I may talk about sex for a living, but I am like many of you. I am a mother, a friend, an aunt, a partner, a sister, and I saw the latest TIME magazine cover, you know, that cover, and I freaked out.
There's a part of me that feels guilty about my reaction. A big believer in breastfeeding (and public breastfeeding), I see nothing wrong with women wanting to be topless on the beach, and I want people to see breasts as something other than sexual. I've written about breasts here more than once, including a piece on The Breast Milk Baby. But here I am, telling all of you, that seeing a women nursing her almost four year old son on the cover of TIME magazine disturbs me.
I'm feeling conflicted.
I've given lots of thought to why this image bothers me. Sure, I want to desexualize the breast (especially in the context of breastfeeding), but does TIME's representation of extended nursing help us get past the anxiety we feel about women's breasts or breastfeeding? I think not.
There were many images of nursing moms in the piece; TIME chose the most provocative one. You know, the one with the "hot" tank-topped 26-year old in the obviously suggestive pose. That image didn't look warm and fuzzy, nor nurturing or sentimental. The message was clear: "F--k you, look what I'm doing."
I get it, provocative covers make money. But if you really want to talk about attachment parenting or child-led weaning, this is not representative of a healthy conversation. This is an image that says, "Bring it on." Why start with this antagonistic perspective? Oh, right, because pitting woman against woman seems to sell magazines.
Look at that headline: Are You Mom Enough?
Well, am I Mom enough? I did nurse both my children -- not for long and not exclusively -- and I think I am more than "Mom enough" ... for my own family. And I know plenty of women who chose not to nurse their children (or couldn't nurse their children) and they are also more than "Mom enough." It's not a competition; never has been.
There's no one way to be a woman. There's no one way to parent. But we're told in many insidious and just plain overt ways that we'll never be good enough; we need products or pills or surgery or consultants or therapy in order to avoid sending our children to therapy. It doesn't make sense, and the result is that we have lost to ability to trust our own instinct.
To that end, do I believe in children-led weaning? No, I don't. But it's not my business to make that decision for everyone else. I have no problem with parents making their own decisions, but if you are a proponent of extended nursing or attachment parenting, I ask you: is this TIME magazine cover the image that you want representing this parenting choice?
Follow Dr. Logan Levkoff on Twitter: www.twitter.com/LoganLevkoff