The sight of a nursing woman's breast does not make me uncomfortable. As a matter of fact, it has the opposite effect. Because I breastfed my son and recall the feeling of oxytocin being released when the baby latches on, seeing a mom breastfeeding triggers a feeling in me of deep relaxation within me.
This morning on "The View," I listened to Whoopi, Sherri, Jenny and Barbara discuss how they don't care to see a woman breastfeeding her baby. The conversation arose in connection with a story about a mom's request for Delta Airline's policy on breastfeeding. She happened to be a mom who would not breastfeed while covered. In order to assure she'd be able to feed her child, she took the responsible step of inquiring ahead. Delta responded that its policy required breastfeeding moms to cover their breast.
During the "hot topic" discussion around the table at "The View," I was amazed by the way each host suggested methods this mom might take to cover herself while nursing. Whoopi made it clear that she had no desire to see the breast of a woman feeding her child. Sherri noted that looking the other way would not prevent one from seeing a woman's breast with his or her peripheral vision. Barbara announced that seeing a mom breastfeed her child made her uncomfortable. While Jenny explained how she'd managed to cover her breast when she was nursing Evan.
It's OK with me that the hosts of "The View" are uncomfortable seeing the breast of breastfeeding moms. They have every right to feel how they do. What gets to me is their suggestion that this woman, or any breastfeeding woman, should take into account the discomfort of others should they happen to see her breast. How is it that a woman breastfeeding her child is responsible for the feelings and discomforts of other grown people? Why in heaven is it her job to be sure that other adults are at ease with her feeding her baby? Do we expect a mom traveling with a 10-week-old infant, who is likely sleep-deprived and hormonal to be aware of herself, her infant and those near her? I'm sad that adult women would attempt to shame and control the behavior and choices of a woman making a healthy choice for her child.
When I am uncomfortable with things I see, I know one thing: My discomfort is not the responsibility of the person doing whatever he or she may be doing that triggers the discomfort. The discomfort lives within me and should be dealt with by me. I cannot, as much as I'd like to, make others adjust their behavior to suit what makes me feel at ease. For the ladies of "The View" to suggest that a breastfeeding mom should consider other adults who may be uncomfortable by the sight of her breast is simply the most irresponsible and immature thing I've heard. When will we start taking responsibility for our feelings, rather than making others the reason we feel a certain way? There is nothing I can do to control the actions of another adult, and the best that I can do is use the information I'm experiencing within me as an opportunity to be compassionate, helpful, or quiet.
Even as the show has triggered me into a fit of anger, I am doing my best to take my own advice. I understand that where women's and mother's rights and issues are concerned in this nation, we are still very puritanical in our views. Also the female body continues to be a place of ridicule and shame for most American women. I'm a working to free myself every day.
As it turns out, Delta apologized to the mom for giving her incorrect information; their policy was actually to not require a mother to cover up while breastfeeding. In the United States, the law permits breastfeeding mothers to nurse in public, with or without covering up. In my view, this means that all the people who are made uncomfortable by the sight of a breastfeeding mom's bare breast can just take care of themselves, while bare breastfeeding moms take care of their children.