Yo, Mama—These Jugs Make Milk!

By Elizabeth Hall Magill @ Yo, Mama

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

This is a rerun. I’m on vacation.

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About BroadBlogs

I have a Ph.D. from UCLA in sociology (emphasis: gender, social psych). I currently teach sociology and women's studies at Foothill College in Los Altos Hills, CA. I have also lectured at San Jose State. And I have blogged for Feminispire, Ms. Magazine, The Good Men Project and Daily Kos. Also been picked up by The Alternet.

Posted on December 22, 2014, in body image, objectification, psychology, sex and sexuality, women and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 22 Comments.

  1. I can relate completely. I was one of those girls who “developed” a lot faster than most of the other girls that I knew. At times it was very frustrating. I remember throughout middle school and high school it was impossible to find a bra that would fit me. The bras I would buy at Victoria’s Secret would never keep my breasts in place. It took me forever to find a bra I felt my breasts couldn’t fall out of. Haha Shopping for clothes was not easy either. The t-shirts I would buy would either be too tight or too baggy. If the shirt was too tight it would accentuate my breasts even more and make me feel uncomfortable. If the shirt was too loose I looked like I weighed more than I actually did. Despite all the struggles during puberty I developed a wonderful relationship with my mother. I remember her taking me shopping for my first bra. She bought me books on “becoming a woman” and how to take care of my body. She was always there if I had any questions about sex or my period, etc… I am very grateful that I was able to have those conversations with her because I know that wasn’t the case for her when she was younger. I think it is so important to remove the stigma around talking about these subjects in order for young girls to understand their bodies and to feel empowered.

  2. sandra mitchell

    Everywhere you look – in television commercials, billboards, magazines – women’s breast are advertised as being attractive and sexual in nature. Seeing this again and again fools people into thinking breast are only meant to be utilized for sexual purposes. There are plenty of people who are offended by this over-sexualization of the female breasts and think it’s inappropriate to publicly display this are of your body in any form. When a mother is nursing her child in public, she is either allowing others to see this sexualized area of her body or directly encouraging them to think about it as they know what is happening under the nursing cover. It may be the most natural thing in the world, especially since they are 100% of what breasts are made for, but we are told otherwise; therefore leading some people to believe it is inappropriate behavior and should be kept behind closed doors.

  3. It all that dependends on the culture. Nad I believe women should feel free to breast feed their babies any where they want, but it’ll be great to cover up too, while doing it. Growing up I didn’t like having breasts. I did not want to run during my PE class because of my breasts Lol. But know i don’t mind anymore. I do worry about my breast when they seem small.

  4. I nursed my daughter for 4 months, until my milk supply dried up. At the time that I gave birth (January 2014,) there had been quite a few instances that made the news about women getting kicked out of public places for nursing. I had a very fussy newborn who absolutely hated nursing covers, so I nursed her without one. Of course, I didn’t want to be stuck at home all day, so this meant that I nursed her without a cover pretty much anywhere I went. I was never told to stop, but I did get some odd looks.
    Seriously, you will see more of a woman’s breast by watching MTV for 5 minutes. When I was nursing, I would wear a sweater or shirt with a tank top underneath. I’d lift the sweater up, pull the neckline of my tanktop down, and latch baby on. Once she was latched on, you honestly did not see much of anything. Sometimes, people just thought I was cuddling my daughter and didn’t even realize that she was nursing.
    I never understood why the simple act of feeding a baby turns so many heads. The female breasts’ primary purpose is to nurse a baby. There is nothing sexual or offensive about it. There’s nothing dirty about it either; breastmilk in public is certainly not the same as other bodily fluids in public.
    I agree, breasts are awesome and can be presented in many different ways. Maybe people just need to learn to compartmentalize and not automatically think of breasts as sexual. I know that in California and some other states, there are laws protecting nursing women who wish to breastfeed in public. I hope that other states follow suit.
    Of course, this is not to say that all women need to nurse in public without covers. I do know of women who, knowing about the movements to normalize breastfeeding, were embarrassed to admit that they preferred some privacy. That’s fine too! The movement should be about nursing mamas having the choice to nurse in public without getting shamed for it; some people do take it in the direction of putting down those who don’t want to nurse in public, or who cannot (or don’t want to) nurse altogether. I think that attitude is completely counterproductive to normalizing breastfeeding.

  5. Ironic that a source of human nourishment is viewed by many as obscene. Another indicator that in many ways the world needs to be turned right side up still.

  6. I get so mad when people complain about women breast-feeding in public, where are they supposed to feed their babies, sitting on a public toilet? Facebook getting in a tizz and calling breastfeeding obscence is pathetic!

  7. Interesting post on breasting process in puberty, akin to baby’s teething, and breasts, one of the most beautiful part of female anatomy. I have seen mothers breast feeding in public places and I did not see anyone looking at it as if it was an obscene sight. The women, of course, had their breasts covered while doing so. Like with all issues, there will always be a section of people finding obscenity even in what must strictly be viewed as maternity fulfilling its role of growing and preservation of species…In Indian literature, specially Sanskrit, planet earth is denoted in feminine gender carrying names such as bhoomika, dharani and vasundhara; the flowers, trees and rivers are variously considered as her tresses, frills and jewels and mountains symbolizing her breasts, serving to preserve life. It all depends on how one looks at things….here is wishing you merry christmas and happy days ahead georgia….Raj .

  8. Lovely post.Merry Christmas.

  9. Since I’m not a woman, I don’t know what it’s like to have breasts. But I do know this: Breast are fun, they are beautiful, they represent femininity, they can feed children, and they are neither indecent nor obscene.

    Some societies are less uptight than others regarding a woman’s breasts. In Europe, it’s quite common for a woman to go topless on the beach, and in many Latin American countries women breast feed their children in public and are not shamed for it.

  10. Very relevant and every word is true. Breasts are used to sell almost everything but when a mother breast feeds her child ..it is obscene !! Tragic indeed…

  11. 100% agree. And I’m a big fan of doing everything I can to help normalize public breastfeeding. Not that there’s anything wrong with bottles, of course.

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