I've joined in too, when my timing is right, and have witnessed even more. Most of the instigating remarks, I'm sad to say, I've kind of gotten used to - I mean, spend even a few months online reading about the topic in various internet forums, and you're bound to encounter tired old tropes like the typically ignorant "If he can ask for it, he's too old to nurse," and the mockery of all things logical that is "I know it's natural and all, but so is poo - do it in privacy of the bathroom." But I truly heard a new one just a few days ago.
Are you sitting down? Well, I guess you probably are, seeing as how this is on a computer screen. Are you currently in the process of consuming a beverage? Finish swallowing, put the drink down. Okay, then, read on**:
AlanArbelaez: Theres a woman #bfng out in the open, tits exposed. Wtf is wrong w/her? It's like a man feeding his baby w/his penis.It's like a man feeding his baby - with his penis. I'll give you a moment to process that.
Yes, this really was taken from him verbatim. What's amazing is that only a handful of lactivist Tweeps descended upon him - and did a fine job, might I add, most notably MommyNews, LactatingGirl and Morgaine_LaFay. Kudos, ladies. In terms of sheer numbers, he got off easy, relative to the statement he made. But I was truly astonished that he didn't backtrack whatsoever. Subsequent Tweets of his included these gems, roughly in order of the 'conversation':
@MommyNews you wouldn't want to see a mans penis out in the open like that right? Well why is it ok for her to have her tits out?
@MommyNews If a woman wants to breastfeed in public, do everyone a moral and ethical favor and COVER UP!
@Morgaine_LaFay It's not about looking or not looking. It's the fact that you are showing your breast in public that offends people.
@MommyNews no, what offends me is the pure lack of common sense and her audacity to breastfeed in public without covering herself.
@LactatingGirl I don't want to. Milk bottles exist! use one and you can avoid annoying your kid and the public.
@LactatingGirl I kno that, but as a collective opinion, people find exposed breasts in public, offensive. Surely you can't disagree on that!
RT this. I will stop being offended when i can look at woman breastfeeding and she won't look back at me with a mad/weird look on her face.
Finally, he retweeted one of his own, a friend chiming in to support his views:
RT @phyliciax3 @Alan Arbelaez I saw a lady doing that last month, couldnt believe it! lol; people act like its normal, cover urself @ least!!I came in after the fact by about an hour, so couldn't do much more than RT the "feeding a baby with his dick" quip, to which he later responded, saying:
Which I had, of course (see above), and I informed him that directly quoting someone cannot possibly be "twisting" their words. It's not even remotely taken out of context, either. So goes another day of great rhetoric on the internet. Are we as a (very loosely defined) community overreacting to things like this? Why get worked up about one isolated Tweet, or even one Tweeter? He's just a 19 year old kid, after all.
Alan Arbelaez @Dou_la_la That actually sounds hilarious! but no, you are twisting my words. check the convo @MommyNews and i had before you RT stuff.
Why? Because underlying his outward projection of pseudo-chasteness is the perversion of the primary, if not entire, biological raison d'etre for breasts, period. If that sounds intolerably prudish, bear with me (I've got nothing against a little healthy perversion in the right situation). The original purpose of breasts is actually not to provide visual stimulation for men or accessories to their arousal, not that you'd guess it if you were an alien to this planet leafing through pretty much any magazine or channel surfing on even basic cable. Breasts have become sexualized - fetishized, I daresay - by our culture. Hence, our 19 year old's joke about feeding a child with his penis really does reveal EXACTLY what he thinks about breasts: they are sexual organs, and hey, his penis is a sexual organ, so in his mind, why would feeding a baby with his penis be any different? Many a true word is Tweeted in jest.
The above is not to say that I don't relate to the aesthetic appeal of the human body, including the female form - I most certainly do. Do I buy into it to a degree, even if mostly unconsciously? Like an animal lover reconciling their dietary compromises with their idealism, I have to admit that I do. I own cleavage-revealing clothing and bust-enhancing bras, and have been known to, let's say, exploit my own figure from time to time. And it's also not to say that a woman's own experience of her breasts as an erogenous zone is not legitimate - believe me, I most definitely understand that too. But this is all about context, and about reducing the damage, just as it is with the analogy of our food choices, and starting to change the entire framework. I am certainly not saying it has to be one way or the other - breasts are EITHER for aesthetic and sexual pleasure OR for feeding babies only. I don't believe this has to be mutually exclusive. But I do think that choosing the former over the latter is both destructive and completely irrational.
Getting more fundamental, why else is changing this perception important? Because every negative remark to the effect that a mother had the "audacity" to nurse her child - i.e. feed her child according to the biological norm - within view of another adult is a remark that shames, and that shame may contribute to another woman deciding to cut her breastfeeding relationship short, or to never start one at all. It may cause her to feel guilty and uncomfortable and defensive about nursing throughout her baby's time at the breast, to the detriment not only of her baby but of herself as well. And our already low breastfeeding rates are nothing less than a national health crisis.
*Twitter terminology: RT is a retweet, as in reposting someone else's statement. And putting # in front of a word is called a hashtag, which makes that tweet searchable & thus spreads it to a wider audience of people looking for tweets on that topic.
**If you're unfamiliar with Twitter, the posts with @ plus a name right afterward are Tweets from this guy replying TO the person named, i.e. if it started with @Dou_la_la, it would be addressed to me.
EDIT: I originally withheld the name of the Tweeter in question, but it was recommended that I go ahead and name names, since it's all public domain by definition anyway. I gave it some thought and decided to go ahead. Congrats, young master Arbelaez!