This week’s TIME magazine cover has sparked a media milkstorm you can’t avoid if you’re even remotely alive and connected to the outside world. From a dozen Facebook references to glimpses of the cover on the morning talk shows while I worked out this morning (yeah, bragging about working out this morning) to emails from friends asking what I thought.
I think several things, but you should skip it all and just read #6 because that’s the one that matters.
1) That mother is way hotter than most moms. (This is important later.)
2) It’s as much my business how long she nurses her child as it is my business who a gay man or woman can and can’t marry. That is: it’s my business to say this is something a responsible adult should be allowed to decide for themselves.
3) I might have been inclined to say that nursing that long is just too long, except that I recently saw this and it really touched me: http://mothering.com/all-things-mothering/baby-2/breastfeeding/extended-breastfeeding-from-the-mouth-of-the-not-so-babe …so, probably longer than I will breastfeed Del but I am moved that this very little person in the video has a clear sense of how and why nursing is important to her.
4) This photo is completely staged for maximum reaction: a) the woman is young and hot and standing in a posture that is emphasizes her sexual attractiveness. Remove the child and cover the bare breast and she’s just a sexy woman making eyes at the camera. Her sexuality is being highlighted – see #5 for more on that. b) Her child is standing on a chair. No one would ever nurse that way. Put this mom in her yoga pants and GAP nursing t-shirt on a couch holding a child the way she most likely nurses him and it’s a very different image. c) The child is dressed in big kid clothes including camo. The kid is what, three? Put him in his pull ups and t-shirt with big bird on it and several aspects of this image change. d) The child is a son. They heighten the viewers gut reaction by showing us a boy sucking a girl’s boob. My point is this: same mom, on the couch in her comfy clothes, holding a pig-tailed three year old girl in pull-ups and t-shirt, nursing — voila, far fewer people would look, care or react. It would hardly make a magazine cover, which is a shame because that would be a lovely image.
5) The image plays on the mental confusion of most anti-breastfeeding-in-public types – their ingrained fear of the blend of sexuality and nurturing that public breastfeeding entails. It is just more than they can handle, because by golly boobs are for sex and I should not have to see them being used any other way (translation: because I don’t WANT to see them being used any other way). My point, if and how long to breastfeed is a decision for parents to make, but now all the uptight, don’t-show-me-that fogies are going to add their unnecessary voices to the kerfuffle.
6) I think it’s just plain shitty of TIME mag to put that kind of divisive title on an the issue preceding Mother’s Day. “Are you mother enough?” Let’s get mom’s to fight and judge each other. A Mother’s Day Cagematch. Ya know, we mothers already do a really good job judging each other. And most of us are doing an even better job judging ourselves. Way to go, TIME. This cover, with a few roses and breakfast in bed, would be just about enough to ruin any mom’s day. Nicely done.