How to Stir the Pot
This is the easy part.
1. State your opinion about anything.
2. Post a photo of yourself breastfeeding. Or bottle-feeding. Or holding hands with someone of the same sex, holding hands with someone of a different race, with makeup, with no makeup, fat, skinny, with cleavage, without cleavage, eating a conventional (non-organic) apple. Or make a statement with a Democratic slant, a Republican slant, or thoughts on how to discipline children, or how to sleep with children, or how to drive, or what to do with your Tuesday afternoon–you see where I’m going with this. Opinions are something that we like to pretend we don’t care about, but we secretly care about more than anything else.
My mother-in-law told me that her local chicken Facebook group (yes, a group where people in the local neighborhood talk about raising their chickens) was split into 2 when the Admin (the Facebook group Admin who felt that this position provided him with a sort of authority over others) and a group member had a disagreement about something. I don’t know what the disagreement was. I am going to go out on a limb and say that it couldn’t have been that serious. But they are passionate about chickens and that’s cool.
I was also looking at recipes for something and I started to read the comments. I know, I know. You’re saying, “Never read the comments!” But it was a recipe so I figured I was safe and might find some fun alterations to it. Someone in the thread recommended using another type of vegetable and another person responded with something about “being judged.” My point is that you can post breastfeeding photos and the pot will be stirred, but it is not at all necessary to bare your breast. You can pretty much express yourself any way you want and you will likely agitate the subconscious of said pot.
3. All of this should be done over social media because nothing riles people up more than a little butthurt and some keyboard courage. But make sure you live your actual life with the same passion and courage for your cause or you’re just a fake, internet activist and that’s super lame. Social media is a great tool to mobilize people, but it can’t be your world. It is not the world. It’s a tool that is helping to change many things about the way like-minded people connect and “take to the streets” where real change is made.
Why to Stir the Pot
This is a bit more complicated, but much more interesting.
I posted this meme (one of my first) in 2012 because in the short time I had been involved in Facebook I had heard many asinine arguments against breastfeeding, but there was one that I could not get over, still cannot get over. “I support breastfeeding, but… (as long as you cover, as long as you stop by 1 year old, as long as you don’t whip your tit out, as long as…)” and on and on with silly limitations and restrictions. I wanted to address this nonsense not only because I disagree with it, but because I know for a fact that there are women who choose not to breastfeed because of societal stigma surrounding it. Women who are perfectly informed about breastfeeding, women who have decided to bottle-feed not because it fits with their lifestyle or family situation or because breastfeeding didn’t work out or because it’s simply what they want to do, but because they want to avoid pressure and stigma from their fellow human beings surrounding breastfeeding. Even when it’s what they most want to do. That makes me mad. That is bullying. That is a sick society. I wanted to speak up for this group of women, help them to feel empowered and expose falsehoods that exist all over the breastfeeding world.
Part of me wants to laugh that breastfeeding is so controversial that it has literally opened up an entire career opportunity for myself and so many others, but then I realize that it is not funny at all. That it is in fact sick. It is symptomatic of a society that is not well. And for this reason I choose to stir the pot.
For the mother who is breastfeeding her baby, she is not making a statement, she is not putting on a show, she is not trying to get attention, she is not trying to stir the pot. However, I AM. When it’s my son and I alone, that is between him and me. When I post pictures on Facebook, when I write blogs, when I make memes, when I speak in public, I AM trying to stir the pot, to get a reaction, to get attention, to make a statement. And I do it because I believe that bringing attention to breastfeeding will help it become normalized. If just because people get sick of talking about it. But when my posts go viral, get seen by millions, have 3,000 comments behind them, it is clear to me that we have not yet gotten there. So here are some reasons to stir the pot:
1. To keep important issues at the front of people’s minds. It always kills me when people comment on social media with, “why are we still talking about breastfeeding?” Well, because I want to and you just did. So thanks for the comment and that much more Facebook visibility and attention to my cause! Personally I think it is a good sign when people get sick of the topic. That means it is getting so much attention that people are in the process of becoming desensitized to it. Which leads to the end goal of normalization.
2. To discover societal hang ups. I’ve posted a Nursing in Public (NIP) photo on Facebook a time or two. Reading comments on posts that went viral was a crash course in society’s views of NIP. I could then proceed to address the mass of misinformation and prejudices. If we don’t know why people have a problem with something then we can’t address it.
3. To challenge norms. There are a lot of things considered normal in our culture that are downright troubling. And things considered abnormal that are in fact normal. By pointing out flaws in thinking, strange evolutionary developments and our thoughtless behaviors we are challenging people to think about what they do.
4. To challenge authority. There are various forms of authority in our world and they are all cultural-bound. They are often perpetuating these troubling norms by threats of various kinds. This kind of authority is an illusion that we must expose.
5. To help our kids. Not only are you a role-modeling non-drone-like behavior to your children, you are teaching them to think critically. You are teaching them to challenge the world. You are teaching them to Question Everything. You change the world for the better. For the future. (And when they begin to challenge you, take it as a compliment.)
6. What are you doing here? If you’re not here to think, to challenge, to grow, to be a part of something then what are you doing? You are likely perpetuating some issue, some cause, that someone with some vision for the future is trying to make headway with. You are a drone. You are the enemy.
Am I a pot-stirrer, you ask? Yes, yes I am. I kind of like this subject. More to come…
Abby Theuring, MSW and Badass Pot- Stirrer