Hey you, my child needs to eat, too!

Breastfeeding in public has always been met with criticism. Why so much fuss over something so natural?

Published: 07th March 2018 04:00 AM  |   Last Updated: 06th March 2018 10:47 PM   |  A+A-

Every weekend I get nervous about this column. I panic that I’ll have nothing to react to, smirk at, or feel smug about. I keep a close watch on my kids, silently willing them to say something funny, obnoxious or profound (the last one is as rare as the blood moon). I trawl through messages on the parent populated WhatsApp groups I am a member of for irritating forwards. I pray that a celebrity will make a careless remark about baby lead weaning or organic, llama wool diapers (itchy).

Then, the universe conspires and sends me something. This week I present a combination of social media outrage, breastfeeding and direct gazes.Now, breastfeeding is a funny thing: in the abstract we all feel warm and fuzzy about it. Often the woman who is breastfeeding doesn’t feel as warm and fuzzy as everyone else, she feels tired and bovine. But everybody else LOVES the idea of it: so motherly, so wholesome, so natural. Until they actually see someone doing it IN PUBLIC. And then all hell breaks loose.

Recently, on the cover of a popular magazine was the image of a woman breastfeeding a baby with the caption: “Mothers tell Kerala, ‘please don’t stare, we need to breastfeed’”. But, but you’ve got your tatas out, people spluttered. How can we not stare? How can we NOT be outraged? How can we not slap a lawsuit against the magazine under the ‘Indecent Representation of Women (Prohibition) Act, 1986?

Now, let’s get something straight: breasts or mammary glands or choochis as some young gentlemen in my home call it, are a way to nourish young ones should one choose to procreate. That’s all. The fact that they look attractive to some people when covered in lace, latex or whipped cream isn’t really their fault, or the fault of their owners. The primary role of breasts is not to titillate. Or to have songs written about them comparing them to mangoes. Or to be groped in public transport. Those are things other people have decided to do with them and to them.  

People seem to have many issues with the cover: it’s obscene, it’s using sex to demean something that is spiritual, the model is a Christian who is wearing sindoor, hence this is an attempt to demean Hindu women. The woman is staring right into the camera. For shame! She should be looking embarrassed, abashed and apologetic as most women do when they breastfeed their baby in public, even though they have a queen-sized duvet covering both of them.

People who have a problem with breastfeeding in public: imagine if YOU couldn’t eat outside and were really hungry and had to wait two hours till you got home to eat. Does that seem fair? Or if you had to eat your lunch in a smelly public toilet that has one small, uncomfortable chair set aside for you. Imagine if Twitter went crazy over pictures of you eating a Subway at the mall and took you to court. Advice: Don’t look.   My only crib with the magazine cover was how it was styled. Don’t get me wrong, it was gorgeous. But really, nothing beats a front zipped floral nightie from Naidu Hall for feeding baby. Word.

Menaka Raman

@menakaraman

The writer’s philosophy is: if there’s no blood, don’t call me

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