Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Breastfeeding: The Modesty Dilemma

   When I hear people say that they are all for breastfeeding but there's nothing wrong with a little modesty I'm reminded of the times I would visit the aquatic center pools at the physical education building in college. They were open to the families of students, faculty, and staff on the weekends. Being that it was in a university setting you would get an eclectic group of people out there. I remember there were several Muslim families that would visit quite regularly and the women would get into the pool wearing swimming attire that covered everything except their faces, hands, and feet. That was their definition and exhibition of modesty. There was a rule that no thong bikinis were allowed, but the spectrum of swimming attire out there included everything from what the Muslim ladies were wearing to the bikinis that other ladies were wearing that got about as close to being thongs as they could get without actually being thongs. Just about every style of swimwear between those extremes was represented. That's typically what you see when it comes to breastfeeding. You have mothers who feed their babies covered up and out of the way and you have those who just pull out a breast wherever they are and take care of business. You have mothers whose nursing styles fall somewhere between those two extremes. I don't mean extremes in a bad way I only use that word to show how opposite those styles are from each other.
   If you were to make the same statement about modesty with regards to swimwear as you would about breastfeeding my question would be the same for both, whose standard of modesty are we abiding by? Everyone at the pool was wearing what in their minds was modest for them and what they felt comfortable wearing just like every breastfeeding mother feeds her baby according to her standard of modesty and what's comfortable for her. That's why it's confusing when people make such a statement. Modesty is such a subjective term as we've heard hundreds of times before. If you gathered a hundred people together from all backgrounds and all walks of life and asked them what modesty looks like to them with regards to breastfeeding you could potential get a hundred different variations of modesty. How do you pick one that everyone can agree on or that will actually work for everyone? Which version is the right version? It is virtually impossible. The only workable solution is to allow people the freedom to choose what version works for them.
   Modesty is tricky when it comes to breastfeeding because even if a mother wanted to cover or be discreet about what she was doing her baby might not allow it. For people that have been exposed to breastfeeding all their lives like myself it can be as disturbing and uncomfortable to see a baby struggling and fighting under a cover as people claim it is for them if they should happen to see a nipple during a nursing session. When we demand a certain standard of modesty for every mother we can make feeding their babies exponentially more difficult then it has to be. I witnessed a mother trying to walk and nurse her baby and keep him covered while her husband looked at tools in the home improvement department in the store where I work. After struggling and becoming noticeably frustrated as she tried to keep her baby covered she threw in the towel and ended the nursing session altogether. She wasn't happy and judging by her baby's cries of discomfort he wasn't very happy either.
   So when people say they are all for breastfeeding but there's nothing wrong with a little modesty, they may actually be correct provided they could actually come up with one single standard of modesty that works for everyone. Since it is virtually impossible to find a version or standard that works for everyone then perhaps there is something wrong with saying there's nothing wrong with a little modesty: it's potentially different for everyone.
~Tom Miller

No comments:

Post a Comment