As a woman, I'm no stranger to sexism. It's sad to say, but learning how to deal with, come to terms with, or circumvent sexist behavior seems to be engrained in nearly every woman. Whether it's subtle, sexist comments that we can't help but notice or obviously sexist things that no one should ever say to a woman, we've all been there and we, as women, have all heard sexist comments that force us to either stand up and deal with or ignore the sexism that plagues our culture.
But, I'd be very quick to argue that breastfeeding (especially publicly) subjects a woman to more sexist shit than any other act she may partake in. When you expose a portion of your body that an entire culture has deemed sexual, and therefore, somehow bad, in order to sustain another human being's life, you're opening yourself up to judgement, shame, and sometimes outright torment. Far too many people feel entitled to comment on a woman's body, and the choices she makes for and with it. Breastfeeding is a choice (and a specific ability, because there are many women who choose to breastfeed, but sadly can't) and it is one that others have decided to disagree with.
And that disagreement has left others saying horrible things to women who breastfeed; shaming them and judging them and making them (or attempting to make them) feel bad for a very natural, very necessary act. It's disgusting that society has become so entitled as to shame women for their bodies and the choices they make with them. It's embarrassing, that we are all part of a society that believes it has the right to dictate what women do with their bodies (and when and where and for what reasons that woman should do or not do whatever thing involving her body).
It's beyond time that this becomes a thing of the past, and the first step in fixing any problem is admitting one exists. So, with that in mind, here are eight reasons why breastfeeding subjects you to more sexist shit than almost anything else.
You're In Control Of Your Own Body
I'm starting to think that society doesn't want a woman to make her own decisions about her own body at all. Or maybe most people don't even know how to unlearn the ways they've been subconsciously conditioned to view women's bodies as public property. I know, it's a stretch, what with reproductive rights still being attacked. But when you choose to breastfeed — especially in public — you're taking control of your body and silently saying, "I don't care if this makes you feel uncomfortable. My kid needs to eat so I'm going to feed them." People who are used to stifling women and telling women what to do with their bodies, don't appreciate that all too much.
You're De-Sexualizing Your Body
Society has been so successful at sexualizing women's bodies, that when a woman uses her body for anything other than a sexual act (or for the sexual pleasure of others), it's viewed as offensive. Women open themselves up to scrutiny when they don't adhere to cultural constructs, and our culture has (sadly) decided that women's bodies are — first, foremost, and inescapably — sexual. Breastfeeding flies in the face of that like nothing else.
You're Not Ashamed
When a woman isn't ashamed of her body, society will (it seems) try to remind her that she should be. It's unbelievably sad, as well as dangerous, but our culture seems to be at its most comfortable if women hide who they are and the bodies they inhibit.
Sometimes Breastfeeding Has To Be Done In Public
When you're exclusively breastfeeding, you're on your baby's time table, not your own. If you're at the grocery store or work or anywhere in between, and your baby is with you and needs to be fed, you have to feed them. It's contradictory, that people would have an issue seeing a woman's breast being used to sustain human life, in public, but have no issue with women's breasts being used, in public, to sell products.
You're Not Hiding Your Body
If you're not hiding certain body parts, it means you're not ashamed of certain body parts, and we just can't have that. If you're a woman, you're supposed to be sexual but "pure," attractive but conservative, desirable but discreet. The hypocrisy is enough to make your head spin, so if you circumvent that ridiculousness altogether and simply love your body, a lot of people will take issue with that. Like, if you reject the view of your body that's been imposed on you, then what other sexist social constructs might you casually overturn?! The patriarchy and the people who benefit from it are scared as hell of a woman who has somehow figured out a way to truly love herself.
You Have Nipples, Which Breastfeeding Egregiously Points Out
I still can't wrap my head around why female nipples are somehow "bad" and indecent to be seen in public, but male nipples are a-okay. I just... I just can't.
Breastfeeding Is Inherently Feminine
Can you imagine if cis-men were able to breastfeed? If they were the ones who produced milk that sustained tiny human life? Can you imagine how different everything would be? How there wouldn't be a stigma surrounding public breastfeeding, or breastfeeding in general? I can't help but think that there seems to be an issue with breastfeeding because women are primarily the individuals capable of doing it.
You're Putting Someone Else (And Yourself) Above Pre-Conceived Social Constructs
Anytime a woman goes against social constructs — for the benefit of herself or others — a wide range of individuals will want to attack her for it. Society favors the women who don't make waves, who don't stand up and speak out for themselves or anyone else. But the majority of women don't care about making society (or anyone else, for that matter) happy or content or comfortable. When a woman breastfeeds, she is doing what is best for her and her family. Damn the rest, I always say.