Column: The war on breasts: Where feminism and motherhood are forced to do battle

By John Bambenek

A couple of months ago the cover of BabyTalk magazine showed a picture of a breast-feeding child with his mother, breast and all. Controversy ensued as critics charged BabyTalk with inappropriate exposure of breasts and one reader describing the image as “disgusting”. Controversy about breast-feeding is not foreign to Champaign either. In 2000, a 32 year-old mother temporarily lost custody of her child on sex abuse charges for breast-feeding longer than the state cared for.

Earlier this summer, breast-feeding mothers were harassed by staff at Sholem pool for breast-feeding in public. Women caring for their children have been harassed in restaurants, parks and pretty much anywhere you find children congregating.

The law is quite clear that breast-feeding is not indecent or sexual. The medical community and community health advocates have concluded breast-feeding is what is best for the baby (and usually the mother). However, there is still tremendous public pressure against breast-feeding.

Despite the fact I see more boobs walking across the Quad, or for that matter watching C-SPAN, somehow breast-feeding is apparently too much for this promiscuous college town. After all, Champaign County does have a syphilis epidemic for a reason. A society that uses breasts to sell every conceivable product on the market is horrified by the concept of a breast being used for its designed biological purpose.

It could seem plausible to blame the religious right; After all, they were responsible for the protests over the infamous Janet Jackson wardrobe malfunction of 2004. However, the religious right is generally more child-friendly than those on the other part of the political spectrum. The religious right supports women having children in the first place, as opposed to the left which supports slaughtering them on the altar of abortion.

Here is a more reasonable theory about the source of resistance to breast-feeding: It collides head-on with radical feminism. When former Harvard President Lawrence Summers suggested there are biological differences between men and women, he was run out of town. Breast-feeding is the ultimate expression, next to child-birth, that women are indeed different from men. My Google image search for “lactating men” turned up no pictures of breast-feeding men. It did turn up a rather disturbing movie from the Netherlands that I would rather not talk about.

When feminism began as a philosophical movement, the idea was that men and women were entitled to equal respect and dignity. Neither I nor legitimate Christianity has a problem with that proposition. At some point a certain sect of feminists decided that to have equality they had to insist there were absolutely no differences between men and women. Instead of respecting men as men and women as women, the entire idea of gender had to be recreated.

The result is “Sex in the City” feminism, where women supposedly find fulfillment in acting like men. Or at least like sex-crazed seventh grade boys.

There is nothing in Christianity that comes into conflict with breast-feeding. “Sex in the City” feminism, on the other hand, has much to fear from breast-feeding. That is why you will hear those people label breast-feeding mothers as “nursing Nazis.”

Breast-feeding in public is a reminder of a reality that resonates on the deepest level for women: their maternal nature. It is a giving of one’s body for the benefit of another and comes in direct conflict to the selfish nature of “Sex in the City” feminism and society at large. It is rubbing the reality of the maternal nature of women in their collective faces and some do not want to put up with it. They would rather have breasts be viewed as purely sexual objects.

In short, “Sex in the City” feminism and breast-feeding cannot coexist.

On September 9th, 2006, the La Leche League of Champaign-Urbana will host a breast-feeding awareness walk at Meadowbrook Park in Urbana at 9:30am. It is a sad statement about our society that there are awareness walks on a perfectly normal biological process; nevertheless, come out and support motherhood.

You would not be where you are without a mother who, odds are, breast-fed you.