to settle down and get a clue. If they cannot afford a clue they should rent a clue.

August 7, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterAnonymous

Why is it that when a magazine specifically geared toward parents features a photo of a mother using her breast to nourish her infant it is met with outrage and anger, when right next to it on newsstands everywhere are dozens of magazines showing the naked breasts of leather-clad women on spiked leashes or holding whips and noone bats an eyelash?

The Baby Talk cover shows only a sideview of the mom's actual breast, and I can name at least a dozen celebrities whose breasts I have seen in their entirety...several times. And I bet I can even tell you who has what tattooed where. Most people can, and I don't see anyone making a stink about it. Bare breasts are everywhere, and we suddenly become offended when a baby nurses from one? Newsflash, anti-breastfeeding-in-public folks: if it wasn't for breastfeeding, our species wouldn't have survived to the age of formula and political correctness.

I hope someday soon society will welcome nursing mothers (and bottle feeding mothers, for that matter) into public places with open arms, but until then I have a simple solution: if you're really that offended, DON'T LOOK!!

August 9, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterNakedTomato

Hi,I don't believe how far can people go this days,we americans are so open minds about every issue that comes to life everyday,but when its about breastfeeding theres so much of buhooo or Oh My God or whatever" hello world this is about given food to your baby,breastfeeding its the most wonderful experience that u as a mother can have,that little connection between you and him or her, come on people let's foccus on something more important than critizes our way to nurse our babies,If you don't believe in breastfeeding don't look when you see a woman doing it because theres a law that protects us, and I will be in first row if you people need to start respects other people rights starting by respecting THE RIGHTS OF 9 mo BABY. Here in PR we have a law that give a woman support the one that this society don't give,Thank God my husband supports me 100%.Thank You and sorry for my bad English and writting.I speak Spanish.

August 9, 2006 | Unregistered Commenteraztin

26 years ago I gave birth to the first of 3 children, all of whom were breastfed long term and all occasionally in public. I guess maybe I was unaware of any problem arising from my doing so. The one thing I did do was to always toss a receiving blanket over my shoulder and the baby so that I was not exposing myself unnecessarily. Most of the time, I don't think anyone was even aware of what I was doing. The only problem I ever had was with my youngest, a boy, who seemed to have an uncontrollable desire to grab hold of the blanket and toss it aside. While I have no problem personally with seeing a woman breastfeeding her child in public, a little creative discretion could help to keep the comments and glares from the squeamish in our midst at a minimum and maybe keep them from being offended. I applaud Baby Talk for their cover photo and all those who are working to promote increased breastfeeding education and awareness among new mothers in our country. Keep up the good work.

October 16, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterExperienced Mom

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