Fear the Baby, Not the Breast

The XX Factor
What Women Really Think
June 22 2010 4:33 PM

Fear the Baby, Not the Breast

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Sarah-in your post on Kim Kardashian's angry tweet about a fellow restaurant-goer who breast-fed her baby at the table (and then changed its diaper!), you write: "Kardashian appears to have little problem flashing her goods for the world to see, but when breasts are attached to babies, they somehow become repulsive."

I think there's something to that: Maybe it's not simply the breast that's weird, but the baby . I know, I know, I love infants, too, when they're smiling and yawning and biting their siblings . But if I get uncomfortable around a woman breast-feeding in public, it's less about seeing her nipples than it is about watching the baby go to town on said nipples. For a woman who has never been pregnant or nursed a baby, the whole process seems a little alien and uncanny-like sex before you've had it, or a period before you've gotten yours. (Isn't there some feminist critic who's written about this? Help me out, readers.) We're in a moment where breast-feeding is shifting from something done in private-like sex and menstruation-to something increasingly being done in public. So I'm not surprised that it's still seen as "gross" by some, because they're so used to it being a hidden, or at least intimate, practice.

I certainly think women should be able to nurse their babies in public without being harassed. (Though, like commenter Shylo , I think doing so in a crowded store aisle is, at the very least, inconsiderate.) But I don't think people's discomfort with it is purely about "sexualizing" the female body.

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Photograph by Jaimie Reina/AFP.