27 July 2009

Mums of the month

The Rugby Breastfeeding Cafe, a Warwickshire-based support group where local mums can meet up to feed their babies and chat in peace, has found an innovative method for fundraising: a calendar featuring mums breastfeeding from all walks of life in order to 'challenge views people might have about breastfeeding'. A recent article in the Telegraph describes the photos as 'provocative'. Rosie Evans, 28, organised the calendar and says "It shows that you can be young, trendy and sexy and still be a breastfeeding mum."

I'm not so sure. While I'm all for empowering women to feel comfortable to breastfeed and to feel sexy when they are doing it, I think this premise is problematic. I get annoyed when people say that 'you can still be a mum (or breastfeed) and be sexy' as if the two things are always going to be mutually exclusive. Maybe I'm an idealist, but I just don't like the thought that mothers today will always have to worry about 'proving' that motherhood isn't the end of their sexual lives. While it can do nothing but good to get more images of women breastfeeding in daily life, at the same time, why should we have a calendar to prove that?


*Interesting, the Rugby Breastfeeding Cafe has already complained about the tone of this post, apparently I'm not being supportive enough. I don't see any place here where I'm not being supportive of breastfeeding, of a woman's right to breastfeed in public or the breastfeeding support group.

If you read closely, my criticism is not about any of these things, it is about the over-sexualisation of women's bodies and the quite complex struggle women have in trying to negotiate being mothers and sexual beings in a culture that implores that women be sexy all of the time. I don't think publishing a calendar remedies this, sorry!

One of the organisers seems to suggest that I haven't talked to breastfeeding mums so somehow I just don't understand. If anything, I think I've built my academic career on talking to women about being mothers. I always try to be thoughtful and sensitive on this blog in between being funny with moments of smug every so often. I thought about deleting the post but changed by mind. This is an open forum, if you disagree with anything I have to say, you are most welcome to leave comments, as always. In saying that, this is an open forum for me too. It irks me that the person from the Rugby Breastfeeding Cafe that bothered to comment actually didnt provide a contact name or email address for me to respond to her directly and appropriately. I've removed the images that were originally posted (which I thought would be only be a boon for calendar sales or at least direct traffic to the site).

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