As you may have heard, lactivists are nursing mothers ticked off about criticism of breast-feeding voiced by Barbara Walters, that wonderful member of the tribe on "The View." It seems that she announced a few weeks ago on the air that the sight of a woman nursing next to her on an airplane made her "uncomfortable."
That's all these lactating activists had to hear. According to a piece in the June 7 New York Times, these mothers marched down to ABC headquarters in Manhattan last week, infants in tow, carrying signs proclaiming: "Shame on View" and "Babies are born to be breastfed."
According to reporter Amy Harmon, the protest was only the tip of the iceberg. "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.' "
The piece detailed other legislative triumphs, and noted that the number of women who choose to breast-feed rose to about 70 percent in 2003. Still, squeamishness was expressed by business owners, parents and legislators who continue to "debate" the health benefits of breast-feeding against the discomfort some people feel toward nursing in public.
But this new generation of lactivists let Harmon know that the discomfort people have is similar "to discomfort with seeing interracial couples or gays holding hands."
Rebecca Odes, co-founder of "The New Mom" blog on the Web, who attended the ABC protest, told the Times: "It's like any other prejudice. They have to get used to it. 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."
The best quote in the article came from Marilyn Yalom, author of History of the Breast, who said that more than in other countries, the breast is seen here as a sexual object only.
In addition, "we live in a very mechanistic society and almost anything that doesn't come out of a package is somehow suspect. So milk that comes out of a real human breast, we're not very comfortable with, it brings us too close to our animal nature."
Countless numbers of us pay lip service to quickly finding a cure for breast cancer, but should said breast not be kept under wraps – sequestered for male pleasure only – then it immediately becomes ugly or perverse. The queasiness about breast-feeding has much to do with antagonism toward women, and the denigration of child-rearing as a worthwhile enterprise. Things will only change in our society when men respect women and truly covet children, and their source of sustenance – at any time and in any place.