Who says breastfeeding in public is an indecent act!
..But Jesus said: ‘suffer little children and forbid them not’. This constitutes the response from Jesus in reprimand to his followers when adults attempted to deny children access to Him. I involuntarily thought of this text when I hear the debates on public breastfeeding in our post-modern world as offensive, indecent as the objectifying of the female body. I thought of these words ‘forbid them not. Is the current debate skewed in forbidding children what is their inherent right?
I wish to postulate we are back again here no different to 2000 years ago, when we hear adults in attempt of denying the most vulnerable (children) as evident in those who remonstrate against breast-feeding in public.
I struggle to apply my mind cogently on the fuss being made of public-breastfeeding as an objectionable aspect in our discourse. It appears those who are opposed to public breast-feeding raises essentially two issues.
One, they raise it as an indecent act in the public. They just never tell us who determine this indecency or what determines the act of indecency. Secondly they raise it as primitive backwards and almost uncouth if not uncivilised. We just not sure which of the two comes first. I at times think it being primitive, out-dated supersedes really the latter thus giving content to it being considered indecent. (Remember those who control the language control the thoughts.)
What those who propagate a claim of indecency refuse to engage is the subject of feeding-an-infant which is exactly the subject and not the peripheral issues raised. The indecency aspect is further given content when we understand the obvious narrow objectifying of the woman’s body debate. On the latter I will concede our society in its totality stands guilty as charged on this issue in that a female body is used to market products, success, a set of tyres, chocolate or a yacht. Let me also hasten to add, it is also not a male driven campaign as is claimed but even women sell their sexuality daily if the social media is our yardstick. Thus a great part of revenue is generated daily from this objectifying of historically and essentially only the female body. We have in recent times seen an emergence of a male objectifying as society deconstruct and reconfigure sexuality and its meaning in an changing world. I therefore am vehemently against the conscious or subconscious objectifying of the human body regardless male or female.
Yet, those who from this claimed moralist stance attempts cautioning breast-feeding as an extension of that proves shaky since they refuse to engage the subject matter in its totality but proves rather convenient in reducing the act to objectifying. For the record I have yet to come across a breast-feeding mother just unbuttoning for the sake of unbuttoning. (I will not go into the detail of the extreme discomfort breast-feeding mothers have with breasts filling up regularly.)
We must therefore ask why they raise this as indecent. It appears it is indecent in an evolved Westernised world where the epistemology on what constitutes acceptable is shaped if not defined by a minority in class and economic description. These have hijacked the towers of our thought development and invoke a custodianship right to dictate the meridian of what is acceptable and what is not in a public setting. It is also raised by those who purport or claim to have the economic wherewithal who may be able to afford an assortment of modern technology based instruments. These erroneously assume all in society share their privilege.
Breast-feeding if understood as feeding is not new and will never be primitive if we accept that daily the Western world celebrates people eating in public. We all eat in public why should eating in public be an indecent act? How come feeding a helpless infant who cannot share his/her desire for his most basic needs translates to qualify for indecency?
In whose eye does it constitute an indecent act? In fact who off those who finds this today offensive has not been on a breast at some point? Why is there an obvious sexual connotation to exposed breasts? The world has no problem when pop stars are dressed with what leaves nothing for the imagination, it does not have a problem when ladies out of choice dress in what they deem themselves comfortable. They regard this as freedom, a sense of reclaiming of the night exemplified in power of choice. Yet when a mother who tries earning a living is compelled in a public space to feed her child it is categorised as indecent.
I say power to those mothers who understand that breastfeeding their children is more than giving them food but it for a variety of proven reasons proves healthier at psychological and social levels. Unto those who defy these post-modern self-centred small world proponents we say more power. Yes, to these convenient moralists we say you shall not deny our future presidents, scientists, artists, educators, inventors and respectable human beings their right to their most basic nourishment. Neither will we afford you the right to castigate those who have determined to breast-feed the right in claims of shame or offensiveness.
We as a free society will not allow you to re-shackle our mothers, aunts, nieces, cousins the right to bond with their most prized possession as determined in creation.
I therefore endorse the new law that ‘if a woman and her baby are somewhere lawfully, then they have the right to peacefully breast-feed’.
Feed your child, anywhere, anytime, they smoke, they eat and they drink anywhere. Why can this so- called free society who celebrate a Caitlyn Jenner be intimidated by an infant that desires his/her food be denied the right to eat, in frivolous claims of indecency, offensiveness, and uncivilised description. Shame on these so-called advocates for the protection of the female body who have scant regard for the fact that breast-feeding is a right and not a privilege.
So feed your child, be it in the church, in court, in a mall at the bus stop, in the train, those who deduce a sexual connotation to this must constitute the most depraved in our society.
From one breast-fed one to all those who have been breast-fed, it’s a basic right.
Bishop Clyde N. S. Ramalaine
Public Commentator, Writer and Author.