A resource to inspire, inform and empower parents.

F*** You, I Won’t Do What You Tell Me

**Disclaimer: This post is referencing mothers who are told that they must cover, not mother’s that choose to cover

Abby Theuring, The Badass Breastfeeder, breastfeeding in public.

There are attempts to control women all around us. A woman is expected to be sexy, but not so sexy that a man can no longer control his impulses. A woman is expected to be smart, but not so smart that she knows more than a man. A woman is expected to be successful, but not so successful so that she makes more money than a man.

Women get paid less for the same job. Women’s bodies are used to sell products. Women’s desire to have children and raise them gently has been devalued. Women went from being told they had to stay in the kitchen to being told that if they were in the kitchen they were less of a woman.

When a woman is told that she must cover so that other people don’t feel uncomfortable or so that no one makes rude comments or harasses her it suggests that she is responsible for what other people feel or do. It is the same line of thinking as telling a woman that she asked to be raped because of the clothes she was wearing.

It is an attempt to control a woman when she is told she must cover while breastfeeding.

Abby Theuring, The Badass Breastfeeder, breastfeeding in public.

Breasts are for babies. Breasts can also be used during sex. But the breastfeeding relationship is not a sexual relationship, breastfeeding is not a sexual act. The fact that breasts are sexually attractive is a cultural phenomenon. There are many cultures on this planet where the sight of breasts does not evoke feelings of sexual arousal. The natural function of breasts is to feed children. Sex organs are organs involved in sexual reproduction. Breasts do not fall into this category. (This is heavy stuff, but we must move on.)

In our culture we expect that sex organs be covered, but the suggestion that breasts are sex organs is just plain incorrect. Worse, the idea that breasts should be covered perpetuates the over-sexualization of breasts. This undermines the breastfeeding relationship between a mother and her child.

It perpetuates the over-sexualization of the female body when a woman is told she must cover while breastfeeding.

Abby Theuring, The Badass Breastfeeder, breastfeeding in public.

The female body has become a marketing tool, a toy to be used only by sexual partners, a sexy package for display. There is an illusion that she is powerful only because she is sexual. In reality, the over-sexualization of the female body depreciates its true value.

We have become estranged from the force of nature that is the female body. The female body can house, nourish and grow a baby, birth this baby into the world and then sustain the life of this child. All on its own. With no help from anyone. This is the greatest power in the world. We don’t need to see less breasts. We need to see more breasts in their natural function. Women nurturing their children is the foundation of civilization. We are the most important people. We will do what’s best for our children, not what you tell us to do.

It undermines the power of the female body when a woman is told she must cover while breastfeeding.

Abby Theuring, MSW

Comments

  1. Jenny Doughty says

    Thank you for being such an advocate for breastfeeding. I never thought I would NIP. I always tried to work around my son’s nursing schedule. The time came about 2 months ago during my birthday dinner. Luckily I had already read your emails on NIP in 7 days. I was successful and have continued to NIP without a cover. You are an inspiration. Thank you!

  2. I have never heard a better, more succinct argument for the right to nurse in public. Abby, you sum it all up intelligently, eloquently, and down-right bad-ass!!!!!

  3. While I completely agree with the majority of your message, there is one thing that bothers me. It is that you seem to be saying that a man cannot find a woman sexual while breastfeeding. While women should never should feel ashamed while nursing, men that find the nursing act attractive should not be made to feel bad either. This does not mean that gawking is permissible, but please realize that nursing is a powerful, beautiful act that is attractive. Men need to be completely respectful, but they cannot help their thoughts and feelings, only actions. Your message, in my opinion, should be directed solely at people’s actions, not their inner selves. I don’t have a problem with finding nursing attractive, neither does my wife, and I hope you don’t either–just like the necessity of nursing, this is just how the world is.

    • A woman breastfeeding her child can be attractive. It is powerful, loving, and to witness that relationship can fill a father/husband’s heart and there is nothing wrong with that. However, it is not a sexual act, and to be sexually aroused by that is not a normal response. Attractive and sexual are separate characteristics.

      • Sexual arousal when witnessing acts of being a nurturing parent are normal and natural. When you see someone giving their offspring the best chance of survival it is natural to want that for your own offspring. For example, seeing my husband calm our crying child is extremely sexy and makes my subconscious want ten more. Nursing is not a sexual act between mother and child, but it could very easily cause a man who wants healthy offspring (at least subconsciously) to become sexual aroused. Sex and child-bearing are very closely related.

  4. Excellent post and I agree very much. However, breasts are scientifically classified as part of the female reproductive organs. And I think the shift people need to make in their thinking is that sex is natural, normal, and serves the vital function of continuing our species. And breastfeeding is a natural part of that cycle. Sex, breastfeeding… Neither are dirty or wrong. Period.

    • Thank you! I was going to say something g about that part but you said it brilliantly. Breast ARE sexual. But that doesn’t make them something to hide. Breast feeding is sexual, as is the birth of a child. The same hormones are triggered during breast feeding as orgasm. That doesn’t make it something to hide. We feel shame for this as a culture when it’s nothing to feel shameful about.

    • But wait, you do realize that breasts are NOT scientifically classified as such, right? You realize women without boobs can have babies, yes? What are you reading that says boobs are reproductive?

    • Actually, they are not classified as sex organs of the reproductive system. They are classified as secondary sex characteristics. They ARE a part of the reproductive system, true, and this is why lactation discrimination is so abhorrent. But no, not sex organs.

  5. I think this article is extremely well-written and I would love to share it. However I do find the title off-putting and really not doing justice for the amazing content. I’m fairly indifferent to the “F” word but know many folks who wouldn’t read past the title.

    That said, I love your page, your insight and your ability to encourage those of us w lesser confidence to feed our babies/toddlers shamelessly!

  6. Its purely because of this site that I have become comfortable nursing my lil love in public. I arranged times I needed to leave and avoided going places. I have to say…it has been quite freeing. I thank you and so does my baby girl. 6 months and going strong… I also have decided to nurse til self weening ..where as before I went with the public stigma and thought I needed to stop at a year. My daughter isn’t supportive, but that’s because like me, she didn’t know. So keep on! And add one more bip momma to the list of doers!!

  7. Let’s say you have a point that breastfeeding is a natural thing which you do, but what about little kids seeing yours breasts while breastfeeding? Things like that are part of reason why partial nudity is considered inappropriate in public. Please don’t go all mad on me and crap. I’m trying to be respectful and I understand how important things to a mother. If you are seriously going to insult me for trying explain something to you, then seriously you aren’t worth listening to on this issue going on.

    • Children should see it. Otherwise we raise another generation who feels shame over such a beautiful beneficial action. In many cities all over the country topless women are perfectly legal now, in an effort to protect the right of the nursing child to have unrestricted access to the breast.

    • I actually think little kids should see breasts being used for their natural and intended purpose, instead of only seeing them sexualized by the media. What is wrong with a child seeing breastfeeding? Absolutely nothing at all. Children should know that breast are for feeding babies, not solely as sexual playthings.

    • It is very important for children to witness women breastfeeding their children. It is not an obscene act. This needs to be normalized in our culture.

      • It’s not the worst thing in the world for a little girl to see that her body can be used to grow a child during pregnancy & then sustain that child’s life from her breast. I feel like saying a child shouldn’t see a woman breastfeeding is like saying a child shouldn’t see a woman pregnant. The pregnant woman & the breastfeeding woman are doing exactly the same thing, except one baby is hidden and one baby is not. Also, it’s not the worst thing in the world for a little boy to learn that a woman’s body is good for something other than the sexual pleasure of a man. That’s a REALLY good life lesson that more men should learn from an early age.

    • I guess peeing is a natural thing too. I should be able to go the the bathroom in public so kids can see that peeing is natural. We need to normalize this in our culture as well. I don’t want to be forced to hide every time I have to use the bathroom. I WANT MY FREEDOM!!!

      • Urinating or defecating are health hazords as they are contaimated waste products of the body. Doing these actions in a non-toilet area continualy would create a health hazard. Breast milk on the other hand is a food source. Filled with live mircrobs, to help the human baby/child’s body develop and grow. Its completely sanitary just like any other fresh food product.

      • Potterluck says

        There’s no logic to this argument, and no correlation between breastfeeding and urinating/defecating/having sex in public. The latter three are public health hazards because of body fluids that can carry and spread illness. The former is a public health necessity for the feeding of very young and vulnerable children. Do you see the difference now?

    • Potterluck says

      Explaining a nursing woman to my young child: “What’s she doing, Nova?” (She calls me Nova because she has two mommies, and we wanted to make sure we knew which mommy she was asking for at a given time, so we picked two separate words).

      “She’s feeding her baby. A mommy’s body makes milk for her baby to drink so he doesn’t have to be hungry. Isn’t that neat?”

      “Oh…are you going to do that when the new baby is born?”

      “Yes, I will.”

      “Can I see?”

      “Of course. You DO live with us, right?”

      *giggle*

      Yeah…it’s not that difficult. It’s not traumatic. It’s not inappropriate, and it certainly doesn’t scar them for life.

    • This is so foolish. Children SHOULD see breasts being used as they are intended. To say that we should not breastfeed in public in case a child might see just further perpetuates the idea that breasts are sexual and should be hidden at all times. This breeds girls who are scared of nursing because they’ve been taught by their parents that their breasts are naughty sexual toys that need to be kept covered. Making them nervous about doing something as natural as feeding her child. If more little girls saw women nursing, and learned from a young age that breasts are for her future children, not her future husband, she would be more inclined to have a healthy happy nursing relationship with those future children.

    • If little kids see my beasts in public then they will know that beasts are primarily to feed babies. It is good for both boys and girls to know the beauty of the beast’s function. My sons are learning to respect a woman’s body when they see me nursing their baby brother.
      It also opens the door to start the conversation about the human body and reproduction, so that when the time comes to discuss the complexities of a sexual relationship and safe sex, you and your child are comfortable talking to each other about things like that. In the long run it can help your child to be confident and make healthy decisions about their body and their sexual relationships.

  8. I have never thought of being told to cover while breastfeeding in this way. Thanks Abby. It’s an important insight.

  9. Brittany says

    Thank you for this.

  10. I love your blog and thanks for sharing!

    I am a very strong supporter of breast-feeding and the woman’s right to feed in public without being asked to use a cover, and I love how you put much of your post. I do however feel the need to clarify on one point, “There are many cultures on this planet where the sight of breasts does not evoke feelings of sexual arousal.” I find this difficult to believe completely, as it is my belief that Mother Nature intended breasts to not only feed children but also to be an outward attraction for finding a mate.

    You can find much of the same examples in mainstream beauty products for women, whether knowingly done so or not they completely play off of our mind’s natural instincts.

    Eye liner and shadow are used to make women’s eyes appear more open and large, this corresponds to how a woman’s eyes get wider during sex and it instinctually attracts a man.

    Blush, flushed cheaks during sex. Again instintively gets a man looking your way.

    Lip stick, red/flushed lips from kissing and healthy individual (good for reproducing with)…

    Wider hips are actually desirable as they indicate that a woman is better capable of birthing a child. This is why women’s clothing is cut to accentuate the smaller wasteline and show this curve (hourglass figure).

    And finally I come to the push up bra, yeah this little item also attempts to play on a man’s instinctual heart-strings. It is instinctive for a man to see bossoms and associate that with plenty of food for offspring, and hence wanting to reproduce with her.

    Now you may be reading all this thinking this guy is off his rocker, but it is all backed by science. I wish I had the reference to the studies on it at hand but I watched a documentary on it about 10-15 years ago and have no idea where to find the study anymore. The study followed brain patterns and such while testing imagery from my memory.

    Of course men don’t actually think these thoughts intentionally, these thoughts are subliminal and ingrained in our basic instincts for reproduction.

    Hope that all made sense, and sorry if it possibly kills one of your points for you! Keep writing, enjoyable reading!

    • Very true. I agree 100%. They do and should invoke sexual feelings of arousal as breast ARE sexual. Reproduction has to do with all of the above.

      • Although, I would like to add that men aren’t the sole reason women choose to wear push up bras or make up.. It’s also been scientifically proven that women get all gussied up for (wait for it) other women! There has been a cultural shift, & women aren’t just waiting around for a man to choose them as their reproductive mate.

    • Potterluck says

      In OUR culture we do see breasts as sexual…but she’s right, in a lot of cultures (for an example, many different African cultures), they aren’t viewed as sexual or really as a part of sex. Just because it seems strange or unusual to us, doesn’t make it any less true. It’s kind of like how we think of breastfeeding past a year as bizarre, but in most of the world it’s perfectly normal to go to 4 years old or even older. Or we think nursing in public is scandalous, but in most of the world no one blinks or bats an eye because it’s commonplace and completely accepted. Or how our bread is routinely made with wheat flour, but in many South American countries, bread is routinely made with things like manioc flour, or almond flour in the Middle East, or not commonly used at all in many parts of Asia. Worldwide, different things are common and normal in different places.

  11. Thank you! I could not have said it better myself and your words ring so true. Want to shot it out from the roof tops (and share it on fb;-)) so your wisdom can be shared and spread. from a fellow breastfeeder and feministx

  12. Thank you so much for being such an advocate for breastfeeding. As a mother of 4, I’ve been told I must cover many times. I always have a quick comeback because I know my rights and I know the person asking me to cover is violating them. So many women don’t know these rights and we need to bring them to light. Again, thank you for being such a badass!

  13. I’m all for women doing what they want to do but I don’t want to see a woman’s breast while I am eating dinner at a restaurant and I would assume people with young children wouldn’t want them to see women’s breasts either. I don’t think it’s right for people to make nasty remarks, but I don’t understand what makes women act this bothered over something so simple. I don’t care if you’re feeding anywhere else and want to have your boob hanging out. Power to you. But I don’t wanna see boobs and nipples when I’m trying to eat. Nothing to do with sexism either.

    • Then don’t look, Kim. Simple as that. No one is forcing you to look. And I want my children to see women nursing and I know many people who feel the same way. You completely missed the point of the article. Nursing is natural and beautiful and should be acceptable any where anytime. Babies need to eat any where, any time.

    • Jenny Doughty says

      I have breastfed my child uncovered and discreetly without showing my nipple or any more of my breast than most women walking around in a tank top. I can’t control when my child is hungry. If that time happens to be when everyone else is eating, then he gets to enjoy a meal at the same time. Women don’t regularly flash their breasts while feeding and unless you are staring you probably wouldn’t even know it was happening.

    • Agreed!! ^^^

      • I assume you’d prefer to hear a baby crying & screaming from hunger at the restaurant instead? Or are you implying that breastfeeding mothers shouldn’t be allowed to go to restaurants? Or are you one under the impression that its a simple as a mom sitting by the wall, plugged up to a pump for 30 minutes while her children just run crazy around the house? Oh & did I mention that’s 30 minutes AFTER you just spent about 30 minutes feeding at the breast, because you can’t just skip feedings, babies have to eat. OH! & then you have to make sure your baby will even TAKE a bottle. A lot of breastfeed babies won’t even drink from a bottle. Mine, for instance, gag, choke, & vomit when trying to suck an artificial nipple. It’s not always as easy as just pumping & giving a bottle. And please don’t even suggest formula.. For that, just reference any of the many studies explaining everything breastmilk has that formula doesn’t. Please, just consider the fact that mothers are doing what is best for their babies. If breastfeeding disgusts you that much, that is a personal issue. And children seeing women breastfeeding isn’t the worst thing in the world. It would hurt kids to learn that the female body is good for something other than the sexual pleasure of a man.

    • Potterluck says

      I’m not a nursing woman, and I don’t have any problem with seeing women nurse anywhere at any time, and I don’t have any problem with my child seeing it. Why should I? It isn’t in any way inappropriate, and it’s important for children to learn how the body works and what all it’s capable of, and the fact that a woman’s body is capable of feeding a child is pretty awesome. If a baby gets hungry in a restaurant, would you rather the baby scream or the woman feed him? Or you think she should be relegated to an unsanitary bathroom or a hot/cold car instead and be isolated from her friends and family who are still at the table enjoying a meal? That’s rather selfish and doesn’t make any sense. If you don’t like it, look away. If she’s directly across from you and you find it hard to look away, then move to the other side of your table and face the opposite way so that you can’t see it. It’s not difficult.

    • I breastfeed in public, without a cover, and half the time my husband, who looks at my breasts more than anyone else, has no idea. If you don’t want to see it feel free to look elsewhere. No one is forcing you to look, and I’m not going to inconvenience my baby or myself to keep you comfortable. That’s ridiculous. What if you hate my top? Should I change? What if you hate the sound of my voice? Should I stop talking to make you happier? My life does not revolve around keeping strangers happy.

    • You could try looking people in the face instead of their chest…

  14. As stated about a million times before, if you don’t like it don’t look. I also think people need to look deep within themselves and ask why the sight of a breastfeeding mother bothers them so much. Does anybody ever stop to ask themselves that? Is it realistic or rational to be so put off by it, or is there some other underlying reason why you feel that way? I’m not understanding why this such a big issue. The baby is eating same as you are. What’s going to happen if you see a breast while you are eating or any other time for that matter? Is it the sight of the breast that’s the issue, or what it’s being used for that’s the real problem? Would you have the same reaction if you sat across from a woman with a low-cut top? Probably not. Either way, should your not wanting to see it trump the baby’s right to eat?

    As for kids, they only know what you as parents tell them. If parents don’t make a big deal out of it neither will the kids. They may ask what that baby is doing, to which you can reply, drinking milk from his/her mother like a puppy or kitten. If you tell a child it is yucky or gross they may think that the next time they see it, but I doubt they could give any logical explanation as to why they think that way. All they would know is that mommy or daddy said it was. I think people are making a mountain out of a molehill with this issue.
    Years ago I may have understood the argument for asking women to cover. What I’m beginning to understand more is that it’s not helping this issue to be resolved. I actually think it’s worse. One would think that in 2013 with all the information we have about the benefits of breastfeeding people would be a little more open-minded. At least try to be understanding. Based on some of the insensitive and just plain ignorant arguments about breastfeeding period I see I don’t blame people like Abby for feeling the way they do. Sometimes you have to rip the bandage off. It may be painful at first, but that’s the only way the wound gets better. It’s the same logic. Kill the shock value of seeing a breast in public while feeding a baby and maybe people can learn to deal with these ridiculous hang-ups. Keep hiding it and people won’t change. Women have been discreetly breastfeeding for years and it’s no more acceptable or normal today than it was 50 years ago. That’s real progress.

  15. I might add that I think it is ironic that the one act we are 100% certain that breasts are designed for is the one act nobody wants to see them perform. Nobody complains when they are performing any other function.

    I also think it is debatable that breast are supposed to be so sexualized or even sexualized at all. There are other countries that think it is absurd that they are viewed as anything but a source of food for a baby. A breastfeeding baby in those places draw no more attention than bottle fed babies do here in the U.S. Though they can be used in sex, they are not necessary for the act itself. Other parts of the body can also be used in sex, but we don’t view them as sexual even though they may actually play a bigger role in the act than the breast themselves. I think breast were probably supposed to be looked at the same way until we started attaching sexual stigmas to them that I’m not convinced were ever supposed to be there in the first place.

  16. I stumbled upon your blog and am GLAD I did so! I read your cosleeping/bedsharing post and thought, wow, this woman is in my head. Creepy.

    And cool – lol.

    I’m a third time mom, second time EBF, first time cloth diaperer. As I age I apparently don’t into fine wine but granola. 🙂

    I have NIPed in every single location I’ve breastfed in public except for 2 specific times and both involved a church I was attending as a guest. Not that I think God cared, i just didn’t want to make a scene during the funeral or holiday service if, God Forbid, someone did do something stupid like tell me to cover up.

    I’ll be handing out your blog to the other ladies in our Milk Makers group!

    Cheers!

  17. I stumbled upon your blog and am GLAD I did so! I read your cosleeping/bedsharing post and thought, wow, this woman is in my head. Creepy.

    And cool – lol.

    I’m a third time mom, second time EBF, first time cloth diaperer. As I age I apparently don’t into fine wine but granola. 🙂

    I have NIPed in every single location I’ve breastfed in public except for 2 specific times and both involved a church I was attending as a guest. Not that I think God cared, i just didn’t want to make a scene during the funeral or holiday service if, God Forbid, someone did do something stupid like tell me to cover up.

    I’ll be handing out your blog to the other ladies in our Milk Makers group!

    Cheers!

  18. A Baby’s Plea
    You tell me that I’m precious, but yet you disagree, when mommy dares in public, to give her breast to me. 

    You tell my mom to cover as I attempt to feed, a selfish proposition, discomfort guaranteed!

    You point her to the toilets, say do your feeding there, a germ infested bathroom, so nice of you to care!

    To you I must be worthless, if that’s what I should do, if that’s your best suggestion, why don’t you try it too!

    You treat me like an outcast, I must be less than dirt, when you reject my mommy, it’s really me you hurt!

    You’d rather see me hungry, you’d rather see me hide, to cater to your rudeness, your ignorance and pride!

    I might be just a baby, but I’m a person too, I want the same compassion, you’d want bestowed to you!

    You want us to respect you, try showing us the same, my eating should be normal, not covered up in shame!

    My mommy is my hero, my constant source for food, you really should respect her and change your attitude!

    Don’t ask her to neglect me to satisfy your rule, if I am made to suffer, that sort of makes you cruel!

    She isn’t trying to hurt you, by taking care of me, so do us both a favor and kindly let us be!

    I’m glad my mommy loves me, like all good mommies do, I’m glad she doesn’t listen to selfish jerks like you!

    Tom Miller

  19. This is very well written and I agree with so much of it. The only disagreement I have is that breasts are involved in reproduction as they nourish the offspring of a sexual union. In addition, you comment on being sexy as devaluing the true value of a woman’s ability to grow a human. But we wouldn’t get hat little human without…sex.

  20. Thank you for what you do. Every time I get on here and read something like this it gives me even more courage to NIP and it makes it more and more normal for me. You are right! It’s not my responsibility for what others feel as far as breastfeeding go. You are helping so many women have a voice, never stop! 🙂

  21. I have no problem with women breastfeeding in public but is covering up really an imposition on the mothers. I breastfed both my children and my daughter breastfeeds her son. Neither of us has/had a problem covering up. It is a matter of decorum and respect to others.

    • Potterluck says

      Yes, it absolutely CAN be an imposition. Your children may have covered fine, but many children don’t like having a cover on them. They fuss, cry, thrash, get distracted and draw far more attention than simply nursing would do. Also, in many places, like where I live, the temperature gets so high that even a LIGHT cover makes baby too hot. If it’s 95, 105 degrees outside, would you want a blanket on your head? I wouldn’t. I wouldn’t want one over my shoulder or chest either, if I was mom. Babies can get overheated. Not all babies are the same, and covering doesn’t work for all mothers, and that’s why it shouldn’t be a requirement and why you shouldn’t judge or insist that they do. The nursing relationship is hard for some women to maintain at all, and they should be encouraged and supported with anything we can do to make it easier on them, and this is all coming from a woman who is NOT nursing a child, so it’s not reflexive defensiveness talking, it’s human compassion.

  22. I should state that breasts on a nursing mother should not be sexualized. They are part of the human body but I still stand by my comment of covering up.

    • Potterluck says

      And I stand by my comment that covering doesn’t work for everyone, and that part of decorum and respect, as you mentioned both, is having the decorum not to stare and the respect not to antagonize a woman who is already doing the best that she can do to take care of herself and her child.

  23. I finally celebrated my nursing relationship in style this morning with a mini photo shoot. Made all the more special because I nurse with an SNS so have, until recently, been quietly embarrassed by not being a “proper” breast feeder.

    I can’t want to share some of the photos so that I will always remember the place I came to, which is nursing any time, anywhere with PRIDE.

  24. Thanks for the disclaimer. I don’t use a cover, but do choose to be discreet while NIP, and lately have felt a little under attack for not want to just let it all hang out while NIP. Thank you for empowering women to nurse however THEY fell most comfortable, covered, uncovered, or anything in between.

  25. I have gotten some much encouragement from the badass Breastfeeder fb and all the lovely Badass moms.

  26. All I can say is wow, I feel bad for you. I totally believe in breastfeeding and loved doing it, but it’s not for everyone to see. I feel bad for the self centered world you live in and that you put your child in. In my house, it’s God, then my husband, then my child. I will raise her to be a well rounded individual rather than one who literally has nothing better to do than post comments all over people’s blogs and Facebook posts. How do you even have time for that. I bet you are the same mom who judges me for working, even though you spend all day on the Internet posting negative comments. I do hope that you can turn this passion into something productive for breastfeeding moms. Be an advocate rather than a crazy judgemental lunatic who people don’t want to listen to.

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