The other day I was tagged in a post about nursing in public. A debate had ensued over the line between a mother's right to feed as she sees fit and a certain person's right to "not have to see such things." The dialogue was vitriolic as one would expect. Not surprisingly the majority of women on the thread were pointedly arguing how their right was no match for his preference. If I had joined the argument it would have only been to add my own reaction to the whole thing:
It being late, I instead opted to sleep on my reaction and woke up still thinking about poor Kevin and how invested he seemed in getting his perspective across.
Kevin, I heard you.
Though his comment and the kerffufle that resulted appears to have been deleted- I'll try to paraphrase, “There’s a time and a place” "No one should have to look at that" "It makes me (and my girlfriend) uncomfortable" "It's not that hard to use a cover"
I continued thinking about him later in the day, as I nursed my toddler at the playground yesterday. I caught sight of a small boy over by the swings staring at me. I wish I could say he had a curious expression on his face, but I really couldn't tell and so I moved my attention on to my sweet little one taking a drink break from running around. And just like that, Kevin, I moved on from the sight of someone/something that mmaaayyyybe one would say I had to address or “look at” but in reality was of no consequence. (For completeness sake, I glanced back and noticed the boy now playing on the swings with his sister…I guess he thought he “didn’t have to see that” also and moved on.)
But your point about it making you- more specifically that the sight of a nursing mother in public makes your girlfriend uncomfortable- I want to let you know I COMPLETELY AGREE. I too find it very very hard to not peal my eyes away. Maybe that little boy on the playground felt the same way you do, or perhaps he felt the same as me? We’re not supposed to look at other people’s private parts in public, especially when they’re not actually showing them to us. But golly gee I just want to look and look and look… Nursing is fascinating and magical. That a woman's beautiful breast has a utility and that it’s so rarely seen in a context of designed use that it causes pause. I was taught my whole life that breasts are private, that they're only for personal intimate exposures. But Kevin, that was a lie, and it's time you and your girlfriend learned the truth.
Breastfeeding and nurturing are incredibly powerful acts and our society must change the paradigm of looking at them like they’re not. Perhaps “change” is a poor word choice. Rather, our society must RETURN to the paradigm of looking at them like they’re normal and essential elements of civilized life.
Timeline showing how long public breastfeeding has been OK vs. Not OK
Because unless we undo this very recent “there’s a time and place” nonsense, the knowledge and normalcy will continue to be lost, and with it the potential of the most brilliant of our next generation… you DO know that there is no better nutrition for infants than breastmilk, right? Like, clinically, scientifically proven.
Still, I want to get back to hearing you. I feel like I can try to understand your perspective when I put together the fact that nursing my child is an intimate thing, yet done in public, makes for an interesting juxtaposition. Add to that those among our population who struggle with images of nudity in a pornographic sense, and their own choices when they encounter incidental nudity at the park bench while my older children play. Sure I could say it sounds like a “you” problem, but I really do get what’s incongruent here. And I do sympathize. May I suggest that fully educating yourself about breastfeeding would help to shift your mindset and better define the difference between something you’re “not supposed to see” and the sight of a woman simply feeding her child. That’s what really helped me. Or hey, you could just control where your eyes go.
It is magic. It is beautiful. It is scientifically and spiritually glorious! And the lie is that you aren't supposed to know about it. The lie is that "you don't need to see that". But the truth is yes, you do. If you and your girlfriend (and the rest of our society) would know how amazing her own design is- there would be no question about whether she needs to think about others comfort before her own child's. Not when choosing a shirt in the morning and certainly not when faced with their own hungry child.- whenever or wherever that may be.
And yeah, it IS hard to use a nursing cover.