Bottle Versus Breast: The Real Fight

I have never been shamed for breastfeeding. But saying that I have never been shamed for breastfeeding is like saying that I have never been raped. It doesn’t really matter. I still live in fear of it. No, I don’t mean shuddering in fear and unable to live my life. I mean my behavior (and yours) is shaped by the experiences of other women. I don’t walk alone at night. I am always aware of my surroundings. I walk briskly through empty parking garages. I would never think of cutting down an alley at night. As a matter of fact, I won’t even do it during the day in my neighborhood. I have lived my whole life being shaped by a culture where women are brutally abused every single day, where the responsibility lies on me to not be victimized.

You are not likely to be harassed while nursing in public. But you live in a culture with a pattern of violence against women. Rape, molestation, groping, domestic abuse, workplace abuse and murder are not isolated incidents. They are everyday occurrences for women, and women who have not been victims live with the behavioral and emotional consequences as well. This breastfeeding movement is passionate, chaotic and explosive for a reason. It shines a light on how women do not own their own bodies, how every other man or woman has a right to control our behavior. It exposes our society’s double standard of breasts; you are to use them to sell products and attract a partner, but you better not try to exercise the power your body has to sustain life.

But now I hear women say that they are being shamed for bottle feeding. What the hell is up with that? You must be exaggerating, you must just feel guilty about not breastfeeding.

Wrong.

Bottle feeding moms are shamed all the time. Here’s the twist. We can complain about the sexualization of the breast, but sexualizing a woman is not about sex, it’s about control. And control comes in many forms. Sexualizing her body keeps her body under control. Framing her as irrational keeps her thoughts and feelings under control. Devaluing her role as mother keeps her maternal choices under control. Slut shaming keeps her desires under control.

You were shamed for breastfeeding? I believe you. You were shamed for bottle feeding? I don’t doubt it for a second. Women feel the shame every day. We live in a society set up for women to feel the shame in everything we do. We have internalized the misogyny and do it to each other and even ourselves without even knowing. Some men shame women with direct intent. Many men shame women without even realizing it. Because we live in the patriarchy. And patriarchy breeds hatred of women.

Shame is what keeps us silent. Shame fuels victimization. It can no longer be ignored and we can no longer be silent. We will only stop the cycle when we speak.

There is no such thing as a breastfeeding versus bottle feeding duel. There is only a system that hates women. A system that thrives on us fighting with each other. This doesn’t mean that we all throw our hats in the air and yell, “end mommy wars!” I think the mommy wars are a bunch of crap. I think the only thing going on here is a patriarchal system that is breeding misogyny. It doesn’t want women to become empowered to make their own choices about their bodies. It doesn’t want women to be successful at breastfeeding. It doesn’t want women to feel secure in their choice to bottle feed. It doesn’t want breastfeeding advocates pointing out the predatory marketing tactics from big corporations. It doesn’t want you to have information. It doesn’t want you to exercise control over your own choices.

We can point at each other all day saying, “That woman was mean to me!” “That mom gave me a dirty look for feeding my baby a bottle!” “That mom said I was gross for breastfeeding in public!” But what we really need to do is look up at the giant machine around us. It’s made from patriarchy, misogyny and corporate greed and it feeds on our insecurities, ignorance and fear.

Take control. Recognize the power of your body. Learn about all of your choices in any situation. Make a decision that is right for you. Then lift your head and live your life unapologetically. Rage against the machine.

Comments

  1. Nice post the post is very much relevant for breastfeeding. For more such stories visit http://www.dishanirdesh.in/stanpaan-ke-liye-sahi-mudra-best-pose-breasfeeding/

  2. Raqulle Tahar says:

    Nevermore been shamed for breastfeeding.

  3. Yes and amen!

  4. Theresa Pollard says:

    PLEASE can I make a suggestion .. each and EVERY time you see a mummy breast feeding her baby in public … and bare in mind she did not plan that day when setting up to go out .. to be caught in a public area with a screaming baby that won’t settle .. to sit in the most open obvious area and bare all … she will have planned and hoped that baby wouldn’t demand until she was somewhere safe and comfortable to do it .. but babies don’t read the same books as is … so I’m asking YOU that when you see a mummy feeding … offer her support … congratulate her … tell her she’s doing a good job and should be proud of herself … and get baby …. don’t let her or make her feel stigmatized for it. If you stand up and be counted others will follow …. AND never never ever frown at a mummy for bottle feeding … how the help is she supposed to win?

    • I plan to breastfeed my baby whenever we go out. Wherever we are, we don’t care. I totally disagree with your comment. I have no fear of breastfeeding in public or “baring all”. Get a grip lady, it’s fine to plan to get your tits out and feed your baby

  5. Before I had my son, I knew I wanted to breastfeed, but didn’t have any reason for it. I hadn’t grown up around babies and I was aware of formula, but breastfeeding just felt like a natural choice. I didn’t expect how hard it would be, or how painful it would be, and overcoming those struggles was truly difficult.

    But, the biggest surprise as a breastfeeding mom is how controversial it is to breastfeed. Your post really verbalizes my feelings which I couldn’t even identify myself. As if being a mom isn’t hard enough, no matter how we choose to feed our baby we will experience shame. I’m stuck where I’m proud to breastfeed but simultaneously embarrassed to admit that I do, especially now as my son is 15 months old.

    Thanks for your thoughtful post!

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