2.26.2007

"It's Still Tits Though"

Saturday morning I was cavorting around in the boudoir tantalizing my husband by playfully pulling down the flaps of my nursing bra so he could feast his eyes on a flash of nipple and a damp wad of breast pad. "Do you liiiiiike?"
He tittered dutifully before looking me square in the eye:

"It's still tits though."

"HAHAHAHAHAHA" I said, as I hurriedly did the snaps back up.

I finally get a luverly pair of coconuts, all firm and round and standing to attention, and they are the least sexual objects I could imagine. (and I am sorry if this violates some kind of La Leche League ethic--but I just can't embrace my inner sexual lactator as fully as I would like). To my husband, sweet reaffirmer of my desirability that he is, they are still tits.

[EDITED HERE TO ADD--Here, in this room "it's still tits though" is a deeply reassuring and even tender thing to say. It says "you are still very much the object of my erotic attention, and don't-you-forget-it-my-lady-love." Now I understand I am dealing with a primitive mind here, but I really do appreciate these gestures.]

It's one thing for this conversation to take place between two consenting adults, who have had "relations" (in fact it's quite nice) but quite another when the "it's still tits" factor is used as a fucked up means to control women in public spaces.

When I had my first son, I did not think twice about breastfeeding in public. Applebee's booth or friend's party, I'd whip 'em out and plug 'em in. While other friends of mine would excuse themselves to feed their infants, I'd hold court in the corner and not particularly care if someone got an eyeful. Because, it's just tits.

Something this time around has changed for me, though. This time I am not so fearless about performing the act in public. I don't know if I am more lucid and in tune with the world with #2, but I feel that suddenly I am confronted by even more stories about how breastfeeding women are being shat on by society. Whether it's the nursing mother removed from a plane, the removal of a "sexually suggestive" image of breastfeeding from MySpace, or the daycare that charges more for breastfed infants, it's pissing me off royally. And it's also making me self-conscious. Which pisses me off all the more.

Around Christmas my mother and I went out for breakfast, taking my then one-month old with us. We went to a family style diner, which, at 11am on a week day was pretty empty. We squeezed into a booth and both enjoyed our pancakes while the baby slept. As we were finishing, he began to make noises, and it was feeding time. So I put a blanket over both of us and stuck him on the boob. Easy. I even had my mum there to make sure I was not flashing anyone (not that it should matter).

The male manager who had seated us suddenly became very preoccupied with cleaning the booths (all empty) around us. He stalked up and down beside where we sat, always keeping us in the corner of his eye. It was creepy, and at first I though he was getting some kind of perverse thrill. But then I realized that he was actually getting agitated, and I was almost willing him to say something. But instead he just hovered, and there I sat in an empty restaurant, tit out, swathed in "protective" blanket, and clutching my tiny boy. I felt increasingly uncomfortable and exposed. Thank God my Mother was there, who started speaking very loudly in her best clipped British accent, I DO so hate it when people STARE, don't you?

I'll confess, the concept of "Lactivism" has not always sat well with me. Not that I do not see the tremendous benefits of breastfeeding (obviously) or that society is not always kind to nursing mothers. But as a new mother desperately grasping her Womanly Art and tearfully trying to feed my son on a non-existent supply of milk, a few years ago I felt like a huge failure when I consistently had to supplement with formula.

There's at times a zealotry about breastfeeding advocacy that concerns me--I am a breastfeeding advocate, I firmly support women's rights to breastfeed, and I believe that society does not always support breastfeeding and this is a problem. But I also support a woman's right to not breastfeed, and I believe she should not feel like a pariah for making that choice. I know quite a few women who really did give it their best shot, and who are almost shameful when recounting how they had to "give up in the end." As far as I am concerned, there is nothing shameful about that whatsoever--and it is piss poor that they have been made to feel that way. (and I know not all b.f. advocates are like this by any means, but I also don't see a page in Womanly Art where my own (supplementary) breastfeeding story would be sanctioned, let alone celebrated).

But it is sad that women might make that choice because society tells us that breastfeeding is somehow dirty, taboo, and only to be done behind closed doors. And as I head out for a family restaurant with my clan, and I pack a bottle of formula to take-along, I am struck by how much I have actually internalized those feelings by beginning to hide, even if its just a little bit. And that really pisses me off. And I realize a little (or a LOT) of zealotry and fervor is what we need right now to make any real changes in this department and counter the apparently growing tide of anti-breastfeeding policy that is beginning to develop. Hell. I'm even willing to get my tits out in public at a massive nurse in, if it will do any good. I'll even become my super-alter-ego, The Lactator, and take down that daycare owner with my Boob Spray (It's OK, ma'am, it's safe to nurse again).

And so I am thinking I need to begin to embrace my inner Lactivist just a little more. I might start by wearing this T-Shirt (which I notice, thankfully does not have flaps) Because, in the end, they are tits. And they deserve to be magnificent.





Note: I want to thank Oh The Joys for giving me a Thinking Blogger Award. I tried to do some thinking in this post, just for you! I'll be back with my own awards ceremony anon!

39 comments:

slouching mom said...

It's been some time since I nursed, but with both boys I felt uncomfortable nursing in public throughout the nursing 'experience'. Once I had to nurse Ben in an airport, and assuming the worst, I sought out privacy by asking a guard whether I might use a room that was empty but roped off. He looked horrified. No, it was a full gate for me, complete with dirty looks from men and women. Even worse was on the airplane (I was traveling alone), when I had a middle seat between two businessmen. Oh, the humiliation. Trying to whip your boob out with the 3-month-old in a Baby Bjorn and with airplane seats as narrow as they are leads only to the inevitable brushing of the boob on businessman's blazer. He was as red-faced as I by the end of that nightmarish flight.

That said, I was somewhat of a reluctant nursing mom to begin with, because both kids only ever would nurse in the football hold, which as they grew became increasingly difficult to manage with grace.

As in all things, I wish people would exercise some moderation when thinking about breastfeeding. Breasts are neither "just tits" nor "milk jugs," and I think they shouldn't be reduced to either one.

There. You made me think, you thinking blogger, you. Damn you.

Fairly Odd Mother said...

Yeah, my husband loves my larger-than-normal (small A) breasts since I've been nursing (for more than 5 years total--ack!---through three kids). There have been times he's been instructed to stay far, far away from the poor abused things.

I got more brazen with each child. I could nurse my 3rd child anywhere. It was only until he was about 18 months old that I realized I was giving people heart attacks at seeing a toddler nurse that I finally chose to keep it private. I think my brazenness was absolutely a political statement, almost to dare someone to say something. No one ever did, but with boobs as small as mine, it isn't all that titillating (pardon the pun) to catch a glimpse.

cinnamon gurl said...

Great post!

I think I have come to a similar conclusion... if you're interested the series of posts is at http://writeabouthere.blogspot.com/search/label/breastfeeding.

On the subject of nursing a toddler, I had this to say:

Regardless, in deciding to join the extended nursers' club, I was quite clear in my own head that it wouldn't necessarily be something that I talk about with just anybody. That I would be a bit in the closet. That I'm not really an activist. That's why I didn't come out and say in last week's post that I was leaning towards child-led weaning. I didn't think it was something I wanted to blog about. But now I have to.

This news makes me want to become a lactivist, in the most inclusive and supportive sense of the word. At the workshop, we discussed the issue of nursing your toddler in public, and how it's pretty normal in many other parts of the world, and very much the more natural choice, but that many in our culture of the oversexualized breast are uncomfortable with seeing a nursing toddler. And the lactation consultant said that maybe if more people see nursing toddlers, eventually it will become more acceptable and normal. So perhaps there is some responsbility in choosing to continue our nursing relationship to make it a little bit public? To be a bit of an activist? To make it easier for those who come after me? I don't know. I'll see when I get there. (And I hope I don't need to clarify that with discovering this sense of responsibility, I am in no way judging my sister or others who choose to continue their breastfeeding relationship in safety behind closed doors.)


Last week I said something about it being a good thing having people who remember breastfeeding, that maybe breasts will become less sexualized. Obviously we don't want to remove all sexuality, but North America will be more breastfeeding friendly.

Congrats on the thinking blogger award... I was happy to see Oh the Joys nominate you!

Lisa b said...

I feel differently about nursing this time. I had assumed with my first I would feed on demand where ever I was, which I did. But after months of sleepless nights and two hourly feedings the thought of someone questioning me, though against the law here, upset me greatly. I feel more strongly this time that I must stand up and be a lactivist so that other new moms don't have to endure this additional stress on top of everything else.
This is such an important health issue and the notion that boobs that are feeding must be hidden while boobs popping out of bikinis are appropriate is insane.
great post Joy.

Woman with kids said...

Though it's been a while since I've nursed, I agree with you. Whether you choose to nurse or not is your choice. And where you choose to nurse, your choice.

And? I'd love to borrow your mum with her wonderful accent to use on a few snide people at work. "I do so HATE it when people go through papers on other people's desks, don't you?"

Danielle Meehan said...

Having recently finished nursing my son, I was very happy that "the girls" got to reunite with my husband. I loved breastfeeding my son but they were totally not sexual to me.

As far as nursing in public, I was really nervous about it to start with. I had a really hard time maintaining a supply, my son was a preemie so I was pumping exclusively for several months until he was able to nurse. However when he got home and we finally got out of the house, I realized that I really didn't care. I also covered up and I figured anyone who had a problem, it was their issue.

At one point, at a picnic our ambulance held, I grabbed a towel threw it over shoulder and nursed the boy. Significant only because my husband told me how proud he was that I wasn't nervous or self conscious and that I just did it.
Great post!!!

Mad Hatter said...

Great post, Joy. I had a bitch of a time breastfeeding and I still harbour a huge grudge against a certain promotional zeal that accompanies a lot of breastfeeding literature and advocacy (I wrote about it on the blog last Nov) BUT, having said that, I will defend a woman's right to breastfeed wherever and whenever her infant (or toddler or pre-schooler) demands it. Heck I'd even participate in mass feedings/demonstrations as a dry lactivists if asked. 'Cause, ya know, that feeding thing, it's what the tits were invented for.

BlogWhore said...

i like this post, joy. it was tits that brought me to you (your post about packing the pump). and most likely, your tits will keep me coming back.

i think its 'lovely' not only that you bf, but also that you schlep that pump to your workplace and dedicate time to filling those empty plastic bags.

BlogWhore said...

one last thing...

GO TITS!

Oh, The Joys said...

I tried to write about this very thing once before and didn't come anywhere near to saying it as well as you have just done. Bravo!

Mrs. Chicky said...

And that is how I'll think of you, with red cape and a big red L across your chest. It seems apropos, especially after reading this wonderful post.

Christina said...

I totally agree. It's amazing how uptight people are with breastfeeding, while ignoring all of the tits falling out of dresses and halter tops all around them.

Sexualizing boobs in public is OK, but using them for what they're designed for is something dirty? WTF?

Tiger said...

What a wonderful post!!! I applaud you for being so frank and honest about such a touchy subject.

I for one, totally agree with you and I wish there was something more we could do to make breastfeeding more acceptable in public.

slouching mom said...

Hey, husband-to-joy? I hope I didn't offend you in my first comment. I didn't mean to suggest that you were guilty of the 'just tits/milk jugs' dichotomy (honors thesis topic, anyone?), only that there IS such a dichotomy in our culture.

mamatulip said...

Love this post. LOVE IT. Everything about it. Especially the many mentions of the word "tits".

Seriously though -- awesome post, Joy.

Kelly said...

Wow. Thank you so much for acknowledging that feeling of breastfeeding failure. I remember going to a new mom's group and getting the cold-shoulder from the leader as I tried to explain my breastfeeding woes. She looked at me like I was bonkers when I stated emphatically that my daughter refused to latch.

It's so important to support breastfeeding, give women access to lactation consultants and paid maternity leave longer than six friggin' weeks, and to make it illegal to harass nursing mothers in public.

But, I second your motion on not making other mothers who have different experiences or make different choices feel like pariahs. You're so right.

And good on your husband for still desiring the milky you. My husband was never put off by my nursing, though he frequently exclaimed (and still does): I can't wait to get those titties back.

Oh, Lord.

Sarah said...

You know, I had little sense to be nervous nursing in public with my first child. Especially because she nursed so so so frequently. And that's what tits are for, right?
With my second child I think I have been more...hesitant. The media attention hasn't helped.

I really like your form of lactivism joy!

the new girl said...

Great post.
I'm so with you on the supporting mothers' choices, no matter what they are. Since I have yet to feed anyone from these rapidly growing boobs, I'll have to wait and see how comfortable I feel in public. I imagine it's going to be a process for me.

*sigh*

binkytown said...

Now more than ever, now that there seems to be more attention and scrutiny for breastfeeding mothers, now is the time to be doing it in public. It's the only way people will chill out already. They are, at the end of the day, just tits. Something you can see on the internet without even trying every single day, by the way. All this fuss is silly.

Miscellaneous-Mum said...

Might it depend on where you live as to how well it is accepted in public?

Where I live (Australia) it's really not a big deal to b/f in public. Sure, in some places, it could be. I've had both smiles and scowls when I do it in public, but overwhelmingly in the majority its fine.

I once fed in a public toilet when baby #1 was a week old and I swore to myself never ever again would I do that. And I haven't.

Elizabeth said...

Was the family-style diner you mentioned Flapjack Shack? Because that would really piss me off. You're eating, your Mother is eating, and YOUR BABY IS EATING!!!! You are not having a goddamn SEXUAL EXPERIENCE. What exactly is it that gets people so upset? Is it just the knowledge that under that blanket is a breast that is NOT CONTAINED? Is our society reverting back to Puritanism?

I only breastfed one of my children, but two or three times I remember nursing him at the Mall, sitting on a bench with him under a blanket, and don't remember getting any looks at all. Has that much really changed in the last 8 years?

gingajoy said...

It *was* flapjack, E! SUCKS! (But Sophia's House of Pancakes in GL rocks).
I've done a lot of feeding in public places--including the mall--and not been bothered, but it was this experience and the latest stories that have made me feel leery (which I intend to get over, pronto)

Sandra said...

Great post. And this is why I love gingajoy :)

Breastfeeding is a distant memory for me ... but you brought it all back!

And congrats on the thinking blogger award ... so well deserved.

ozma said...

OK, bad me I'm surfing but this is because the bathroom is occupied.

It was a slow evolution but what makes me sad now that I've weaned is that (1) I never nursed in public without fear. I did it, don't get me wrong. All the damn place.

The story about the woman on the plane freaked me so bad because the plane was the one place I felt totally justified. "See! You hate my baby who might cry! I'm keeping her from crying! So you can't hate me from nursing!"

(2) I weaned from the social pressure. OK, my kid WAS two! But still, I woulda kept going. She sure did want me too. I was scared of being seen and also scared that she would grab me and say "BOOBIE" and someone from work would be around (especially, a student).

I just sort of realized this in retrospect. A lot of fear and anxiety involved in nursing. And yes, embarassment. Dang. Enough to make you a radical, huh?

ozma said...

Oh, and the Daily Show was making fun of some democratic meeting or something because a woman in the background on the video started nursing. And I burst into tears and cried for an hour or so. John Stewart! Made fun of nursing mothers.

Salt in the wound.

Amanda said...

I can so relate to this. I am a believer in breastfeeding but the mind shut, chin out breast is best or rather breast is the only way mentality is tough to take. It seems like society makes it harder and harder to fall in the middle. The MySpace story damn near had me marching to DC with both tits out. I wish it were easier to make these decisions without such vitriolic reproach from acquaintances and strangers alike. Thanks for writing ths post. I think one thing that doesn't get written about too often, and that unfortunately a lot of women don't experience is a husband/partner who is able to see her body as both miraculous mother, sustainer of life and sex kitten. So here's to nursing bras, demi cups and mamas who use their voices.

Random Impressions said...

To each her own choice I say. Breast / bottle; public / closet; whatever whatever... I have no personal opinion on this but I have noticed one thing. In cultures where an exposed breast is considered immodest & breastfeeding is common such as in India, women BF in public but do so discreetly (the bodice is lifted up & not opened & the baby & the breast are covered with a fold of the yards & yards of clothing that we normally wear) - most times, you cant make out if the baby is asleep or nursing. Even if people do realize that a mother is BF'ing they dont seem to display any reaction / curiosity. I know first hand because I have BF'ed 2 boys in public many times. Even in domestic flights. In fact domestic airlines in India announce that you might want to BF your baby to ease the pressure diff problems in the ears.
In other cultures, like maybe some parts of Africa, where the sight of a woman's bare breast is normal (culturally) - things might be diferent.
Therefore, a culture that associates the breast strongly with sexuality "and" is re-discovering BF'ing after a gap of a few generations is bound to be unsure of it's stand. As women keep up the practice of BF'ing in public and are backed up by the law, the attitude is bound to change. Maybe we are just caught in a time where the society is unsure.
Sorry if I sound all pseud there. I know it cant do much for the dirty / curious / offended loooks & comments you all get but three cheers for all of you I'd say.

Mimi said...

I love the new photo, btw ...

I nursed anywhere and everywhere. But then, I've never been hovered over like you were at the restaurant. At least The Lactator was getting backup from The Enunciator--a nice sharp tone with a British accent can indeed go a long way.

Lifre surely would be improved if we could all respect each other's choices, and show a little empathy.

Miss Baby vibrates and squeals when she sees the flap open. She gets this from her father ;-)

Paige said...

Great post. You wouldn't think something like breastfeeding (or not) could be so divisive, but that's the way it is and you captured it all so well here, you lactator you.

CrankMama said...

Ginga,
Fabulous post!! I'm writing it up over at Babble/stroller derby tomorrow.

Rachael

Anonymous said...

I love this post; you sum up every emotion I've had about breastfeeding with both my kids. This should be required reading for all new moms.

flutter said...

You are hysterical. And tits, totally tits.

Suzanne said...

I also thank you for understanding that breastfeeding doesn't work for some women, and that is OK. My friend had such a horrendous experience that she started a blog (http://flexibleparenting.com) to show that there's nothing to be ashamed of and share info about bottle-feeding for people who never thought it was something they's need to know about.

themikestand said...

You had me at "tits".

[swoon]

metro mama said...

This is excellent.

Congrats on the award!

Denguy said...

I know I'm late to this post but...
I was very much anti-public breastfeeding BEFORE I had children. I don't even know why. Breastfeeding is a completely natural thing.
I would like to apologize to all the breastfeeding mothers for my past behaviour.

Amber said...

Great post! yahoo!

I breast fed my first child until he was two, and I did it wherever. I never noticed any reaction, and I don't think I ever really plashed anyone. You just lift your shirt, really. It covers. Whatever. But with my second baby, we had moved to a more conservattive area, and I sooo noticed a difference in how people reacted! And I also became more carefull, although I would still do it if she needed it. But I felt more obvious.

I hate how we let something to stupid in society around us make us feel silly for doing what we need to do as mothers.

So go you! Work those titties!

(came from the Just Posts)

:)

Anonymous said...

Frankly, I feel as though your husband has only met you halfway. He is telling you that he is accepting you, that you are ok. Personally, I think one could be much more supportive and tell you how beautiful you are and make you feel attractive and special for breastfeeding.

With regards to the social issues of breastfeeding and the seemingly negative connotations associated with it ... It is very interesting why some countries are a lot more open to public breastfeeding (eg Africa, Latin American countries) than some of the self proclaimed developed countries. I don't necessarily think the people are stupid. I think the issues go a lot deeper than that. However, I do think it is a VERY important issue as an infant could potentially learn much negative beliefs from this. The infants of today are our future! Makes me wonder sometimes which countries are really more developed and our priorities.
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