“We are not against anyone breastfeeding anywhere in the church. That is not what the problem was. Both breasts were totally exposed… From their perspective, it’s natural, we know, but we felt it inappropriate for boys and men, and we weren’t trying to shame, we were trying to deal with others who were uncomfortable and how they felt. Hurt, embarrassment, and shame was not intended.”
It’s a story I’ve heard time and time again. A mother with a newborn child is in public; her child becomes fussy, and the mother decides it’s feeding time. Then, everyone else around her becomes uncomfortable and decides to shame her for doing what nature intended her to do. “Look at what you’re doing to the boys and the menfolk,” they chide, placing the blame for their embarrassment on the poor mother instead of where it rightly belongs. Note this sentence in particular:
From their perspective, it’s natural, we know, but we felt it inappropriate for boys and men, and we weren’t trying to shame, we were trying to deal with others who were uncomfortable and how they felt.
Here’s an idea. Perhaps instead of blaming our women for society’s embarrassment over breastfeeding, we should be blaming the patriarchy. The mother in this story has not done anything wrong, and the way people feel about her breastfeeding is entirely on them. What’s more—and I can’t repeat this enough—women are NOT responsible for keeping the men and the boys in check. You know who’s responsible for that? The men and the boys. The real problem here has nothing to do with breastfeeding, and everything to do with how males are socialized and taught to think about women from birth.
Do you know what I do when I see a lady breastfeeding her child in public? I just smile and nod at her, and keep walking. That’s it. I don’t become embarrassed or behave as if someone has just shown me a photo of something ugly. I don’t complain to her about her body, or how she is responsible for making me feel lustful. Nor do I stand there and ogle the poor woman like she’s a Playboy centerfold. I just say to myself in my head, “Oh, there’s a nice lady breastfeeding her child,” which is almost immediately followed by a completely unrelated thought (such as, “I wonder which Omen movie Papa Emeritus II likes best?”). And that’s the way it should be.
Long story short: men need to start standing up and taking responsibility for their own emotions and behaviors. We need to stop putting it on women to fix problems like this one, because the problem actually begin with us.