Recently, a woman at Claridge’s, a luxury hotel in London, was asked to cover up while breastfeeding her baby. If you’re in England and have any media exposure you’ve probably heard about it, if you haven’t here’s a link. There are some absolutely uninteresting debates going on about that (in the sense that I can’t believe we haven’t moved past it as a society), but it got me thinking about something else when someone on the radio was quoted as saying “It’s one of the most natural things there is.” I agree with that, certainly. Being naked is also one of the most natural things there is. Simply having exposed breasts, nevermind feeding a baby with them, is perfectly natural. You might think I’m going to say something like “So just because something is natural doesn’t mean you should do it in public,” but in fact, I’m going to say completely the opposite of that.
A body is something that everybody has. Whether you’re rich or poor, black or white, in the southern hemisphere or northern, you’ve got a body. Everybody has the right to be proud of their body. Until we’re a few years old, we get to enjoy that right. After that though, we’re forced to cover up their bodies. Most children do not take kindly to that at first, as I’m sure most parents know. Children want to continue being naked, they want to enjoy their natural right to pride in their body.
The world we live in says your body is not good. You have to cover it up. Hide it away. The hidden message to all children when we introduce them to our civilized world and clothe them is that their bodies are dirty, possibly dangerous, and absolutely bad; this explains why so many adults have those ideas – they’ve had that hidden message given to them over a lifetime. The fact that the message is hidden is what makes it particularly effective. Every days, billions of people clothe themselves even when there’s no legitimate need to protect them from the elements. As far as they know, there is no message, it’s just what people do.
Yet, if you look clearly and closely, the message is obvious. Your body is not fit to be seen. The only bodies most people see are their own, those on TV, in movies, and magazines. We all tend to be overly critical of ourselves, and the bodies we see in media are, of course, fake. It doesn’t take anything more than that for physical self-esteem to plummet. We feel that way about our bodies, and we raise our children to feel that way simply by clothing them as we clothe ourselves. We have not enjoyed our natural right to our bodies, we have given it up in the name of civilization.
Those who say that breastfeeding is natural so it should be allowed are absolutely right, but they don’t know just how far their argument goes if carried to its logical conclusion. Nearly any argument in favor of breastfeeding will also include such things as public nudity, yet the same people campaigning in favor of breastfeeding would not dream of campaigning for the right to bare all. They have made the connection between breastfeeding and our very nature, but have not yet made that connection between our bodies and our nature.
I suppose it’s hard for me to reach a conclusion with this, simply because it’s complicated and I’m also going against a lot of messages that society has built into me, which is a difficult thing to do. I’ll just finish by saying that I believe enjoying our bodies and being proud of them is a big part of our humanity, and giving that up is giving up a lot. Maybe it’s something to think about. What do you think?