Oh, no you didn't, Bill Maher!

Monday, September 17, 2007

I listen to Bill Maher's podcast every week since we don't get HBO, and I have to admit I was a little offended after hearing his "New Rules" section during which he completely slams breastfeeding in public. He says American women think they deserve a medal for giving birth, which is something a dog can do. Urban Mamas sums it up pretty well on their blog, and they have a link to the youtube clip as well. Skip ahead to about the 7th minute of the clip to hear the section on breastfeeding. I know this guy gets paid to be controversial, but he finally managed to pick a topic that hit home with me. And what's up with him taking the conservative side on this issue? Hey, for a liberal, he's starting to sound pretty narrow-minded.

To be honest, the very fact that this issue is controversial at all is completely ridiculous. I really wish the United States would overall get off their Puritanical high-horse and stop sexualizing the breast. This is the root of why there is a controversial issue here at all. After all, breasts are primarily there for breastfeeding. Those opposed to public breastfeeding want women to breastfeed in bathroom stalls and hidden rooms, away from the public eye. Maybe those who are so against breastfeeding in public should try out all the isolation breastfeeding in private means for a new mother and see how they like it. It really comes down to this: our country does not value mothers or families no matter how family-values are talked up at political campaigns (especially on the Republican front). Apparently, it's more important that we put our money into the war in Iraq than into funding for universal healthcare and paid maternity leave. This says a lot about our nation's values. It should come as no surprise that a nation that does not provide paid maternity leave to women would also in general look down on a woman breastfeeding her baby publicly.

As a mother who practices attachment parenting, feeding on demand is a big part of how I parent my baby. Believing that babies cry for a reason, I respond accordingly. When I had Samuel, breastfeeding was so awkward in the beginning as a new mother, that I used to breastfeed privately just to get everything set up and save myself any embarrassment from making a complete spectacle of myself. I'd sit and cry in a back room or bathroom stall while I breastfed, separated from everyone else in the other room talking, laughing, and having fun. I could have used a good laugh in those days. Being alone at that point was not what I needed. I made a decision about 6 weeks after Samuel was born that I would no longer breastfeed in private. It was more important for me and the baby to be around other people than it was to spare someone's uncomfortable feelings. Of course, I didn't make a spectacle of it, as Bill Maher seems to think mother's always do. I believe he called it "pulling a Janet Jackson." I'd be discreet while breastfeeding, but I'd also breastfeed openly and without reservation. According to Bill Maher, it's public breastfeeding that is the issue, but socialization is the very thing that new mothers need. This helps combat post-partum depression, unnecessary isolation, and encourages an overall feeling of community, which is something that is largely lacking in today's society.

The saying goes that it takes a village to raise a child. Unfortunately, most of us don't have the village these days, and if we did, this job of parenting would be so much easier. The way I see it, we can create a village around us by being supportive of one another--and in this case, being supportive of breastfeeding mothers. If we can begin with that...who knows...maybe one day we'll match the standards in other progressive countries and give women the paid time-off they need to care for their babies.

Image from http://siteresources.worldbank.org/INTLAC/Images/Malnutrition_in_CA_breastfeeding.jpg

2 comments:

Jeremy & Andrea said...

I love the picture! I couldn't agree more :-).

This second time around I'm much less self-conscious about nursing in public (I actually wasn't that self-conscious the first LOL). And while I'm as discreet as possible I never use a blanket. Sawyer doesn't like one and it was a hot summer so I didn't want him to suffer under there just to avoid someone seeing a glimpse of skin. So silly really.

I love seeing women nurse in public and wish more women felt comfortable doing it. I've always wanted to do a 'nurse-in' as well :-). Maybe one day I'll get my chance!

Annagrace said...

Yes, yes, yes! I totally agree! And don't get me started on how the US stacks up on issues of family leave and health care compared to other developed nations...it's truly a crime and the root of many of our society's problems.

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