KEEPING ABREAST OF THINGS
24 August 2003
We actually managed to get a table for dinner at the farmers market this week. The
market is held in a huge park. Most people, who aren't at the playground with their kids,
sit on the grass to listen to music. There are a couple dozen plastic tables and chairs
set up on the concrete fountain area, but they are almost always full, so we just head for
the grassy area (my big accomplishment this year is being able to sit on the grass and get
up again, something I haven't been able to do for years, because of my weight, without
really embarrassing myself).
However Wednesday night there was this perfectly good table right by the fountain and I
grabbed it. I think the reason it was vacant was that the city has recently installed a
misting system in the trees and as we sat there, we got intermittently wet from the
overhead misting lines--but it was hot enough that it felt good.
I love sitting there and looking at the little kids running through the water spouts.
It seems that each time we go to the farmers market, I fill a whole SmartMemory card with
pictures of little kids I've never seen before playing in the water.
Because I rarely have the luxury of sitting at a table, I'm usually standing nearby
with camera in hand, so I don't often look at people other than the kids I'm trying
to photograph. Wednesday I was able to sit there and just people watch, when I tired of
What I saw was very nice. There were three mothers sitting in chairs watching their
toddlers enjoy the fountain while they nursed the babies in their laps.
Nobody gasped in horror, horses weren't terrified, civilizations did not collapse, the
moral fiber of the country was not weakened. Mothers just fed their babies---in
public---and nobody even noticed (except me, of course).
I thought about the recent incident where a mother was asked to leave an area
designated for women and their children because she was feeding her baby. The reason given
was that "some children might see her breast."
How incredibly sick is that?
How sick is it that some segments of our society so equate the mammary glands that God
gave women for the purpose of sustaining their babies with sexual activity that the mere thought
of a child accidentally getting a glimpse of a bare breast as it's being used for the
purpose for which it was designed is enough to cause actions which result in lawsuits and
people being on the front pages of newspapers.
(whew was that a convoluted sentence!)
The sick thing is the idea that a child would find something...uh...titillating in the
sight of a female breast. Toddlers certainly take no purient interest in any part of the
human body. It's all the same--nose, chin, belly button, breast, penis...parts of the body
which all serve a function and which are all objects to learn the names of.
It is adults who put the shame in that slight bit of skin that might accidentally be
exposed as the child nurses.
I've always felt that people who were uncomfortable in the presence of a nursing mother
(whether one could see anything or not--and while there are some who plop it out there for
all the world to see, 99% of nursing mothers I've seen--and as a La Leche Leader for 10
years, I've seen a lot of them--are quite discreet and have no desire for exhibitionism)
is not the actual skin exposure involved, but the mind games that go on imagining what is
going on behind the baby's head.
There might be actual...sucking involved. And I think it makes some people
uncomfortable just to think about it. So they cry "let's not offend/frighten the
toddlers!" and invite the mother to go sit on a public toilet, safely behind a door
where nobody will have to actually think about the process involved in feeding an infant.
Toddlers are the least likely to be emotionally damaged by the sight of a nursing
mother. And it would be lovely if older children learned what those things were designed
FOR something OTHER than the pleasure of men.
I watched Cameron Diaz on The Tonight Show the other night. She was almost wearing the
top to her dress and it was anybody's guess whether she'd stay behind that flimsy thin
piece of material or not. Yet there she was, in front of God and everybody, accepting
compliments on her lovely dress. She was showing more skin than your average nursing
mother and everyone loved it.
I guess it was because she wasn't actually feeding an infant.
Isn't this a society that's so hung up on "family values"? I guess
"family values" are all relative, aren't they....