Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Salma Hayek, Kim Kardashian and "Creepy" Breastfeeding


I mean seriously: What gets people so worked up about breastfeeding? The baby is hungry, nature put milk in your boob to satisfy that hunger—pop a boob in the baby’s mouth and everybody’s satisfied. It’s free. It’s (relatively) easy. And it comes with some health benefits for the kid and some quick weight loss for you.

Everybody wins.

Why, then, all the vitriol? I swear, when I made the conscious decision to breastfeed both of my daughters for at least a year, everyone from the nurses where I gave birth to some of my closest family members and friends tried to shove Similac into my refrigerator—as I recount in THIS BLOG POST. I always felt like at the base of it, folks were so busy sexualizing my boobs that they couldn’t accept that I wanted to put them to use for purposes other than turning on men.

This was on my mind recently when I read the June issue of In Style, when Salma Hayek expressed shock over a legion of racist hate mail from people who took pen to paper to express outrage after the Mexican starlet breastfed a hungry, crying African child while on a humanitarian trip in the motherland:

This baby was hungry and I was still nursing [my daughter] Valentina, so I fed the child. What was shocking were the hate letters I received. What offended some in particular was that I breastfed a black child. It was not even in my universe, such a thought. For me, it was a baby who was just born and was hungry. He was healthy but malnourished at this hospital – it was really just a clinic in the countryside – and I was able to help.

My girl Erica Kennedy of The Feminista Files had me sending up hallelujahs when she broke down why someone would waste printer ink, paper, a stamp and the spit it took to make it stick to an envelope hollering at a woman whose sole purpose was to feed a baby:

I think this has to do with the messed up, puritanical ideas we have in America about sexuality and our own bodies. A rich Latina woman married to a white French billionaire whose gigantic tatas are always on delicious display on red carpets letting a poor black child s uckle on her golden bosom on camera for ABC News? That could keep a whole army of shrinks writing books for decades.

Indeed.

Which had me thinking that maybe the deputy editor at a top UK-based parenting magazine, should ask HR if her health benefits cover a couple of couch sessions to discuss her hatred of breastfeeding.  Just this past week, after Kim Kardashian tweeted her disgust of a woman who was breastfeeding in public, Kathryn Blundell of Mother and Baby magazine WEIGHED IN WITH AN ESSAY in which she proclaimed her “fun bags” were strictly for lovers, and the idea of putting them in the mouth of a “bawling baby” is “creepy.” She added that she formula fed her child to give her boobs “at least a chance to stay on my chest rather than dangling around my stomach.”

Now, I get why Kim Kardashian’s ignorant ass would tweet some anti-breastfeeding sentiments. I mean, I find it ironic that a chick whose claim to fame is making uninspired, butt-naked sex tapes with Ray J, is bothered by a mother feeding her baby in public. But nobody ever accused Kardashian of being the brightest porch light on the block anyway, so her dimwittedness makes sense. But the editor of a parenting magazine going hard against breastfeeding? Really?

Of course, after all hell broke loose, Blundell explained herself, but stood surprisingly firm, even in the face of a firestorm of criticism:

My motivation behind writing this feature was to give a voice to those many women who simply do not want to breastfeed, and as a result of this choice have felt guilty, alienated and distressed. 
I also wrote with humour as I wanted to take a more relaxed approach to the topic, in a climate where unfortunately the type of milk a woman feeds her baby seems so open to serious judgment and criticism.

Exactly. Emphasis on judgment and criticism. How, exactly, does one try to stop mothers from judging and criticizing other mothers for their baby feeding choices by judging and criticizing women who breastfeed? I'm confused. 

Here’s an idea Ms. Blundell: How about we accept the fact that God put milk in our breasts to feed our babies, and that all over the world except here in the backwards ass United States and apparently the UK, it’s actually considered a GOOD, HEALTHY way to keep your kid alive.

It’s not creepy.

Or nasty.

Or abnormal.

And I don’t know about anyone else, but I got two-baby boobies—and they sit up right nice, thank you very much.

If you choose to feed your baby with formula—cool, do you.  Your choice. Just like breastfeeding was mine. Let’s leave each other alone about it already.

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35 comments:

  1. Great Denene! Well Said. I had a nurse to really gross me out at the hospital with my little boy. He wouldn't nurse after his circumcision, and the nurse looked at him and said "come on boy, take the titty like a man! Men suck titties." I was so shocked and pissed. I waited until it was time to leave the hospital and I reported what she said on a comment car. Never found out if it was handled or not.

    People, even professionals are so ignorant concerning nursing. I just do what I have to do for mine and keep it moving. Each one has been nurtured by my breasts.

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  2. That is so ignorant. I guess it would have been beter for her to let the baby starve. I agree, people want to think of breasts as "for men's eyes only" and are genuinely offended by the mere thought of a woman using them for something other than that. Its one thing to hear a man say this stuff, but other women?! Wow. It's internalized oppression. Diseased thinking: "How dare we step outside the narrowly-defined box we've been put in? Boobs are for sex (just like every other part of a woman's body)"

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  3. oh yeah, YEA for you for breastfeeding for a yr. My daughter just turned a yr and shes still on the milk.

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  4. PREACH GURL---POWER TO THE BREASTS---i breastfed my 3 kids and they turned out great--positive: my boobs looked great during breastfeeding--afterwards, they hid in my behind--which looks even better!!!----remain blessed Ms. D.!

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  5. If men breastfed, this wouldn't still be a hot button topic.

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  6. A great spirited editorial, thanks for your refreshingly honest take - love it!

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  7. I remember seeing this when it first happened and it really made me like Salma Hayek much more than I had. And watching it again almost brought tears to my eyes as I remembered nursing my own child.

    Americans really need to get over this thing. I think as more children grow up seeing their mothers and other people nursing their babies, things will change. It may take another generation (or two) but we'll get there.

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  8. You have a very good blog that the main thing a lot of interesting and useful!hope u go for this website to increase visitor.

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  9. Ya' know, if Salma wasn't famous, no one would have cared. She's a mom, and it's what a mom would do when faced with a starving child. God bless her.

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  10. I have no problem with breastfeeding. I just tell people give me fair warning when they are going to whip that sucker out. Anyhoo, if a child is in need and there is no way that he can be fed and someone can provide then I am fine with it, but if he has a mother around then maybe I will find a bottle for the little guy. Funny we had this convo this past weekend and my friend said a woman from her church breastfed someone else's child. The mother came back irate because she felt the other mother was doing something to personal with her child. I always thought it was a bonding moment and I think I would be bothered too. I don't know.

    Peace, Love and Chocolate
    Tiffany

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  11. As I write this I am sitting here breastfeeding my month-old daughter. I agree completely that Salma did a wonderful thing. I teared up watching it.

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  12. Redbonegirl, what do you do then, when you go to a restaurant or the beach, or hecky, Wal-Mart and there are woman all over with their breasts hanging out of skimpy tops? Do you tap them on the shoulder and require that next time they warn you before they wear clothes like that out of the house? This is the sticking point for me. Yes, breasts are highly sexualized. Yes, lots of women will put their breasts out on display for the male gaze but will then turn around and refuse to breastfeed. But why is it that a mom of a breastfeeding baby is supposed to be more concerned with other folks sensibilities than the average person? Why does the breastfeeding mother have to make sure everyone around her is comfortable? Why does the breastfeeding mother have to worry about what strangers think? I'd really love to hear an explanation for this. No one would dare approach the woman at Publix wearing shorts up to here and a blouse cut down to there, but they will have the sheer audacity to bother a mother who is feeding her child and ask her to cover up or leave!

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  13. well said Elita, maybe breastfeeding moms should ask fat ugly dudes to put their butt cracks and guts away !

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  14. I recently ditched my nursing cover because baby girl wants to look around when she nurses (we're 10 months into breastfeeding and going strong) and the looks I get are just beyond belief like I am having sex out in the open! I usually don't go picking fights, but I can give a mean look as good as I get and I just dare them to say something with my eyes.

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  15. I am the mother of four beautiful daughters and breastfed everyone one of them past the age of 1. My ten year old breastfed until after her 2nd birthday. Breastfeeding is one of the most beautiful experiences a mother can have. Fortunately, I had the support of most of the people in my circle. However, I got heat from a few ignorant people. I respect and applaud Ms. Hayek for responding to the need of a child. I think as mothers we should make feeding choices based upon the need of our babies. Let's support each other as mothers and stop the judgment.

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  16. I breastfed all 3 of my children. I tried to do it for up to a year but they stopped sooner as their world around them was more interesting than nursing. I enjoyed the fact that not only could my body be home to a little person, little miracle growing inside of me. Then once born, that same body could produce nourishment for that baby. That is God, it's not creepy, it's GOD at his best.

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  17. Most celebrities are nuts and they are best ignored. I'm currently breastfeeding twins.. almost 2 years now. I have 5 kids and have never given them any formula. The amount of flak I have gotten for nursing from my some family members was surprising. Glad my husband is fully supportive and helpful.

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  18. I was a public nurser, and I nursed my last child for 3.5 yeats until she self-weaned. I have been looked at with delight and disdan and all side-eye glances in between. Kardashian, aside-because I don't know nothin' 'bout them fools...Blundell meant what she said the first time around. There really is no cleaning up what she said and meant. I offer no explanation for my choices, as they are my own and find far too often when people do offer explanations it is because they seek validation. If she had written the piece as she pretended-er... I mean intended, her motivation and humour would have spoken for themselves. Pffft.

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  19. Crazy! My first two kids were formula fed.The third time around at 2 yrs. old we're still nursing. It is hard to believe that people are so hung up on breastfeeding. Breasts are placed on your body to provide food for a baby. If you want to nurse cool, and if you choose formula cool. We should stop judging the choices of others asap, really.

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  20. Why is EVERYTHING in this country and other so called "developed" nations always up for some long, unnecessary discussion?

    Don't y'all get a headache talking about the most mundane things?

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  21. You know, some days I don't want jelly on my PB&J sandwich. Sometimes I like to eat my rice plain. And on the (rare) nights when I'm dog tired and have not pumped any milk so my husband can feed our newborn with my milk, I'm ok with him giving her some Enfamil instead. No big whop. America (and the UK) really needs to get over this dysfunction concerning breastfeeding. I have the fortune of being from a "developing" nation, where we understand that breast milk is one of the free gifts from God that is at our disposal...like air and rain. It's to be appreciated, not reviled. I agree with Denene and say we must leave each other alone when it comes to choices in feeding our kids, breast, bottle or whatever.

    But back to the point of the boob milk dysfunction - it's a class issue. In aristocratic Europe, it was considered beneath a woman's class to breastfeed her own child. She was immediately corseted and her boobs put back on display. A wet nurse was assigned the duty of feeding her child. This idea found its way to colonial America when an aristocracy was established as well (it was alluded to in the movie "Queen" starring Halle Berry).

    If a woman wants to use her body/breasts for the sole purpose of satisfying the lusts of men and the whims of society, so be it. But don't dare judge me for keeping my body for the health of my children and oh, redirecting that extra $150+ a month that would have been spent on FORMULA on other ventures. 4 breastfed kids later, and my breasts are still full and perky, a-thank you.

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  22. Isn't the world tough enough for women without other women coming down on them for making different choices? Sheesh. Props on ending on a tolerant bottle note, as well :)
    have you see the nursing covers for kids? i rant about them on my blog http://tinyurl.com/2a8wccw

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  23. It amazes me that my body knows how to make exactly what my son needs. When I sit and think about what breastfeeding really is, it feels like a miracle. No matter what anyone thinks, I am grateful and proud that I am able to nurse my son. If it means people around me divert their eyes and won't look at me while talking to me when I'm nursing, fine. If they don't want to know about my miracle, that's their choice.

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  24. Well said Elita! I breastfeed my daughter til she was 2.5yrs old. It was the best decision for both of us. I heard from countless family members that she needed to wean, she was too old etc. I let her wean when she was ready. I even lost one of my closet friends because she thought bfing was nasty and would always make negative comments about bfing around me. When my daughter was 6months I told her that I wasn't interested in dealing with her childish behavior. I cut her out of my life for good. A woman over 30yrs old making negative comments about how I choose to feed my child is no woman at all.

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  25. This was a fantastic post and such a hot button issue. I am amazed Salma Hayek actually fed the baby like that. I have a newfound respect for her. Lucky you Denene, my breasts graze my belly after breastfeeding my two babies. The perkiness is woefully gone! I wouldn't trade it for the world though.

    I breastfed my daughter for almost two years and was heavily criticized by my family. I stood firm knowing I was doing something healthy for my child. I barely made it through 6 months with my second because my milk dried up. I was very unhappy that I had to give him formula but it was a necessity.

    We mothers have enough troubles and responsibility to bother with criticizing each other. We are not cookie cutters and this is not a vanilla society. We forge our way as we must, and need to appreciate our differences. From breastfeeding/formula to staying at home/working to homeschooling/public schools to pray or not to pray, the unecessary judgment is enough.

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  26. I clicked onto the youtube page for the video and read the ignorant comments made by viewers. It made me both angry and sad - Had S.H. been a woman with more "color" and then "Hollywood" there wouldn't have been an issue.

    Her actions should have brought attention to the fact that children, all children, need to be nurtured and feed and that we, women, have the ability to do so without having to invest in business or government. We can feed our children ( i.e. La Leche League) and if need feed our sisters' too. Unfortunately in this day and age even that concept would be distorted by images of wet-nurses and milking cows.

    I applaud mothers who keep it natural and real.

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  27. I am so pleased to see so many moms of color on here who have/are breastfeeding!!! LOVE IT.

    Just an FYI...there has been a lot of research into whether or not breastfeeding causes your breasts to sag and it doesn't. Whether or not your breasts will be saggy is determined by genetics, how fat you are and pregnancy. So if you made it through a pregnancy without getting saggy boobs, breastfeeding isn't going to ruin them (but honestly, even if it did "ruin" them, it'd still be worth it.)

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  28. What Elita said... it's pregnancy and genetics that determine where your boobs end up. Has nothing to do with breastfeeding. Congrats to all of you breastfeeding moms. It really is such a great feeling to have so many women fighting the fight!

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  29. you know breastfeeding is not pushed as hard in africa as we think. my sister's mother-in-law got very angry with my sis because she was not using formula and the mother-in-law is African. In a developing nation where the child is malnurished, the mother could be malnurished also, there for not being able to produce milk that is sustaining for the child. It is so much to think about when it come to the breastfeeding thing.

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  30. Anonymous, a lot of people believe this myth, that if a woman is malnourished she can't breastfeed. It's actually not true. Your body will take care of your baby first. It's obviously much better if the mother isn't malnourished, but the quality and quanitity of her milk actually won't be affected. The problem in Africa is the same as the problem here in America. The aggressive marketing by the formula companies has led a huge percentage of women to believe that their bodies are incapable of providing what their baby needs or that their milk isn't good enough or that science is somehow better than nature. Believe me, Nestle is working hard to get mothers in Africa to stop breastfeeding and feed formula. You also have to remember that for a lot of immigrants (not just African immigrants) formula feeding is seen as a way of being middle class or assimilating into American culture. Because in their native countries they only see poor people breastfeeding, many immigrants associate breastfeeding with poverty. Because they see so many Americans bottle feeding, they associate formula with being wealthy and middle class. When Harlem Hospital in NYC became certified as Baby Friendly (meaning hospital practices that promote breastfeeding, including no formula or pacifiers given to babies, rooming in with mothers, etc) they said they had the most pushback from the recent African immigrants who didn't want to breastfeed because it was the African way, not the American way, in their minds.

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  31. We watch documentaries about wild animals playing, fighting, mating, giving birth and nursing their young. Change the channel to watch TLC specials tracking a woman's pregnancy right down to the vaginal birth (Kardashian included). Then put in a DVD to see all sorts of folks getting it in...passionate, raw, alone or in a group. T&A everywhere. But folks complain when a mom feeds her baby the way God intended? HUH?

    Regarding Salma, her heart went out to a hungry child. Being a new mommy, she did what came natural. She breastfed. I'm not clear on full details of the event but apparently, she thought she could help. May not seem to be the most ethical decision for some but guess what? The baby was well fed and satisified. End of story.

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  32. Great post. I breastfed both of my kids well beyond 2 years, so I am a huge supporter of breastfeeding. I thought it was a miracle that my body could nurture my children like that, but no, I didn't have any support beyond my husband.

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  33. Breastfeeding is great, but cover-up. Nobody wants to see all your business.

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  34. This is a great commentary on breast feeding. I am all for it - that is what they are there for! I am fine with a woman breast feeding her baby in public as long as she covers he boob and does not just pop it out for all too see. As far as breast feeding in general, there is nothing better than booby milk for your baby!

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  35. I'm 23, 7 months pregnant with my first child and fully intend on breastfeeding. For health purposes and because I think it is absolutely ludicrous to waste money on a poor imitation of a product I can get for free from my body. For the record, my DDD breasts have sagged since they started appearing when I was in 5th grade. Never in my life have I experienced having perky boobs, so maybe that has altered my perspective on the subject, but I just find it ridiculously selfish of women to refuse breastfeeding for fear of sagging breasts. How vain are you, geez!?! Life is still worth living with saggy girls, I swear! It's not the end of the world. Your looks will go eventually, that's just life. But you are stuck with your personality, so try to alter your attitude towards physical "perfection" before it's too late and you hate yourself for simply aging, which will happen. There is beauty in all types of person, if you can't see it that's your own damn fault.

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