Note to readers: This post is specific to breastfeeding, but the author recognizes the struggles of those who are non-binary and who feed their children with their bodies and do not identify as female.
The culture surrounding breastfeeding is inexplicably torn. Many still view breastfeeding as something that should be done privately or under the cover of a cloth if absolutely necessary. Some, although they agree with the benefits of breastfeeding for babies, still get uncomfortable if they see someone breastfeeding openly, and even more so if the baby being breastfed is over one year old.
The American consumer market has taken a liking to women’s bodies. That is no secret. Advertisers use the “ideal” female figure and her breasts to sell things as minor as candy to larger things like cars. We are more comfortable as a society seeing women’s bodies used as sex symbols for capitalism than we are seeing them in their intended form. Breastfeeding is the epitome of resistance to the patriarchy.
Breastfeeding is work. It takes hours out of each day. It requires physical, mental, and emotional strength. You do not clock out of needing to breastfeed at 5pm, and you are not resigned to one specific space for breastfeeding. Breastfeeding is all encompassing. It is overwhelming, draining, nurturing of body and spirit, bond-enhancing, beautiful, and occasionally painful. Overall, it is work. It symbolizes the importance of the female body. We do not get paid for this work that we do, but it is the work that literally fuels the progress of society. It is inherently beneficial to capitalism, yet it is seen as a threat to the patriarchal economy simply because it shifts the function of a woman’s body from sexual in nature to powerful in nature. If we were to recognize breastfeeding for its true self, the life force of the universe, the patriarchy would be threatened at its very fundamental level. The bodies of women are stronger than understood. Each act of breastfeeding is an act of resistance in the face of systemic oppression against female bodies.