Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Breastfeeding and Modesty

Last year, a debate erupted about the appropriateness of public breastfeeding - particularly in church.  It was a sad commentary on how deeply Victorian attitudes about the physical body and sex still influence the way we see and talk of topics that are, at the core, quite simple. 

In a thread on Real Intent, Silver Rain wrote the most concise, profound comment I read anywhere about the issue.  The post was entitled "Modesty & Breastfeeding", and I am copying Silver Rain's comment in its entirety, with the thesis statement bolded for emphasis:

"The answer to the question [Is breastfeeding in public modest?] is in the original post. You were taught that body modesty is not using our bodies to get attention and approval. (Which throws female attractiveness into the realm of debate, but it’s another debate.) If someone is publicly breastfeeding in order to attract attention or dis/approval, it is immodest. If they are just trying to feed their baby and accomplish other tasks as well (listening in Church, running a meeting, travelling from one place to another,) it is modest. It has nothing to do with what the reactions of OTHERS are.

That is the fine line between body obsession and modesty."


Jami said...

That's a perfect explanation.

Papa D said...

Someone asked me:

"Why does it matter whether breastfeeding is modest? The answer to that question depends entirely on the definition of 'modesty' but the question is irrelevant."

My response was:

"I agree it depends on the definition and that it ought to be irrelevant, but, in the conversations I referenced in the post, too many people were adamant that a woman breastfeeding in public is being immodest no matter the situation and even no matter what could or could not be seen.

When modesty is defined that broadly, I believe it is an issue that needs to be addressed. It's a manifestation of the idea that all nudity is pornographic, and that idea is damaging in multiple ways."