As this is World Breastfeeding Week, I’d like to talk about – that’s right – breasts! It amazes me that breastfeeding is still controversial, but lingerie models whose breasts are barely covered and breastraunts where your meal is served up with a heaping side of boobie are apparently acceptable in our culture.
I think it has to do with the fact that, when a woman is breastfeeding, she is not using her breast for titillation. For a woman or her partner to appreciate the sexual appeal of her breasts is a beautiful thing – if done respectfully. But lingerie models and breastraunt waitresses do not embody a respectful, empowered appreciation of sexuality. They embody objectification. And because we’ve been bombarded by images that objectify women – primarily to sell things and to maintain existing power structures – we have become numb to it.
However, when a woman breastfeeds, we are forced to see the reality of her body. When women are dressed up in tops or bras that barely cover their nipples and paraded in front of leering eyes, the ones doing the leering seem to forget that there is a soul behind the breasts. Breastfeeding women are real women – lingerie models are fantasies. And as a culture, we still have a less than healthy relationship with the sexuality of real women.
There is nothing wrong with a woman dressing sexy or playing up her sex appeal. That can be a very empowering thing – but only if it’s done out of the woman’s appreciation of her body, not to sell things, maintain power structures, or win the approval of others.