Breast feeding is in the news again, and I am reminded of when Barbara Walter’s admitted that she was “uncomfortable” sitting next to a nursing mother on a plane ride. Americans are obsessed with breasts, yet they claim to be repulsed by them at the same time.
This woman so “uncomfortable” with the sight of a nursing breast is routinely photographed at glamorous Hollywood and New York parties where bare-breasted and butt-exposing celebs are the norm.
So what annoyed her, exactly? Was it the little one’s head covering its mother’s breast? Was it that sucking sound or those tiny purring noises of contentment? Was it the fact that the nursing mother’s breast was just your average generic breast-for-nursing as opposed to one of Pam Anderson’s reconstructed jugs or Janet Jackson’s Super Bowl malfunction breasts? Or was it just that Walters, like too many Americans, rejects the functional breast in favor of the recreational breast?
I find it hard to believe that the same Barbara Walters who has traveled in the fast lane of media fame for several decades was thrown terribly off center at the sight of another woman’s breast. What I can believe is that, like so many others, Walters equates breast-feeding with other “unclean” bodily functions which are better done in private.
Funny how the same nation that glorifies breast implants, glamorizes topless dancers and allows its teenagers to go to school on these hot spring days barely dressed at all gets all in a twitter over breast feeding. On an average award show night on television, my guess is America sees more breasts exposed or quasi-exposed than nursing mothers ever flashed. Quite simply, a bare breast sighting is not, after all, the same as witnessing public urination, defecation or sexual intercourse which might more likely cause an observing stranger discomfort.
It’s about time America got over its love-hate relationship with mammary glands. Breasts are either always acceptable or they are never acceptable, but it makes no sense at all to say breasts are for viewing but not if they are viewed in the act of feeding babies, which is, after all, their raison d’etre.
I think this is the real problem: Americans either don’t know or don’t accept what breasts were really meant to do. They were not, after all, invented by the creator as the ultimate sexual toy. They are simply the interesting human packaging, if you will, inside which the mechanics for milk delivery are housed.
A few years ago, Jennifer Lopez appeared on TV in a gown that basically consisted of two swaths of chiffon descending from her shoulders to barely cover her nipples, then gathered slightly at the waist- front and back- to again barely cover her crotch and the line of demarcation on her derriere. Before J-Lo legendary Marlene Dietrich chose a see-through sequined gown to wear at a memorable cabaret performance. No one got “uncomfortable”- least of all Walters. Yet the same men and women who found and find such examples of commercial mammillaria something worth watching cringe at a nursing mother reaching inside her blouse and lifting out a handkerchief- or bandana-draped breast to feed a hungry baby.
Spontaneous body events sometimes happen in public because nature isn’t always predictable. Kids soil their diapers, adults occasionally cut wayward wind, men scratch their privates or make logistical adjustments in that vicinity, and toddlers may run into the surf buck naked.
At times, mothers may also choose to nurse their children within your view. It is not obscene, and it is not about you- or Barbara Walters. Just get over it.
(all images courtesy wikicommons share alike, WPA poster from 1936-38, animated graphic 2012 by Tradimus, nursing madonna painting, 15th century by Giovanni Boltraffio)