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A Powerful Wake-up Call on Breastfeeding and the Culture

Looking for The Lactivist? She's retired. But you CAN still find Jen blogging. These days, she's runs A Flexible Life. Join her for life, recipes, projects and the occasional rant.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Morgan Gallagher has put together one of the most well thought-out, most articulate arguments I've ever read for changing the way that we fight the lactivist battles. (And has graciously given permission for it to be reposted.) I've written in the past about the need to shift the debate from the right of the mom to nurse to the right of the child to eat, but this post goes above and beyond that.

It's long, but I promise you, it's worth the read.

--

Human Rights Verses Hegemony

I'm finding it increasingly difficult to read, and respond to, the posts which suggest it was Jessica and Tobin's responsibility in RHM to prepare the way for her nursing. That is not unreasonable for Jessica to be asked to 'announce' her intention to nurse - for, after all, we all need to find a way to rub along together.

I'm finding it hard to read these posts, as they seem to be suggesting that all parties involved have equal rights in the matter. Tobin's need to be nurtured is of equal status as the rights of the 'offended' party in having to watch such an uncomfortable act.

This is complete nonsense. There is only one right here: Tobin's right to nurse. That's why there is a law stating so, no matter how ineffective it turns out to be.

Tobin has an inalienable human right here that is being denied. The right of a human child to human milk, to nurture and nourish when its psychobiology requires it.

The offended onlooker does not have any rights to be protected. The offended onlooker has a personal issue, a feeling of discomfort and unease, that requires handling. A cultural dissonance, that needs acknowledged,
responded to, engaged with and hopefully smoothed away. The nursing dyad has no such personal issue in this paradigm. The nursing dyad is not operating out of a cultural context. The nursing dyad has supreme importance and protection in this scenario.

There is a simple truth here, that is so awesome and complete in its simplicity, that it's in danger of being overlooked: breastfeeding an infant is not a lifestyle choice. It is not a cultural convention. It is not a personal statement. It is a biological imperative. It is our essential nature. It is an essential element of our species, and the continuation of it. It is a biological norm.

We do not choose to breastfeed. We can choose not to. Likewise, we do not choose to breastfeed in public. We can choose not to. Breastfeeding is not a cultural construct. Not breastfeeding, is. Nursing an infant when the infant needs it, is a biological norm. Deciding that this needs to be done in a certain place, at a certain time, or in a certain way, is a cultural value.

The problem with many of the comments in here over the past couple of days, comments about tolerance, offence, understanding that other parents are going to be askance at nursing twins. is that these arguments place nursing within a cultural paradigm. It positions the debate in one of opinion, feelings and cultural mores. In doing this, it assigns equal right to all participants, not to have their feelings etc 'offended' and that they all have equal standing in the debate: no one position is more valued or 'protected' than the other. Different cultures often do things so
differently from each other, that problems and tensions arise when people of the differing cultures meet are best met with discussion, sharing views etc.

All laudable comments on such problems as they arrive in a multi-cultural society.

However, breastfeeding is not a cultural activity. Therefore it does not belong in the cultural difference paradigm. As a biological normative behaviour, it exists in a complete different paradigm: that of human rights.

Quite often, when this sort of thing is discussed, someone will say "Would you ask a black person to go eat in their room if someone else was offended?" and a huge debate will fall open about whether or not that was an appropriate thing to say. One side will scream its not appropriate to
reference colour, the other will say "Why not?" and off the merry go round will go.

Well, I'm going to raise it here - as an example of what I mean by the basic difference between arguing about a cultural convention and a biological norm.

Being black is a biological norm. In fact, it's the biological norm. Being

white is actually the absence of being black. To discriminate against someone on the basis of colour, is to discriminate on their essential biology. It is to discriminate against their right to exist: it impinges on their human rights. There is no logic, rhyme or reason to such discrimination. It is a cultural construct imposing lunacy on the essential nature of humans. No one decides to be black. It is not a cultural concept. It is not a lifestyle choice. It is an essential artefact of human biology. It is.

As is breastfeeding.

Remembering that we do not choose to breastfeed. we can only choose not to.

All babies are born to breastfeed. It is not a cultural concept. It is not a cultural artefact. They are not making a lifestyle choice. They are following their biological, and psychobiological, imperatives. They are doing what humans do - they are suckling for nurture, for nourishment and
for survival. It is.

That is why they need the protection of the human rights paradigm, not the cultural one.

When laws are passed to protect the nursing dyad, these laws are not about protecting cultural difference. It is not about soothing cultural dissonance. It is not about protecting feelings, emotions or opinion. It is about protecting the essential normative biology of a nursing dyad. It
is to prevent cultural suppression of an innate human characteristic. Just as being black, is an innate human characteristic.

I reiterate: breastfeeding is not a lifestyle choice. It is not something you choose to do. It is something you can only choose not to do. If you accept that an infant has an inalienable human right to human milk, and to comfort and soothe on the mother's breast, you must also hold up its right to do so when it needs to - regardless of how offended the 'onlooker' in. By all means soothe the onlooker - but don't make it the responsibility of the mother to do the soothing.

Keeping nursing in public debates with the cultural paradigm is completely and utterly redundant in our current society. It was once the only place the debate could take place, and we must thank, and support, the previous generations in their struggle in that paradigm. Many nursing mothers here
and now, are only here because of the work of previous generations, who in the Great Drought sought to change personal opinion when they could. Slowly, gently, and in a 'let's all get along nicely' way. Wonderful women fighting a small, slow battle, inch by inch. Thank you.

However, we are not there anymore. Keeping the debate in the cultural paradigm is not only no longer useful - it is detrimental to progress. Keep it in the cultural battlefield and you do several things, all of them invidious:

For starters, you place all the pressure on the individual mother, and her infant. Jessica Swimely has carried that entire pressure of this battle on her head over the past few days - as the law that is there to prevent her from having to do so, has failed her. By keeping the cultural paradigm in mind, you make it about the mother making the inroads into culture. You makes statements as a society that breastfeeding is to be protected . but you leave the individual mother to take the flack. She must make the choices daily, on where and when her child's psychobiological needs are suppressed by the hegemony. She carries the burden.

As does the infant.

In addition, you get all the cultural 'debates' that take up the time and energy and prevent progress. The female human breast is 'sexual' and it's understandable that others will be offended. Ehm no. The female human breast is not sexual. It does not carry a biologically determined normative function of 'sexual attraction'. (Enlarged breasts actually mimic the true sexual attraction - the human bottom. Large breasts are not biologically standard.) Culture dictates whether or not it is a sexualised organ. Keep the debate in cultural mores - keep having endless arguments about seeing sexual body parts. Some USA State laws have even identified this as part of the protective law and stated legally that a nursing breast is not a sexual object. When you accept, and promote, the concept that nursing in public is a cultural debate, you actually end up undermining what you're trying to protect - by constantly allowing the ever rolling debate on such trivial points as to how much of a breast can be seen before offence is caused. Unless it's a non-nursing breast, in which case you're allowed rather a lot of it on billboards.

You also create space for the debate to include when and why weaning should occur and further undermine normal nursing practices from establishing. Lest we forget, this is about nursing toddlers. Every single time one of the posters in here has made a comment about how it is understandable that people have reacted badly to nursing twin toddlers, a dagger has been struck
in the heart of many of us. Two extremely pernicious concepts have bobbed to the surface here - one is the 'indiscrete' women, making it harder for laws to be passed, as she 'whips it out' and alienates people. Concurrent with this is the notion that those of us nursing toddlers in public are making it harder for acceptance, as we are acting so far out of the cultural

norm. Shame! Shame on you! How can you possibly justify discussing a woman's body, and her biological imperative to nurture her infant in such negative and unjust terms? How can you stand up and say you support breastfeeding, but you can see that those nursing toddlers are better advised to hide more than the others? How can you undermine the very women fighting longest and hardest to establish normative nursing patterns. How can you justify suggesting that women nursing in public hinders breastfeeding awareness?

Yet you do all of these things, when you argue about breastfeeding as a cultural issue. Because the very nature of cultural debate is to state that all sides have some points to make, and must be accommodated.

Breastfeeding is not a cultural artefact. Breastfeeding is a biological norm. The ability of the infant to access their mother's milk when and where it chooses, is a human rights issue. The right of the human infant to nourish and comfort itself at the mother's breast when it requires to, is an
inalienable human right. A woman having control of her own body, in order to nourish her infant regardless of cultural suppression, is her inalienable human right.

These are human rights, not cultural debates. We can act in order to get along nicely where possible, but the right of the human child to breastfeeding is paramount.

And lest we forget.. the cost of the lack of nursing, is death for many human babies. In the USA, 2 babies per thousand die for being on formula. Many many more get ill. In the wider world, 3500 babies a day die for lack of breastfeeding. In the time it's taken me to write this - over 7000 babies have died. And in the global village we live in, the lack of nursing in the West, feeds into that statistic. Women in the West feeding their infants in closed rooms, are not seen by their own communities, by the expectant mothers around them. but they are also not seen by the mothers of the Third World, desperate to give their babies 'the best'. These women only see white, affluent and incredibly healthy babies and mothers. on the sides of cans of expensive formula. By keeping our nursing mothers bundled in the corner, or locked in bedrooms with their toddlers, or asking the common room to clear before feeding them. we contribute to the problem. But that's okay, because the father over there, feeding his sick baby formula,
is appeased.

Women chose not to nurse because they live in a culture that disapproves of it. We cannot change this, by working within the culture to 'smooth it all out'. We cannot dump the responsibility on the individual nursing mother to prevent offence. We must act to protect her rights to nurse, and her child's right to nurse. Their human rights. Full stop. Period. End of.

Working in terms of the sensibilites of the onlooker to nursing, was once useful. Yesterday. Or even the day before yesterday. We can acknowledge how useful it was, and how much was acheived, as we move on to tomorrow.

Morgan Gallagher
Online Lactaneer
Nursing and nurturing the psychobiological needs of her 26 month infant,
despite hegemonic pressure

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  1. Blogger Leah | 6:50 AM |  

    That was spectacular.

    It's like I always say - no one has the right NOT to be offended. The 1st Amendment would not exist if we had some right to not be offended.

  2. Anonymous Brenda Zizolfo | 7:25 AM |  

    Wow- very powerful-
    Things like this make me feel a little guilty- Not for doing anything wrong necessarily but because I know that I even at times have decided to "hold off" feeding my child until we were in a place more conducive for others around us, as to not upset anyone, or at least not have to deal with any dirty looks. My 2nd child is 11 months now so I am much more used to nursing in public and the discomfort that it brings so many ignorant people, but this article should be read by every new mom nursing her first child to help them realize that your child deserves to get his/her needs met- No matter where you are and no matter who is around.
    One of the funniest things I heard recently was how someone was uncomfortable with a woman nursing with her pre-teen son right there and she did not want her son exposed to that.
    I have an 8 year old nephew who is rather fascinated with the female form lately- I was in target w/ my family and he pointed to some pics of girls in bikinis and pointed to my sister "hey, check that out". Whether he is completely chauvinistic or not is not the issue I'm bringing up at the moment though- what i think is great is that I can breastfeed in front of him 10 times a day without ever covering up and he doesn't even as much as look twice- Not because he doesn't know it's happening (well sometimes he just doesn't notice) but mostly because he was raised around people who breastfed and understands that that is what breasts were made for. Now he still makes the innappropriate joke now and then- but certainly not because of breastfeeding! More parents need to realize that seeing a baby nursing is not what makes boys fascinated with breasts.

  3. Blogger Naki | 7:32 AM |  

    This was powerful, Morgan Gallagher basicially puts what most of us think to words. It is people like her who are not afraid to voice concern- that ultimately open up the eyes of society. Thanks.

  4. Anonymous Marica | 8:15 AM |  

    Wow, I love the biological aspect vs the cultural aspect of breastfeeding. What an eye opener to parrallel breastfeeding to one's race/ethnicity/color. Thank you!
    Breastfeeding just is...

  5. Blogger Eilat | 9:59 AM |  

    This point about breastfeeding as the biological norm makes me think of a corollary:

    How to feed an infant is often talked about as a "choice" that the mother makes. One way or the other. And that's supposed to make it right, because we live in a society that respects individual freedom and choice. But we all know that every baby's "choice" is to breastfeed. And that choice is being ignored completely in those types of debates.

  6. Anonymous Crystal | 10:28 AM |  

    This is awesome.

  7. Anonymous Veda | 11:51 AM |  

    Amen, sister!

    Thank for making such an eloquent and logical statement.

  8. Anonymous Rachel | 1:25 PM |  

    wow, she is so right on, thanks for sharing this. Inspiring. I won't hide in our house nursing my 22 month old anymore!

    So where do we go from here? How do we change the debate?

  9. Blogger Slings and Sacks | 1:54 PM |  

    I have to chime in with another wow. I feel even more empowered after reading that. If all mothers were exposed to these powerful words these human rights issues would not be so prevalent.

  10. Blogger JudyBright | 9:41 PM |  

    I agree with her on her overall point. And it should be taken in many areas of life. One must do the right thing regardless of the reactions of misinformed or ignorant people. We must defend people that are attacked for doing the right thing simply because many view it as offensive. Overall it was well written.

    I have to disagree on a couple of points.

    1. It's normal to be black, and being white is not normal.

    She could have easily made her point without taking it this far. Saying that black people shouldn't be forced to eat somewhere else would have been enough. Humans come in a whole range of colors that are varying shades of brown. It is normal to fall anywhere in that range.

    2. Breasts are not sexual

    I still maintain that breasts are sexual. They serve a dual purpose just like other female body parts. That does not mean that they should be viewed as sexual while nursing a baby; I doubt that a vagina is viewed as sexual when there's a baby's head sticking out of it. She seemed to make a dogmatic statement that we're just supposed to believe about the human bottom being sexual and breast not being sexual. This point is up for debate but she stated it as fact.

    Sorry, guess this large breasted white girl couldn't let that go.

    However, I will be more likely to nurse any future babies in public - It should be the norm after all.

  11. Blogger Jennifer | 5:27 AM |  

    Judy, I agree with you on both points.

    1.) Genetic scientists have shown that two medium skinned parents can pretty much produce any variation of color of offspring. As you said, we're all shades of brown. Some are just darker or lighter than average.

    2.) Breasts ARE sexual. It's just that they are both sexual AND non-sexual. I view them as being like lips.

    When I'm kidding my baby or my mother, they are not sexual. When I am kissing my husband, they often are. Breasts are the same way. As a Christian, I take my cues from the Bible and Song of Solomon is pretty clear that breasts are ALSO made for enjoyment within the physical/sexual relationship of husband and wife.

    In other words, when it's playtime with hubby, they ARE sexual, when it's feeding time with your child, they aren't.

    As with my lips, I've never really had a problem telling the two time apart. ;)

  12. Blogger Heather | 12:47 PM |  

    I bounce back and forth quite easily between VIGOROUS, even painful breast play, to nursing my child. In the early days, it was a little uncomfortable, but nowadays, I don't even notice.

    The OMG breasts aren't sexual argument is counterproductive, because so many people (women included) are aware that they absolutely are! I think it weakens the argument, more than strengthening it.

  13. Anonymous Rachel | 1:46 PM |  

    Ok, I in no way want to start a theological/anthropological debate and if this is an inappropriate comment, please feel free to not post this, but as a white, large breasted Christian...:-) I felt the need to offer a counterpoint to the breast as sexual objects/being black points made earlier....

    I am not an anthropologist, and do not claim expert opinion here, as I understand it, when the author is referring to Black as being the norm, I am assuming it is coming from the commonly held theory that humans arose out of Africa, therefore the 'biological norm' or whatever is the right phrase, is that dark skin is the norm and all other shades are evolutionary adaptations to climate/environment as humans migrated across the earth. That humanity didn't arrive on the planet in it's multiple shades, but that the shades developed overtime from a common black ancestor.

    In terms of breast as sexual objects, again I think the author is coming from an anthropological point of view, in that the biology of a woman's body doesn't really equate the breast with anything other than nourishing a child. There is no biological sexual link to the breast only a cultural one. That it mentions the breast in the bible as an object of desire, can only tell us how long this CULTURAL idea of a sexualized breast has been part of human history - and how long we have to go to undo it! Ultimately, unless you have had a talk with God/Spirit that designed us, NO ONE can say with CERTAINTY it IS or ISN'T meant to be sexual.

    And I think that is the point of her article in taking breastfeeding out of a cultural arguement where things like the sexual nature of the breast are impossible to answer and therefore resolve and moving it in to a biological one.

    Just my .02 cents.....

  14. Anonymous Anonymous | 4:27 PM |  

    Just because in america, breasts are viewed solely as sexual objects (for men) does not mean that they are "sexual" any more than lips or noses or forearms. In many, many other human cultures breasts are not sexualized at all. It is dangerous to assert they are, and it does women a disservice. If your breasts are sexual objects *to you* then please specify so. It does not serve women to have our body parts defined as "dual purpose" in a way that benefits mostly men. It is also very western-centric.

  15. Blogger Jennifer | 5:36 PM |  

    Ok, I have no problem qualifying my statement.

    To myself, as a woman, and as a Christian, breasts are sexual.

    Sorry, but I don't in any way see how that takes my power as a female away or lessens the impact of their function as a form of nourishment and nurturing to my child.

    If you choose not to view your breasts as sexual, that's certainly your call.

    But I think what it boils down to is to claim that they are, or that they aren't is still a simple matter of opinion.

  16. Blogger Analisa | 7:01 PM |  

    Wow, Jennifer, thank you. Wow and yes to the shift from cultural to human rights.

  17. Blogger JudyBright | 9:12 PM |  

    Hello again.

    Anonymous,

    My views are based on the Bible, which has nothing to do with American breast culture. There are also multiple studies that show that many women can achieve orgasm by breast stimulation alone. That would imply that breasts are sexual in nature.

    And, if breasts are sexual in nature, then men would benefit. This is no crime. I assert that women would benefit too, I know I have :)

    I would like to know the many cultures where breasts are not sexual at all. And why it is so 'dangerous' to assert that they are.

    I am also very aware that there are cultures and human beings that live outside of 'America' and 'Western Civilization.' They think, live, and act differently than I do. I still maintain my opinion.

  18. Blogger Helen | 3:06 AM |  

    Wow! Since I just finished a university course in gay and lesbian studies, I actually know what hegemony means. Believe me, I often thought of breastfeeding moms in that class since we frequently discussed prejudice and descrimination. For breastfeeding to become the norm, people have to see mothers breastfeeding! A mother who is nursing all covered up is not apparently doing anything! No one recognizes what she is doing, unless they are familiar with breastfeeding already. That's why so many new moms have never seen a baby being breastfed, and have no idea what it looks like or how to do it. Because of the general cultural prejudice against breastfeeding, because of the hegemony of bottlefeeding, nursing moms should cover up. Why? Because multinational companies are losing millions of dollars when they breastfeed. That has to change.

  19. Blogger CypherOfTyr | 9:09 AM |  

    Unlike everyone else here, I'm going to vehemently disagree with the author's comparison to being black and breastfeeding rights.

    Next time someone is lynched for feeding their kid in public, then I might take that kind of out on a limb speculation somewhat seriously.

    IMHO, every time someone's rights are impugned that groups "struggle" does not make it equivalent to slavery and its repercussions.

  20. Anonymous Anonymous | 9:40 AM |  

    This article is very racist, and I am utterly amazed by the recognition it is getting. This article and the author are doing more harm than good, and I am honestly amazed that the blog owner let this post through.

  21. Anonymous Anonymous | 9:59 AM |  

    Thats pretty offensive that she compares something like RACISM to breastfeeding. I am a lactiavist in every way but I am not even going to compare something breastfeeding to the plight of minorities. That is so disgusting...

  22. Anonymous Anonymous | 11:22 AM |  

    I've been lurking for a while, and I must admit, I don't agree with the comparison on racism and breastfeeding. While there are hurdles to leap in the fight to be able to breastfeed in public, they are not the same as the fight against racism. Breastfeeding in public does not have the same consequences as being black in this world. No one was ever lynched for breastfeeding. No one was arrested, beaten, or hosed down with fire hoses. To make a comparison on the two seems to cheapen what black America has gone through.

  23. Blogger Heather | 2:56 PM |  

    Let's not discount the entire article as invalid because of an unfortunate 2 1/2 paragraphs out of the entire article. That wasn't the point at all. One observation out of the whole thing, and she's OBVIOUSLY a racist.

    Turn down the offense-o-meters, everyone. Her wording was unfortunate, but her sentiment isn't; it's not fair to discriminate based on race, and it's not fair to discriminate based on breastfeeding. Sure, the comparison isn't all that great. But let's not get hung up on it.

  24. Anonymous Anonymous | 4:29 PM |  

    Heather, it's easy to say, "turn down the offense-o-meter" when you're white and your biggest problem is that somebody gave you a mean look in public because you breastfed.

  25. Anonymous Lissa | 6:01 PM |  

    This article only barely made ANY sense whatsoever and is glaringly racist. I am laughing at the fact that anyone applauded this that had any reading comprehension or sense of propriety whatsoever- and I am pro-breastfeeding to an extreme. Anyone who holds breastfeeding tantamount to being a minority race, and who can seriously entertain the notion that being of African descent is the same as being biologically programmed to breastfeed (How does that even make sense? The two aren't even parallel!) needs to pull their head out of their rear end, to be frank. This is the kind of stuff that makes me embarrassed to associate myself with this 'movement.'

    If you're going to extrapolate on something as sensitive as race and make grand, sweeping comparisons about the poor oppressed breastfeeders, at least make some sense.

  26. Anonymous Jennifer | 6:05 PM |  

    I sure wish white women would figure out that blacks weren't put on this earth to serve as examples to their dumb ass causes...

  27. Blogger Jennifer | 6:22 PM |  

    Just to note, prior to the advent of formula, breastfeeding was not a "feeding choice" or even a feeding option, it simply "was."

    In other words, much like being born a man or a woman or being born any variety of colors, the fact that a woman breastfed simply was.

    I believe that was the point she was trying to make.

    It is only since the advent of formula as an option that breastfeeding suddenly because a choice. She's arguing that to this day, it's not a choice to breastfeed, it's only a choice NOT to breastfeed.

    I have no doubt that some will find the argument distasteful. As someone else pointed out, someone will always find anything distasteful or offensive. While it's certainly my least favorite part of her essay, I don't think that section negates the impact of the rest of her commments.

  28. Anonymous Anonymous | 7:31 PM |  

    Actually, Jennifer, before the invention of formula, there were plenty of substitutes for breast milk.

    As white women, it is so easy for us to just say, "somebody looked at me in a mean way! Oppression!" I don't know why you would want to make this comparison, why you would want somebody to associate those who are pro-breastfeeding with such ugly and racist comparisons. You must not care very much about breastfeeding at all.

  29. Blogger Michelle | 8:44 PM |  

    If this had been her first time making such a comparison, then you might be able to argue that this isn't racist. However, she has previously compared extended breastfeeding in public to being Rosa Parks remaining in her seat on the bus.

    She even references that debacle in this post. How often exactly does she need to make such comparisons before it becomes clear that she is racist?

    Why the idea that breastfeeding and being black are mutually exclusive? Why the need to relate race (and dealing with racism) to breastfeeding in public? Breastfeeding is finite, 5 years after kiddo weans no one will know (or care) that you breastfed. No one is going to deny you a job, a loan, housing, or access to education because of breastfeeding.

    Unless kiddo is out of the car seat and actually attached to your chest, no one is going to pull you over for driving while lactating. Did I miss a story about someone being lynched while breastfeeding? Because I have to tell you that being asked to leave a room and being dragged to death behind a truck aren't even in the same room. To say, oh well ignore the racism, it's not as important as the point is to completely alienate black mothers that breastfeed.

  30. Anonymous Anonymous | 8:46 PM |  

    I asked my black friend - an unapologetic formula feeding mother of four - why black women tend to not even take lactivists seriously, let alone listen to anything we have to say. She said something to the effect of white women, privilege, and "the dumb shit you broads are capable of thinking". I was really, really hurt that day. Reading this essay, I finally get her point.

    Thank you, Morgan, for being "that" white woman - the kind of white woman that makes so many eyes roll to the ceiling. Thank you for doing far more harm to lactivism than good. Thank you for once again drawing a line in the sand between white mothers and mothers of color. Thank you, Jennifer, for posting and supporting such racist and insensitive tripe. Then again, you're the FIRST one to compare nursing in public to interracial couples and all kinds of stupidity that only a middle class, privileged white woman can be capable of, aren't you?

  31. Blogger Jennifer | 5:15 AM |  

    Ok, I'm sorry, but I can't take you or your comments seriously if you want to take the words of someone else and use them to assume that "I don't care about breastfeeding."

    Do you know me? No.

    Have you even read my blog for any length of time? I have to wonder.

    Yes, there were substitutes for breastmilk, but most of them carried HUGE health risks. Read up sometime on the use of rice milk as a substitute for breast milk. It's not a pretty picture.

    As for your other comments, I don't care if someone looks at me in a mean way. Doesn't bother me in the slightest.

    I DO care and WOULD care if someone tried to prevent me from caring for my child, since as a mother, it's my biological imperitive to do so.

    I'm sorry if you disagree.

  32. Blogger Jennifer | 5:20 AM |  

    I find it interesting that the argument against the post that are calling it racist have now devolved into comments calling ME a racist.

    What's even more interesting is that those arguments are now attaching MY color and MY life.

    How is that not judging and denigrating ME because of MY color and how is that ok?

    Not being sarcastic here folks, just trying to figure out why it's not ok for someone who authored an article that I posted to make a comparision that references black people, but it's totally ok for readers to attack me for my skin color and for their assumptions of who I am as a person.

    Sorry, seems like a pretty big double standard to me.

  33. Anonymous Anonymous | 5:35 AM |  

    Jennifer,

    when you get attacked for your skin color, somebody comes to your blog and says, "you're a privileged white woman, and you don't understand racism." When black people get attacked for their skin color, they have burning crosses on their lawn. They have been lynched, segregated, attacked with police dogs, jailed, hosed down, dragged behind cars. When was the last time that you were afraid of such things?

    You are supporting this unintelligent woman's tripe, and she is an insult to all intelligent mothers, and to breastfeeding. This is something you should not have supported, but I can see why you would, since you apparently feel attacked simply because somebody pointed out that your skin color made you privileged.

    Nobody is denying you your right to breastfeed a child, and nobody is disagreeing with this. This is not about YOU. This is about the insult that this article represents.

  34. Blogger Jennifer | 6:00 AM |  

    Well actually, this IS about me.

    You (and others) made it about me when you came to MY blog and called me a racist.

    Prior to that, it was about the debate tactic of comparing breastfeeding to race.

    Prior to that it was about the biological imperative to breastfeed.

    But now...it's sadly about neither of those because the conversation has turned from constructive debate to a personal attack.

    I find that sad, because I think there was much to be learned here, just as I found there was with the varied perspective on the wet nursing issue.

    But now...that chance for debate has been displaced by personal attacks. For those not familiar with debate tactics, personal attacks are pretty much the last parting shots that manage to cut down all opportunity for dialogue.

    Now if you'd like to debate the subject at hand, namely:

    1.) Whether breastfeeding is a biological imperative or a choice
    2.) Whether the lactivist battle must be taken to new ground
    3.) Whether the lactivist battle can (or should) be compared to a civil rights struggle
    and
    4.) Whether breasts are sexual or not

    I'd be happy to indulge you through conversation and debate.

    But as long as the primary aim of your posts is to hurl insults at me, someone that you don't know in the slightest, and to make assumptions about what you think I believe, then quite frankly, I have better things to do with my time.

  35. Blogger Michelle | 7:13 AM |  

    I notice that you're only focusing on comments that either support this article or ones that you feel are personally attacking you. Interesting that you're not dealing with the posts (like mine) that are actively critiquing the article. Even more interesting that you're not dealing with the fact that articles like this one just further serve to alienate WOC from lactivism.

  36. Blogger Jennifer | 7:20 AM |  

    Michelle, quite honestly, I missed your post until you pointed it out. I'll have to ask that you forgive me for not having time to address it yet. Now that I see it, it will take more than a cursory response. (I work full time from home while raising my two kids, I work on this site in my very limited free time, so it gets attention as I have time to get it.)

    If we can take the conversation in that direction, I'd be happy to. I have no doubt that my readers have much to teach me and I'm more than happy to hear them out even if I sometimes disagree with them.

    What I won't abide by is personal attacks on people that my posters have never met or conversed with.

    I assume that everyone here is looking to move breastfeeding forward. If that's the goal, then let's have discussion that aims at that and not at criticizing each other.

    A house divided against itself...

    (Now, I'll aim to get back here tonight or tomorrow to respond to your post, but I'm heading out of town at the end of the week and have to get ahead on work, so it may be tight. I welcome you to post and remind me if I haven't addressed it by the end of the week.)

  37. Anonymous Anonymous | 7:58 AM |  

    Jennifer,

    There were no insults against you. I believe that the "racist" terms were against morgan gallaher. I find it interesting that you are so quick to get offended when somebody expresses an opinion while at the same time refusing to understand while somebody else might get offended at the article you posted.

    Regarding this:
    3.) Whether the lactivist battle can (or should) be compared to a civil rights struggle
    and

    No, it should not. Do you want to know why? If you were a true lactivist, you would not be trying to alienate mothers who do not agree that breastfeeding in public is the same as being black. A lot of black mothers do not breastfeed, partly because they feel alienated by the community of mostly white women who heighten the breastfeeding struggle to the civil rights struggle. Breastfeeding mothers do not face the same sorts of trials as black people do. They do not. By making such a comparison, you are alienating a lot of people.

    Breastfeeding is important, but you do not get jailed for it. you do not get lynched. Nobody burns a cross on your lawn because you breastfeed. You do not get death threats. You are not forced to use separate bathrooms, separate water fountains. Come on, there is just no comparison.

    If you don't want to get called a racist, don't host clearly racist articles that do not further the breastfeeding movement on your site.

    I do appreciate your debate schooling, but I can assure you I have far more education than you do. Thanks anyway!

  38. Blogger Heather | 11:34 AM |  

    Heather, it's easy to say, "turn down the offense-o-meter" when you're white and your biggest problem is that somebody gave you a mean look in public because you breastfed.

    Oh, how I wish that was my biggest problem. What a simple life I would lead! I'm amused that you would assume that I am white, and that by extension I have no problems beyond mean looks while breastfeeding in public. Because clearly, all white people are privileged and have no problems with things like discrimination and hatred directed at them for the color of their skin.

  39. Anonymous Jennifer | 12:53 PM |  

    Who here called you a racist? I, personally, do not think you're a racist. I just think you're a typical whiny white woman who takes great pride and privilege in misappropriating whatever group of people you need to in order to further your dumb ass causes. And whenever someone points that out to you - regardless of that poster's race - you throw a tantrum and find a way to make it all about you. Now, if OTHER people want to call you racist, God knows they have good reason to. But I just think you're a clueless bint, and I can only speak for me.

  40. Anonymous Jennifer | 12:54 PM |  

    And Heather, if you're the same woman I think you are, you are as white as the Olsen twins in a snow blizzard. See what I mean by misappropriating? DAMN!!

  41. Anonymous Julia | 9:00 PM |  

    Morgan Gallagher could have made her point quite adequately without pretending she knows anything at all about basic anthropology. Black is not the biological norm. Race is not biological in the slightest. Maintaining that it is is not only bad biology but will bring down better-educated people on your head.

    As someone with a degree in anthropology, I find her statements on race to be vile and thusly would never support anything else she says.

    The online cause of lactivism is better served WITHOUT Morgan Gallagher's presence. The last thing this already misunderstood movement needs is more ignorance trumpeting loudly and making everyone else look bad.

  42. Blogger hotmidget69 | 9:43 PM |  

    You know, it's ok to be irritated and angry if someone gets up in your face because you are breastfeeding your child. Those feelings are justified and acceptable, and even beneficial most of the time.

    But this comparing yourself to Rosa Parks because someone looked crosseyed at your boob while you were breastfeeding at Dillards attitude is just ridiculous.

    Comparing the issue to racism is not appropriate and is demeaning to those who have suffered persecution and harm because of racist behavior.

  43. Blogger JudyBright | 7:47 AM |  

    Ok, I'm going to respond to some specific comments and then give a general take on people calling Jennifer and Morgan racist.

    If you're going to extrapolate on something as sensitive as race and make grand, sweeping comparisons about the poor oppressed breastfeeders, at least make some sense.

    I believe you and the other commentors are doing the extrapolating, not the post. All the article said was that as it makes no sense to deny blacks the right to eat in public, it also makes no sense to deny babies the right to eat in public. The comparison ended there. She said nothing about the overall experience of being black or the historic struggles of blacks. Absolutely nothing. She didn't say the impact was the same on their lives or anything. If you see that, then it's you inserting your preconceived notions into the article.

    If this had been her first time making such a comparison, then you might be able to argue that this isn't racist. However, she has previously compared extended breastfeeding in public to being Rosa Parks remaining in her seat on the bus.

    She even references that debacle in this post. How often exactly does she need to make such comparisons before it becomes clear that she is racist?


    Even if her references are inappropriate, which I don't think they are, how so they make her racist? Is she saying the way blacks were treated during the civil rights movement was ok? Is she supporting discrimination? No. She is supportive of the struggle and seems to admire it on some level even though you think she uses it inappropriately.

    What's the definition of racist here?


    Why the idea that breastfeeding and being black are mutually exclusive?


    Oh come one, no one said that.

    Why the need to relate race (and dealing with racism) to breastfeeding in public? Breastfeeding is finite, 5 years after kiddo weans no one will know (or care) that you breastfed. No one is going to deny you a job, a loan, housing, or access to education because of breastfeeding.

    Once again, her comparison only dealt with the situation where blacks have been asked to not eat in a certain place. Surely you can see some little bitty sliver of comparison between that and a baby being asked to leave an establishment to eat. Not that being black and breastfeeding in public are identical. SHE NEVER SAID THAT!

    Honestly, the only way she could be accused of being racist is saying blacks are better than whites. She said it is normal to be black, and not normal to be white, and revealed the racist nature of evolutionary biology.

    I can't speak for Jennifer, but I think she posted the article because she believed it was thought provoking and a worthwhile read, not because she agreed with every sentence and word in the article.

    There's nothing in the article that disparages blacks at all, whether you think the comparison should have been used or not. It takes a lot of extrapolation on your part to call Jennifer a racist just for posting this article. Or to say she doesn't care about breastfeeding because she doesn't think like you.

    Quit hiding behind personal attacks and consider the opinions of people different from you.

  44. Blogger Jennifer | 11:20 AM |  

    This comment thread is closed. I will not be publishing any more responses here.

    The conversation has moved to a new post. Feel free to share your comments and thoughts there.

  45. Anonymous Anonymous | 6:07 PM |  

    Well said! Everyone needs to hear this and realise that Breastfeeding discrimination needs to stop!

  46. Blogger Lissette | 12:13 PM |  

    People being judgmental about breastfeeding = racism that black people experience is a shameful, shameful thing to do. And if you can't see it, it's proof of how far up your ass your head is burrowing. Idiot.

  47. Blogger Natasha | 7:20 PM |  

    gosh, I started reading this thinking "right on" and ended up by wondering what it is about people that so many of us spend our days actively looking for ways to be offended just so we can have an excuse to nut off at somebody!

    The way I see it is- if a person finds the sight of a mother breastfeeding her baby offensive they can turn their head and let their eyes rest on something more suited for their delicate sensibilities..... personally, I find the SOUND of a baby screaming his poor little head off because he's hungry a lot more offensive, and I can't turn my ears the other way.
    People need to grow up and stop looking for offense and outrage where there really is none.

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