Women’s breasts have been highly sexualized in the past few decades, and their sole purpose has been overlooked for some time. Their sole biological purpose is for child nourishment, or in other words, breastfeeding.
In today’s culture, we see women’s breasts in a much more public sphere due to the mass media. Women’s sexualized bodies can be seen in magazines, advertisements, movies, TV shows and other forms of digital media.
The debate over breastfeeding in public has been popular recently more-so than in the past. Mothers are speaking up for themselves and others on the debate that is heavily male-dominated. There is the argument that women cannot publicly breastfeed or show their breasts in public because it’s “not right” or “inappropriate.” This biggest source of discomfort is when women choose to breastfeed uncovered publicly. Many women feel that since they are feeding their baby, there is nothing wrong with showing themselves in public.
There’s this taboo that it is wrong for a woman to breastfeed in front of others, but if she decides to feed her child, then realistically no one else should have a say in her decision. Breastfeeding when a child is hungry is essential for the health of an infant and the mother. Taking away a woman’s right to feed or pump when it is needed is discriminatory and imposes more stress on new mothers. Each individual ultimately has the choice of how they choose to display their body to the public eye, so why should that right change for mothers.
The taboo placed on breastfeeding results in some women feeling guilty or embarrassed about having to feed their infant. Unfortunately, many mothers feel uneasy or uncomfortable when nursing in public. Mothers have to worry about their baby squirming and exposing them constantly or if they make eye contact with someone who will possibly shame them.
Currently, in the United States, there are forty-nine states (only Idaho is excluded) that allow women to breastfeed in any public or private location, and there are twenty-one that have laws that exempt breastfeeding women from public indecency laws. It is not a legal issue whether women can publicly breastfeed, but rather a social issue.
We as a society need to shift our views and consider really why we have an issue with women breastfeeding. Through an open conversation, we can learn a lot about the struggles of new mothers and how we can collectively help to make this cultural change.