A mother once told me that when it came to breastfeeding in public she determined the best choice for her and her baby. She decided that she was comfortable with breastfeeding with a blanket over her and the baby. It seems logical that where and how to breastfeed should be her decision. Unfortunately, we seem to have taken these decisions out of the mother’s hands. People have taken to social media, news articles, and blog posts to share their opinions about how breastfeeding in public should be regulated. The mission to establish rules for how a mother can and cannot feed her baby seems strange. Of all the bodily functions exposed in a public setting, breastfeeding should hardly raise an eyebrow. And yet, one flash of a mother’s flesh somehow creates such public opposition among us.
Regrettably, we take our mothers for granted, often failing to recognize the bodily sacrifices they make. Mothers should be celebrated and embraced for their willingness to breastfeed. After all, there really is nothing more beautiful than a mother sacrificing her own comfort for the welfare of her baby. Yet sadly, we still have people who tell them they should be ashamed and ought to have the decency to cover themselves up. We impose our prudishness, because for some reason a breast makes us hysterical. So we tell mothers to hide in the shadows, far away from the scrutiny of the condescending eyes of the moral police. What we fail to recognize amidst our decency campaign is when we tell a mother to cover herself what we are really saying is that we are disgusted by the act of motherhood.
How can we be so opposed to motherhood? It’s not like we are afraid of the upper portion of the female anatomy. Any magazine cover will tell you the high opinion we have of the breast. Yet for some reason we cannot wrap our heads around the dual nature of the female composition. So instead we celebrate the use of breasts for pleasure and frown upon the act of breastfeeding. We justify our squeamishness by using our children or by arguing that we are only trying to protect the mother from the savagery of the ogling eye. Are we really worried about what our children may think or is it us who would prefer not to explain to them the act of motherhood? Do we really mean to protect women from lustful looks despite our perpetual use of them as eye-catching advertisements?
We need to stop making excuses for our parochialism. If it really bothers us then just look away rather than demonize our mothers for doing what’s best for their babies. We should take this as a moment to explain to our children the beauty of motherhood. It’s not really a strange conversation to have with a child. After all, a child loves his mother just the way she is. It is time we do the same. If we want to protect mothers, then we need to understand that being a woman and a mother is not something to be ashamed of, but rather something to be celebrated and cherished.
This post originally ran on American Dad in Paris.
Phillip Davis is a regular guy from Florida who thought he was following his French wife on a one year trip to Paris so that she could finish her Master’s Degree. Six years and a child later, he is still there. He shares his unique experiences and observations of being an American Dad in Paris on his blog, American Dad in Paris. You can also catch him on Facebook.