Two Things

1. Gordon Belt has an interesting post about tracing his Melungeon heritage. He’s descended from Goins-es, which is a pretty good tell. If you’ve got a Goins ancestor from Appalachia, you need to learn about the Melungeons. The thing I thought was interesting here is that his ancestor was a ferryman. And you know the Hulans ran the the ferry out at the end of Bells Bend. You know I always wondered if that wasn’t a survival mechanism–live in a fairly isolated rural place, control the one easy way in or out, and protect yourself from the kinds of hassles other people who weren’t firmly white got.

2. Let me say up front that I think women should be able to breastfeed wherever they want, whenever they want, for as long as the mom and child are both comfortable with it and able to do it. This is not a comment on breast feeding in and of itself. This is, instead, a realization I had after reading Chris Wage’s post. This is like the headless fatty picture. Are there morbidly obese people? Yes. But when we’re talking about the obesity epidemic, you know, the one we illustrate with headless morbidly obese women, is that an accurate representation of who in our nation is seeing rising obesity rates and what their obesity looks like? No. It’s an image designed to disgust you (hence why you don’t get to see her face) and to, I suspect, annoy you that she’s not making herself aesthetically pleasing to you for you.

See?! See how that is a similar dynamic to the Time breastfeeding cover? Are there young, blond, fit women who are dressed like they just got back from yoga class who defiantly let their three year old stand on a chair and breastfeed out in public? Sure, I guess so. The world is big and it takes all kinds.

But when we’re talking about breastfeeding in public–and in fact, when most people are like “Oh, that baby is too big for that”–who are we actually talking about? Babies. Maybe very tiny toddlers. Mothers who don’t want to stand next to a park bench while Junior stands on it to eat, but mothers who want to sit on the park bench and hold Junior in their arms while he eats.

But, this picture is supposed to disgust you–“the kid is too old!!!!!”–and, I think, annoy you that this woman who is aesthetically pleasing is doing something with her tit other than letting it titillate you (hee). The “ew, gross” thing is easy enough to see. But the tricky thing is to see the message  of “be angry! This woman whose body is for you is not concerned about what you think and thus all women who share this trait with her are like her, defying you.” But that’s actually the more problematic message, especially since most of us don’t consciously see ourselves as wanting to be the boss of everyone. It plays on something deep–the desire to control–that we don’t often have conscious awareness of.

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5 thoughts on “Two Things

  1. I feel like I’ve heard similar reactions from “old-fashioned” men upon seeing conventionally attractive, but heavily tattooed/pierced women. They’re doing something with their (sex-ay!) bodies that the men dislike, and the cognitive dissonance results in anger.

  2. [This comment was typed with the rhythmic whir of a Medela breast pump in the background. I know you and especially the Freaky Weasel will be very grateful for that information.]

    I shouldn’t be surprised by the amount of misinformation out there. I brought such ignorance upon myself by breaking my rule about reading comments, and CNN’s The Chart post had some very stupid people commenting.

    That said, I think you hit on the root of the issue. (i.e., this isn’t about breastfeeding.) Why can’t people settle for the “I won’t tell you how to parent your kid if you won’t tell me how to” idea? Everything thinks their way is the best way but some people take it a step further and feel the need to impose it upon you. It’s not enough to be “right;” these people need everyone else to validate them being “right.” If not by choice, then by force, I guess.

    I get that dead media has to sell their wares however they can. I don’t care much about the picture on the cover but I’d like to read the associated piece. Of course, the message will get totally obscured by the furor over the way it was sensationalized on the cover. As a sorority sister pointed out on a morning show today, they chose to depict an extreme version of AP instead of a more “normal” or “socially-acceptable” depiction.

    I mean, damn, when was the last time you saw people freaking out over a mother wearing her toddler in an Ergo? “OMG THAT CHILD WILL BE IN THERAPY BY THE TIME HE’S TEN!” No.

    I’m not going to clutter up your post any further, but I am glad that this issue has created a dialogue–even if, as Newscoma sagely points out, no one listens anymore; they just scream at each other. Our culture is way too weird about women’s bodies and it bears examining as to why.

  3. It’s interesting to see different people, who are not really connected, in my life talking about the same thing and coming to the same basic conclusion.

  4. we rule!

    Honestly though I am not really convinced that this provoked a particularly useful discussion. I mean it did among us, sure, but on a national scale, or whatever, I think all this cover really probably did was serve to confirm/inflame existing convictions about breastfeeding and/or weird/creep people out and/or goad/bait people, i.e. as mentioned in this post:

    “To accept TIME’s deliberate provocation and either get mad at this woman for what I think I know about her from this photo, or to feel inferior, or superior, or defensive, or guilty”

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/lisa-belkin/no-i-am-not-mom-enough_b_1507550.html?ref=tw

    (yes, i just linked to the huffington post, sigh)

    I am sure somewhere there’s a roomfull of editors for Time patting themselves on the back for a “provocative” cover, but I doubt it provoked much beyond more idiocy.

  5. I can’t speak for anyone but me but what I didn’t like about the Time cover was the headline, “Are You Mom Enough?” This on the heels of so much other crap the culture directs at women I just want them to leave us the fuck alone. It’s an endless barrage of shoulds and should nots: not just are you thin enough or pretty enough but also, are you employee enough, are you wife enough, etc.

    Just, stop it already. Stop telling us how to be. I’m over it.

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