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Lactivists Take Their Bulging Tits to the Streets

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Our obsession with the female tit (or is it fear?) has a new movement to suck on. Now ‘Lactivists,” moms who breast-feed publicly, are taking their gazoombas to the streets. It’s one big fat nurse-in. They’re gonna stick their lactating tatas right in your face, dude.

The calls for a “nurse-in” began on the Internet mere moments after Barbara Walters uttered a negative remark about public breast-feeding on her ABC talk show, “The View.”

The protest, inspired by similar events organized by a growing group of unlikely activists nationwide in the last year, brought about 200 women to ABC’s headquarters yesterday. They stood nursing their babies in the unmistakably public venue of Columbus Avenue and West 67th Street. They held signs reading, “Shame on View,” and “Babies are born to be breastfed.” Ms. Walters, who remarked a few weeks ago on the show that the sight of a woman breast-feeding on an airplane next to her had made her uncomfortable, said through a spokesman that “it was a particular circumstance and we are surprised that it warrants a protest.”

But the rally at ABC is only the most visible example of a recent wave of “lactivism.” Prodded by mothers who say they are tired of being asked to adjourn to the bathroom while nursing in a public space, six states have recently passed laws giving a woman the right to breast-feed wherever she “is otherwise authorized to be.”

An Ohio bill saying a woman is “entitled to breast-feed her baby in any place of public accommodation” passed last month over the objection of one representative who wanted to exempt businesses from liability for accidents caused by “spillage.”

“I really don’t know any women who ‘spill,’ ” said Lisa Wilson, the mother of a 4-month-old in Fairview Park, Ohio, who helped organize a nurse-in at a local deli to support the bill.

The moves come as the number of American mothers who choose to breast-feed has climbed to about 70% in 2003, the last year for which information was available, from about 50% in 1990. Many otherwise apolitical women say they found themselves unexpectedly transformed into lactivists after fielding a nasty comment or being asked to stop nursing in public.

“We’re all told that breast-feeding is the best, healthiest thing you can do for your child,” said Lorig Charkoudian, 32, who started the Web site www.nurseatstarbucks.com after being asked to use the bathroom to nurse at her local Starbucks. “And then we’re made to feel ashamed to do it without being locked in our homes.”

In interviews and Internet discussions, hundreds of women recount being asked to stop nursing in public spots, including the Children’s Museum in Huntsville, Ala.; a knitting store in the East Village; a Radisson Hotel lobby in Virginia; a public bus in Los Angeles; and a city commission meeting in Miami Beach.

“It’s nothing against breast-feeding, it’s about exposing yourself for people who don’t want to see it,” said Scotty Stroup, the owner of a restaurant in Round Rock, Tex., where a nursing mother was refused service last fall.

But the new generation of lactivists compare discomfort with seeing breast-feeding in public to discomfort with seeing interracial couples or gays holding hands. “It’s like any other prejudice. They have to get used to it,” said Rebecca Odes, co-founder of “The New Mom” blog, who attended the ABC protest. “People don’t want to see it because they feel uncomfortable with it, and they feel uncomfortable with it because they don’t see it.”

Whether to breast-feed in public, many nursing mothers say, is not simply a matter of being respectful of another person’s sensibilities. They cite research by the Food and Drug Administration showing that the degree of embarrassment a mother feels about breast-feeding plays a bigger role in determining whether she is likely to do so than household income, length of maternity leave or employment status.

Even mothers who are committed to nursing say they are shaken when confronted with the hostility or consternation of strangers observing them. “People make you feel like you’re doing something dirty, almost,” said Rene Harrell, 26, of Chantilly, Va., who said she was recently asked to leave a Delta airport lounge in Atlanta as she nursed her 8-month-old son, Elijah. Once on the plane awaiting takeoff, she said, a man across the aisle complained loudly about her into his cellphone as she continued to nurse. The scene, said Ms. Harrell, reminded her of the one Ms. Walters described, which she read about on an Internet discussion board. “It’s just, where would you like me to go so I don’t bother you by being here?” Ms. Harrell said. “He was not on solids. It’s not like I could have given him something to tide him over. He needed to eat.”

I SAY, free all lactating tits, so babies can suck openly in the streets. Maybe it will ease our obsession with this most natural of objects. And hey, a tit naturally enlarged by mother’s milk is a mighty fine sight, anyway.

In related news, controversial academic Yale Professor Craphogger has proposed a demonstration to restore “the inherent dignity of a man relieving himself.” In a massive pee-in, 500 of his male students are going to line up on the east side of New York’s Central Park and piss on 5th Avenue.

About Adam Ash

  • http://www.bhwblog.com bhw

    Please don’t compare nursing an infant with pissing, even jokingly. They’re not related in the least.

    Anyone who thinks women should nurse babies in a public restroom should first go eat their meal in one and see how enjoyable the experience is.

    And Baba Wawa should do what everyone else near a nursing mother should do: shut the fuck up and look the other way.

  • http://www.bhwblog.com bhw

    Adam, do you have a link to the article you quoted? And where does the quote begin and end — I think I know but I’m not positive. You need to use the ‘blockquote’ tag.

  • http://adamash.blogspot.com adam

    Link from NY Times.

    I don’t know how to do the block quote thingy. It sure looks nice.

  • http://www.bhwblog.com bhw

    It’s easy. Log back in to MT to see how it looks. I’ll put the link in for you.

  • http://www.angel-and-soulmate-selfhelp.com/blog.html Angela Chen Shui

    Lactivists unite! Seems so silly that this is even necessary. Were Barbara and all these others ALL bottle-fed? They’re just jealous, right? ;-)
    ‘Uncomfortable’ with a woman loving her baby enough to breastfeed? Pleaseeeeeeee…

  • http://darkeroticism.blogspot.com swingingpuss

    A woman is another’s worst enemy.

    bhw, Baba Wawa sure sounds funny ;)

  • http://www.bhwblog.com bhw

    It was even funnier when Gilda said it. 8-)

  • http://darkeroticism.blogspot.com swingingpuss

    I think breastfeeding is the most convenient thing nature gifted us with.

    Thankfully even the poor can afford it orelse infants born in families living under the poverty line might perish.

  • http://adamash.blogspot.com adam

    bhw,
    Thanks.
    Tried the blockquote tag on my own blog, but it told me that the tag wasn’t closed, whatever the heck that means.

  • http://www.bhwblog.com bhw

    Ahhhhh … at the end of the quoted text, you do have to “close” the ‘blockquote’ tag. You put the word ‘blockquote’ in brackets, just like when you start the tag, but you also put a / in front of the word blockquote, inside the tags. If you log back in and scroll to the end of the long quote, you’ll see the closing tag.

  • http://blogcritics.org/author.php?author=Cerulean Cerulean

    This kind of language is no ok

  • http://www.bhwblog.com bhw

    Oh, sure it is. We’re all “growmups,” as my son would say.

  • http://blogcritics.org/author.php?author=Cerulean Cerulean

    And yes, it is fear. Just one guess, Mommy problems?

    And you’re claiming to be heterosexual?

  • http://darkeroticism.blogspot.com swingingpuss

    Cerulean, do you mean html or bared tits?

  • http://cowbells.blogspot.com mpho

    Lactivists – I love it. Thanks for sharing. I can’t wait to pass this on to my La Leche League friends. And no, I’m not lactating, but I have a few “mommy” friends who are, maybe even as I post this comment!

  • TerriO

    I nursed my son for a year, as most pediatricians recommend. I was always very comfortable nursing in public and never encountered any problems. I think my husband had more of a problem with it then I did! I would get ready to “whip it out”, so to speak, and he would ask incredulously if I was really going to do that in public. It took him almost 3-4 months to finally get used to it!

  • Nancy

    I have to admit it makes me very uncomfortable when someone pulls out a boob and flashes it around. I have no problem with those who are somewhat subtle about it, draping a scarf or little baby blanket over their shoulders, but I’ve encountered a few who just haul everything out and let it hang there while they arrange their purse, the kid, etc. and I gotta say it sure does kill the appetite. I do NOT look on and think ‘Ooooo…how natural!’ or admire their dedication to feeding their children naturally.

    While I’m at it, I object very strongly to women who think it’s hunky-dory to change the baby’s didies on a restaurant table, park bench, or such places. Maybe you think your kid’s shit is ice cream, but feces and urine-soaked diapers making contact with surfaces where others have to eat or sit or have contact is not only unbelievably selfish and stupid, it’s illegal. Unfortunately, most of this type of self-absorbed, antisocial behavior (not to mention unhygenic and just plain rude) seems to be associated so far in my experience with women who like to flaunt their lactating. I hope it isn’t also a plank of the Lactivist platform that these women feel it’s also natural to fling their babies’ crap around and the rest of us had “better get used to it”?

  • http://www.bhwblog.com bhw

    Nancy, as someone who breast fed her two children, I’m kind of tuned in to women who are nursing in public. I have honestly NEVER seen the behavior you describe, where someone flashes a breast.

    I never needed to use a blanket or towel to cover the baby’s head because today’s nursing tops and bras are so well designed. It’s very easy to be discreet — anyone who isn’t, isn’t trying. But these same people aren’t inconsiderate because they’re lactating: they’re the kind of people who are inconsiderate no matter what they’re doing or where they are.

    Same goes for the people who change diapers on tables. It’s unsanitary, and it’s not fair to the people around you. But sometimes babies have to be changed, and a park bench is all you have. Again, a considerate parent uses a changing pad, which are standard issue in diaper bags, and is as discreet, sanitary, and fast as possible.

    But again, the people who aren’t didn’t become inconsiderate when they had children. They were already inconsiderate. They just added new behaviors to their repertoire.

  • Nancy

    Come to think of it, I don’t like seeing gays OR straights hanging all over each other in public. If people must grope, paw, and tonsil-touch the object of their affection, they should go home and do it in private.

  • http://www.bhwblog.com bhw

    Or you could avert your eyes and go about your business. Sorry that the rest of the world doesn’t conform its behavior to suit your personal tastes.

  • JR

    Let’s get our priorities straight.

    Screaming babies: offensively annoying

    Breast-feeding babies: not so much

    If a public breast feeding is going to shut the kid up, it should be MANDATORY.

  • http://www.bhwblog.com bhw

    Stopping the screaming was always my first priority when my kids were babies. Nothing works better than a boob.

  • http://w6daily.winn.com/ Phillip Winn

    A little bit of respect for other people goes a long way. Some effort to be discreet about nursing seems like a good thing (and by that I don’t mean that nursing women should hide in bathrooms), and just ignoring the sight of nursing if it bothers you would go a long way, too.

    The people that weird me out are the ones who, um, like the sight of nursing. Not in a “Oh, good, a baby being cared for” way, but in a “I wanna sneak a peek” way. That’s just strange.

  • JR

    Well, “sneaking a peek” is pretty low-class, but I have to say I like to see that there’s a bit of humanity left in a mechanized, button-down, time-clock punching world.

  • http://miriamsideas.blogspot.com miriam

    In order to nurse a baby, the mother must have adequate nutrition.

    Until the 18th century, most children who died in infancy died of starvation. Mal-nourished women cannot provide nutrition to an infant.

    Rich people hired wet nurses. Poor women couldn’t.

  • http://victorplenty.blogspot.com Victor Plenty

    People who want nursing mothers to hide in bathrooms may just be afraid they might fail to restrain their own temptation to stare, in much the same way as the people Phillip mentions.

    Sometimes I get slightly embarrassed because I will see something unusual out of the corner of my eye, focus for a moment to figure out what’s going on over there, and then when I realize it’s a mother nursing a baby, look away as quickly as possible, out of worry that I could look like one of those weird staring people.

    But all that is entirely my own problem, and no reason to impose any guilt trips on nursing mothers.

  • http://w6daily.winn.com/ Phillip Winn

    I think most women can tell the difference between curiousity and leering, but I suppose I could be wrong.

  • http://adamash.blogspot.com adam

    When I was a kid, I used to stare hard at nursing mothers. Maybe I was a pervert when I was a kid.

  • Dawn

    When you were a kid I seriously doubt you ever saw a nursing mother.

    Nursing is only now making a comeback and while I proudly nursed my daughter until she was about three, with the new conversative tide ever encrouching, I have to admit, I take the poor 18-month-old into a bathroom these days – and that is indeed no place for a little man to eat.

  • http://adamash.blogspot.com adam

    I grew up in South Africa. Nursing moms were everywhere. It’s only in the US where they get hung up on shit like this: everywhere else women go topless on beaches without anyone batting an eye. Just one example.

  • Catty Mama

    Just a comment on breastfeeding in public….We STILL live in a very Victorian society here in the U.S…compared to the Eurpopean nations where women not only breastfeed in public, but often go topless with nothing on but a light-weight skirt. They almost NEVER wear panties, either, as they are considered to be detrimental to a woman’s health…promoting yeast infections, etc. Geez…here we go into nice restaurants and are forced to look at men (and some women) who are COVERED with hideous (MY opinion!) tattoos, rings through the nose (and..um…”nose excreta” attached..YUK), rings through the lips, exposed bellies, and yet we are PREJUDICED against a woman who breastfeeds in public…a normal and natural part of nature??? REALLY…Gimme a break!! And yes, I have breastfed my babies in the past in the car, in a public place with my hubby’s hands covering any exposed breast as well as at home. I’ve never worn a bra anyway as to me, they are like some kind of “harness”…hurting my back, shoulders and covering a normal part of my anatomy. Hey…we don’t ASK that men put THEIR personal part in some kind of weird sling!! I’ve never worn panties, either, but prefer a dress which covers all the parts thought of as “dirty” here in the U.S., but also allows me to remove it quickly as soon as I’m home (I live on a remote 200 acres with my wonderful hubby and kids) or to lift it to my waist while riding alone in the car with my hubby. What a shame we are so very prudish in this country as the entire female body is so very beautiful…breasts and all.

  • Nancy

    Underwear is worn mainly for reasons of keeping more expensive outer clothes clean, not for reasons of morality…at least that’s how it started out. Underwear wasn’t regularly worn until around the time of the US Civil War. Bras are also intended not for covering but for trying to arrest or at least retard the effects of gravity. Of course the clothing/lingerie industry has created all kinds of other rationales for wearing undies, besides the obvious of getting their mitts on our money.

  • Martin Taylor

    Ladies please don’t think I’m sick or perverted for saying this but take it from one mans point of view: It is a very sexy turn on for me to see a pregnant women!! Yes I love the way your tits look!! it’s not the case of being big or small it’s the nipple that’s the sexist!! I guess I’ve always wanted to see what breastmilk tastes like!! When my wife was pregnant with our first child, she thought I was sick and didn’t want any part of it. So I say if a women wants to show her tit in public….the more the marrier!! But please don’t get mad if us guys want a peek just smile at us and let us know that you caught us looking…Keep up the good work!!

  • http://whataboutruby.blogspot.com Heather

    I am a breastfeeding mother of an almost 12 month old. I truly do not get what all the fuss is about. My husband is morbidly embarrassed by my brestfeeding in public. I think he thinks every person out there is staring at me/us/him with Martin (previous comment) like thoughts. Who cares?! I am feeding my child – I’m not auditioning for Girls Gone Wild! I could give a rats ass if people are gawking. This country is so f-ng uptight about the human body.

  • http://www.origamiintherain.com momo

    It amazes me how people are terrified of using the word, “breast.” It is also amazing at how people seem to believe breasts are somehow spring-loaded and when a woman so much as discreetly adjusts her nursing shirt, her breasts spring forth like a dam breaking. Seriously, someone’s going to lose an eye if this is the case. More babies would suffer concussions as well.

    Why is a explicity and sexually displayed breast seen as desirable and a barely seen breast functioning biologically is seen as “gross”? Why is everyone so terrified of breasts?

    Some of the comments seem to be against the idea of women “flaunting” breasts; I’m not sure why lactating is a prerequisite for flaunting. We see women flaunting their breasts every day in public, on the streets and in the media. I went to the grocery store and was treated (not) to a woman in sheer white pants with a clearly visible thong stuffed up her ass cleavage. I went to the bursar’s office at college and the woman at the information window barely had her breasts covered. She didn’t even have the excuse of needing to feed a cranky, crying and hungry child.

    Let’s get real about this ridiculous “flaunting” stuff. Breastfeeding moms are baby focused. When I feed my daughter I am looking at HER, not at those around me. We stay as discreet as possible and I’d much rather she not disturb others by crying. People who are uncomfortable don’t have to look at us. They really shouldn’t be looking, anyway. Maybe I should toss them a porn mag or something “acceptable” and “appropriate.”
    What a world.

    BREAST!

    Scared you, didn’t I?

  • Tom

    Remind me to carry a camera around.

    There are lots of “natural functions” we humans have little choice about, but if they’re so proud of showing this one in public, a photo or two shouldn’t bother them. If having their picture taken in PUBLIC bothers them, perhaps they should look more kindly on the subtle use of a blanket or scarf…

  • Hmm

    But at the same time bhw, don’t be uposet at people who can’t help but notice when you make a show of strutting down a store aisle breastfeeding just so people can all see how great a mother you are. So how about you go abut your business, feed your kid and move on…

  • disagree

    No Dawn, nursing has not just made a huge comeback in many areas. It’s probably because many woman can do it discreetly and quickly while out and about. Breastfeeding is alive and well in many areas. I suggest not going by bitter women on internet pages who have various “angry stories” to tell about places.

    These are the same women who are now picked on by these new “crunchy” moms because these older women didn’t feel the need to take out their entire breast to feed. They also didn’t feel any need to give lectures and force info down other people’s throat.

  • I dont see it.

    I’ve noticed many woman breastfeeding in public and NOBODY around them made any big deal about it. Quite a few times I was in restaurants when they did it.

    I really don’t think this issue is as bad as some “lactivists” claim.

  • To post 35

    Nah, you didn’t scare anyone, but you look like an idiot with that bad sarcasm. :P

    To be fair you might want to talk to your fellow breastfeeders who choose to use baby feeding time as a lesson for anyone and everyone near them.

    You tell people not to look but it’s kind of obnoxious when you have a woman next to you in a line or a restaurant or wherever making loud comments and giving these stupid little lessons to her friends near her. Nobody cares! Just feed you damn baby and move on. It’s like a contest with some mothers regarding their breastfeeding abilities.

  • http://drdreadful.blogspot.com Dr Dreadful

    To the author of the last four comments: please stick to one user name when commenting.

    Thanks,
    Assistant Comments Editor