Being a woman, I sometimes think, hmmm … why on earth are our bodies so different from men’s bodies? It’s not fair! Why do I have to sit to go to the restroom when public toilets are so nasty? Why don’t I have a large Adam’s apple so I can really, truly rock a scarf? Why are men generally taller than women? And what on earth are boobs for?
I mean, they’re just a pound of flesh. If you’re lucky. Even the names we give them – breastesses, boobs, tatas, boobies, chi-chis, lady lumps, fun bags – suggest the amount of relevance that they have in our culture. They’re just something to be seen and touched and sexed. If they were that important, say key to the continuation of the human race, we would have called them something that bespoke their majesty, like Medulla Oblongata or Sphincter of Oddi. Right?
Even I saw breasts as pretty one-dimensional until I had children. Good way to fill out a dress and support a billion-dollar lingerie industry. But once I had a baby, I found out what breasts are really for – they are milk sacks. Rather, Portmanteaus de Sustenance! They are designed to comfort and feed babies. It’s healthy, it’s cheap. Breasts are utilitarian, function over form. I am not here to convince anyone about why they should breast feed. I nursed my babies and supplemented with formula because that is what worked best for us. I know and love women who never nursed. I even have a wonderful friend who recognized their supremacy and donated her extra expressed breast milk to others. No, I am here to convince you that breasts – your breasts, her breasts, Pam Anderson’s breasts, my breasts – are more than just sex objects.
We have to stop this obsession with marginalization, because our bodies are not just about desirability. The human body, especially the female body, is miraculous. It can do so much more than just have sex or look pretty. It can grow people, make art, move mountains, run businesses, fight and thrive. We need to see women’s bodies in the right context.
Last week’s online coverage of Midland mother Sarah Holmes is a perfect example. As I understand it, Sarah was nursing her baby at the Midland Cracker Barrel when an employee asked her to cover up because she was bothering some customers. Yes. A woman was asked to hide the feeding of her baby. At a restaurant. Where people go. To eat.
But what’s the big deal? Couldn’t she just put a tablecloth over herself or something? No. One, some babies are picky eaters from the get-go. According to a television news story I saw, Sarah’s baby doesn’t like to be covered up when eating. So she doesn’t tent him. My Little Son liked less stimulus when he ate. If he was hungry and we were out, I covered him. More for his comfort than my privacy. Certainly not for anyone else’s comfort. Two, nursing is not about sex. Yes, it is often the result of sex, but it is not sexy. Nor is it “dirty” or unnatural in any way, so why should a woman have to hide the fact that she is feeding a baby? Women have been doing is for eons, and that’s why we have Portmanteaus de Sustenance.
Other customers wanted her to stop or go to the bathroom. The bathroom? Gross. I tried to nurse once in a public restroom. Once. Then never again. Too nasty. Would you eat your lunch in a public loo? Didn’t think so. And guess what? Babies hate the sound of flushing toilets. If you have never experienced hysterical piercing shrieks in a tin box, with literal “spilled milk” pouring out of you, you haven’t lived. And folks. Breast milk is so, so precious. If you ever struggled to make milk or keep your supply going, you know what I mean here. Personally, I think that’s what we should base the word’s economy on – breast milk. I suspect we would have fewer wars, an end to blood diamonds, and better working conditions around the world for mothers! I’m just throwing that out there in case any presidential hopefuls want to add it to their platforms. You don’t even have to give me credit.
I have not spoken to Sarah and I don’t know her personally. I only saw news clips and a picture of her feeding her son online, and honestly, I could not see why people were bothered. I saw the top of a breast and a baby’s head. Seriously. I see more boob than that in water aerobics.
Last Christmas, we witnessed a nursing mother who seemed to be putting on a weird show of some sort, purposefully drawing attention to herself and her one bared breast. More exhibition than feeding, especially since the baby was being held by someone else. And they were walking down the hall. At first, I started to tell her she had forgotten to close her shirt back up. It happens. But then I realized she was aware and it was awkward. As it always is when someone seems to be trying to shove their parts in my face. I don’t want to see boobs or men in Speedos or little girls in “booty” shorts or couples getting hot and heavy at the mall. Leave the sexy displays at home and respect yourself in public.
But from everything I’ve read and seen, Sarah was not performing at Cracker Barrel. She was just a mom in a sweatshirt with her hair pulled back, trying to feed her baby and have some amazing country cookin.’ Here is what I think really happened at Cracker Barrel. Sarah looks young. She is really beautiful. She has tattoos on her upper chest and a partially shaved head. She is petite. I suspect people judged her book by its cover and tried to push her around because she didn’t fit their perception of what motherhood is supposed to look like. And that made them uncomfortable.
What they didn’t expect though, was that Sarah would push back. In Texas, women have the right to nurse in public. Sarah refused to cover up, hush up or be put up. She has been so eloquent when speaking to the media, never rude or harsh. She just wants other women to know they can nurse in public, and that breast feeding is natural and healthy. She wants other people to know the law and that it isn’t right to try to make a woman feel ashamed.
I want the world to have more moms like Sarah. No one is going to stand up for what is right and best for mothers but other mothers. No one is going to stop sexualizing women and our daughters if we don’t tell them to stop. Time to start standing up ladies, even if we do have to occasionally sit down.