And Then I Stepped in Gum . . .

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Breastfeeding and Enjoying The View

Hey, you! Get your mind out of the gutter! This isn't about nursing voyeurism. It's about that TV show, you know, the one with five women who are each specially chosen to represent a demographic so that many people will watch? Actually, I like The View, although I've never identified with the "right" persona. Meredith Vieira is probably most like me -- bold, with a big mouth, wrapped up in the Mommy thing -- but she's at least 10 years older than I. The young ones, first Lisa Ling and now Elisabeth Hasselbeck, have never really fit me. Even Elisabeth, whose new baby is closer in age to mine than Meredith's, doesn't suit me -- for starters, she's very conservative, both politically and personally. I have never met a woman of what I would consider my generation who still uses the phrase "down there" as a substitute for vagina. And that irks me. Why bother with The Feminine Mystique et cetera if women still can't name their own body parts?

Anyway. I watched The View today (around children galloping -- literally -- around an imaginary equestrian course complete with jumps made of pillows and boxes. Boy, I love the "horsey" phase of girlhood). Apparently there was a "nurse-in" yesterday outside ABC headquarters to protest the fact that last week Barbara Walters made disparaging comments about breastfeeding in public -- sorry, Star Jones, I mean she allegedly made disparaging comments. (I happened to catch that episode, too -- BW was telling a story about how she was made uncomfortable by a woman nursing a baby in her row on an airplane.) The co-hosts seem so hurt that their remarks were taken badly, but I wasn't surprised at all.

In all the years I've been (intermittently) watching the show, whenever breastfeeding comes up, they make vaguely disparaging remarks. Meredith and Joy both say that they breastfed, but I think in each case it was for less than a year (I may be wrong about this), so any talk about extended nursing is immediately bashed. You can imagine how I feel about that, given that I nursed both my children for around 2 years each, and have known and respected many women who have gone as long or longer. Star is completely disgusted by the process in the same way my younger sister is and the same way a lot of people are before they actually have a child. Elisabeth seemed to be so grossed out by the idea of it while she was pregnant that I'm really surprised she's doing it with her new baby. It's no wonder they're the target of this nurse-in -- yet they all seemed so surprised by it.

Now don't get me wrong. I do know that many women/families choose not to nurse. I do know that there are people who are uncomfortable with breastfeeding or who have difficulty, and with people I know personally, I am supportive of doing whatever gets you through the day without strangling your child. On the other hand, I am more than willing to offer advice, support, comfort, whatever to women who are struggling with breastfeeding, because I think it's the best way to feed your child. I'm also a big fan of laying it on the line: breastfeeding is not always easy, it's not often fun, and it doesn't equal a soft-focus cozy nursery moment every single time you sit down to nurse your child. For me, it meant toe-curling, hair-straightening pain for about 6 weeks for each kid; full/leaky breasts; not leaving my children for overnight until after they turned 2; and an awful lot of sitting on the couch wishing I was doing something -- anything -- else. But I still think it's the right thing to do, and I'm proud that I did it, and I'm glad that I was able to give that experience to my children.

Where The View comes in is that they reflect and represent -- and I would argue, even influence -- the culture at large. For many, many people, breastfeeding is "icky." You should hear some of the tales out there of nursing moms being shunned or shamed or verbally dressed down in public. It's horrifying. And personally, if The View is supposed to represent women and women's points of view, I'd like to see them be more encouraging. They say they are supportive of the right to breastfeed, but I don't think they "walk the talk" as much as they think they do. I know you can't necessarily change individuals' minds, but I'd like to see them understand that by putting their own vaguely negative opinions of breastfeeding out there, they are failing to be good role models of women who support other women.

I'm sorry that I'm not yet in New York. I think I would have gone into the City for the opportunity to support women in that nurse-in.

2 comment(s):


I remember when Lisa Ling made similar comments about women breastfeeding in public when she was still on the View. I did a google search hoping to find out when that happened but came across your blog!

It's irritating to me how "educated" women can be so ignorant to make such comments. I really wish they actually did support Breastfeeding but from LL and BW comments, I see that they do not.

I'm curious how Lisa Ling is handling seeing people breastfeed in public in the third world countries she is visiting.

By Anonymous Anonymous, at 6:45 PM  

I was asked to stop breastfeeding once in a train (I was in Yorkshire at the time - UK) - it had never happened before but I smiled sweetly and said no. He looked like he was about to put up an argument so I gave him the death-stare until he went away. If people don't like 'The View' they can look away, can't they?

I think I like Lactivist better than Nipple Nazi too - although my husband has on more than one occasion called me a 'boob warrior' which I also kind of liked.

By Blogger Jenn, at 5:27 PM  

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