Yo, Mama—These Jugs Make Milk!
Breasts are fun. They’re so fun that we’ve named them funbags, squeezeboxes, jugs, hooters, racks, boobs, and tits. They’re fun to look at, fun to touch and squeeze. They bounce. Men like them, and that is a good thing.
Breasts can be fun to own. They give a woman pleasure, and that is a good thing. They are an important part of a woman’s body—emblematic of her femininity, her sexuality. When a girl begins to develop breasts, it is her body’s way of saying she will one day be a woman, and a girl listens to that. She listens as the growing pains shoot through her chest, she listens as her mother and grandmother talk about finding a bra. Breasts are such an important part of the transition from girlhood to womanhood that we sometimes call them girls.
Breasts can be a total drag to own. You have to figure out what to do with them—hike ‘em up, pump ‘em up, flatten ‘em out, air ‘em out, cover ‘em up. They’re sensitive, and if one of them gets kicked or pinched or squashed it hurts like hell. Growing them hurts too. Sometimes they grow too fast, and a girl hates being teased for it. Sometimes they grow too slow, and a girl wonders when she will look like other girls. Breasts always grow just right, but girls don’t always know that. It’s confusing to grow breasts.
It’s confusing to own breasts, because breasts are great at selling things. They are FABULOUS at selling beer… a cheeseburger, a car, some soda, a TV show, a video game, or most anything a man could want. Oh, yes, and bras. Breasts are good at selling bras.
It’s confusing to own breasts, because on a deeply subconscious level (or maybe not so subconscious) a woman has to wonder—if breasts are so great at selling things, does that mean the ones on her body would be? What if the ones on her body are smaller than most of the ones that sell stuff—or bigger? What if they bounce less, or more? What if they’re not simultaneously perky and exceedingly large—is that natural, and sexy? Yes, the cultural interest in breasts can be confusing to a woman.
Of all these breasts we see, very few are ever doing what they were made to do: feed children.
There are periodic outcries against women who breastfeed in public. Sometimes women are made to feel ashamed—asked to cover up, as if they were doing something indecent. Facebook has removed pictures of breastfeeding women, labeling them obscene. Breastfeeding has been, in a variety of contexts and for many years, seen as obscene. However, using breasts to sell beer or cheeseburgers does not violate any societal code of conduct. Breasts are for fun, silly. Not for food.
Why, in the name of all that is pleasurable and seductive, do we freak out when a woman wants to feed her child in public, but we don’t freak out when she wants to use her breasts to sell something?
Moving along, then—the breast can be pleasurable for a woman (and for a man), and the breast can feed a baby. If exhausted, overwhelmed, sometimes shamed nursing mothers can figure this out, I think it’s about time we asked the question:
How, in the name of all that is vulnerable and resilient, can we continue to pretend that the breast is anything other than what it is—a beautiful part of a woman’s body that can and sometimes does help another human being to survive, and even to thrive?
A longer version of this piece was originally posted on Yo, Mama