Tuesday, 26 May 2009

More boob-related controversy!

THMers recently had a lively debate over a poster aimed at promoting breastfeeding, featuring a mum breastfeeding her toddler in a park. As you'd expect in a debate, some were for, and others against. I concluded that I have no problem with breastfeeding toddlers, but somehow I found the poster confronting - as if it was asking me to make a political statement with my body, when all I ever wanted as a breastfeeding mum was to be able to feed comfortably wherever I needed to.

What, then, to make of this poster? You'll excuse the quality of image - it features a little girl pretending to breastfeed her doll. The handmade poster carries the caption, `It's Normal - children copy their mothers, teenagers do it! Celebrities do it!'.

Locals of Manchester, where the poster originates from, seem to find it terribly offensive. Said one woman, "The picture is shocking and it isn't normal. Children copy their parents but I don't think any little girls should be breastfeeding their dolls." (I had to chuckle at this - this disapproving woman is a 39-year-old grandmother according to the article, and there are plenty of busy-bodies around who would tut-tut at that.)

I actually don't find this confronting in the same way as the previous poster - and I don't think it's any sort of 'shock tactic'. In fact, I think it's cute. My daughter imitated me when I breastfed her baby brother, and I'm sure little kids all around the world do the same. And why would we find this offensive? Is there some sort of 'little girls + pretend breasts = sexualisation' type of equation going on in the minds of Manchester residents?

For me, growing up around a breastfeeding mother and aunt was important to my own decision to breastfeed. In fact, it never occurred to me that I wouldn't - I didn't lack confidence in the way that a woman with no experience of breastfeeding might do.

Is this poster offensive? Personally, I don't think so. But is it an effective pro-breastfeeding campaign? That's a whole different argument...


Azlemed said...

I love the concept, both my girls breastfeed their babies.... to them its normal, they would sit beside me while I fed the baby, and they would feed their babies, the only time they use pretend bottles is to feed their animal babies.

some people just need to accept that breastfeeding isnt offensive, and that kids do copy, and its not sexual at all.

Nikki said...

'little girls + pretend breasts = sexualisationThe very fact that there was this kind of response to the poster indicates that this type of campaigning is integral to changing attitudes to breastfeeding.

I guess I feel like this poster's aim is to create discussion and counter the prevailing views in the article rather than directly support mothers to breast feed.

It is necessary for breastfeeding advocacy to be much wider than new mothers. Until society accepts breastfeeding as a norm then there are going to be all sorts of barriers to women who do already want to breastfeed... or so it seems to me.

Pauline said...

A couple of years ago a photo of my oldest daughter breastfeeding her babydoll (she was about 4) was on the cover of the NZ College of Midwives magazine. We only got positive feedback. All my kids have breastfeed their 'babies' - as the poster says "Its normal"

Deborah said...

There was a discussion of this poster at Hoyden about Town, and then some amazing follow-up.
Yes, the UK’s Daily Mail has noted that a lot of people around the world have responded to complaints made against a poster promoting breastfeeding in a Manchester area hospital, and noted that this blog was one of the first international sites to write about these complaints.
But the Daily Mail managed to misattribute an anti-breastfeeding quote to a commenter at HaT. Seems like the reporter at the Mail couldn't distinguish the activities of (a) reporting a comment in order to critique it, and (b) making a comment.