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As dead week approaches, the absence of emotion on students’ faces can be seen by end-of-the-term dark circles and dead eyes. The smell of victory and failure floats in the air. The view shifts to a new mommy with a desperate need to feed her baby. She doesn’t have time to go to a facility that would guarantee her privacy, so she does what any sensible, responsible parent would do. She lifts her shirt, secures the child’s head in place and begins breastfeeding on her way to class.
As she continues to her class she notices the looks she’s getting from other students — confused, upset or avoiding eye contact all together. She knows she isn’t breaking any laws, as Oregon protects her right to breastfeed her child in public, but there is uneasiness that begins to creep over her. She continues thinking about why the stigma against publicly feeding a baby is so thick and negative, until one person asks her to “be more decent,” or “cover up,” possibly making a comment along the lines of “we don’t need to see that here.”
After such a small source of ridicule from a person that she will probably never see again, the mother snaps her shirt back into place after carefully pulling junior off their place of nourishment.
The stigma against public breastfeeding is played out. It’s dull, debilitating and shameful.
We’ve all heard arguments on why a woman should not be allowed to breastfeed in public, as well as the many different counters to the lackluster ideology. Some believe the practice of nursing is an intimate moment between mother and child that should be kept behind closed doors Others chime in saying it’s obscene. Defenders of breastfeeding in public retort these arguments citing how nursing is natural while also pointing out the obvious double standard between public display of the male nipple compared to the female nipple.
Recent hashtag movements like #freethenipple — a social motivator for freedom of bodily expression — show us how we are “stuck-in-the-times,” refusing to evolve and allow greater freedoms to women.
The belief that breastfeeding is “indecent,” or an intimate moment that should be hidden is a closed-minded perspective. The amount of cat, dog and monkey nursing videos that have been shared over social media all seem to have the same consensus with “awhhh” and “so cute!” comments, with countless amounts of shares. When a woman exhibits her right to breastfeed her hungry child in public, though, there is controversy.
Breastfeeding should be embraced with pride, not shunned by ignorance. It is a natural process that has existed long before documented history, it is not obscene and causes no harm to anyone.
Instead of shaming women for feeding their children, or creating an awkward social situation, one should think for a moment if they were ever denied nutrition from their mother because she was too embarrassed, or about how the reason they exist and thrive is credited to the mother who stood up for her right to feed her children, regardless of the venue.
The next time a mother is witnessed breastfeeding her child in public she should be celebrated for her bravery, specifically by being left alone. Women should take pride in knowing that their body is the source of sustenance essential to our survival.