Friday, August 7, 2009

Backlash, the next generation

Katie Allison Granju wrote this staggeringly brilliant piece on Babble today, putting the "breastfeeding backlash" in perfect perspective. I could quote practically every sentence she writes, but here are a few choice snippets:

The current breastfeeding backlash is a reaction to a certain intensity surrounding the issue of breastfeeding that did indeed gain currency over the past decade or so. But what today's mothers - the ones who are fueling the breastfeeding backlash with their criticisms and complaints - don't appreciate or maybe even realize is that the activism and advocacy they are slamming was actually an important, grassroots women's health movement that managed to fundamentally change the way our culture views and treats breastfeeding within only about ten years (!!!). And any time you have a movement that erupts out of a sense of frustration and oppression, and manages to turn that frustration into the kind of power it takes to create meaningful change on a big issue, that movement is going to have to be both pushy and loud.
She goes on with the perfect analogy:
Sort of like those women who casually enjoy the obvious fruits of second wave feminists, even as they criticize them, I suspect that many (most?) of today's mothers of babies and young children are completely unaware of how different our cultural landscape is when it comes to breastfeeding than it was only a very brief time ago. They take it for granted that their hospital has a lactation consultant, and that their insurance company will help pay for the breastpump needed to express milk for their premature baby. They can't imagine a world where ALL breastfeeding mothers (and there weren't that many) excused themselves to a cloistered location every time the baby needed to eat, or where the idea of continuing to nurse into toddlerhood was seen as pathologically bizarre. New mothers today can't imagine these things because, before becoming pregnant or having a baby themselves, they never even thought about the topic of breastfeeding, so their only context is Right Now, Today. As a result, far too many women fail to appreciate the "zealotry" that gave birth to the readily accessible breastfeeding resources, support, protections, acceptance and information they now have available; they just don't get why anyone would feel the need to engage in activism or advocacy on a topic that seems so mainstream. I meet many current moms who have this opinion because I, too, am currently the mother of a toddler, just like them.

But I also happen to be the mother of an almost-18 year old, a 14 year old, and an 11 year old. So I remember what it was like when I gave birth to my first baby, in 1991. Things were very, very different even that recently for mothers in this country who wanted to breastfeed, which I did.

She goes on to elaborate, from this unique and insightful perspective, on exactly how and how much things have changed. I could keep quoting ad nauseum, but really, go check it out.

The post also mentions articles that she herself had written over the last decade - and I actually remember some of those articles, as an avid Salon reader from its earliest days. Good stuff. This piece in particular, "Formula for Disaster", from almost exactly ten years ago, is every bit as valid and gripping today as it was then.

Katie, I owe you. I can only hope to be some small but effective part of the third wave.


  1. Great post! Thanks for visiting my blog and introducing me to yours.

  2. My pleasure. I'm following you now! (Sounds ominous, I know . . .)