Sometimes I hear words like "disgusting," "gross," "yucky," "icky," "repulsive," "turn-off," "sickening," "offensive," “disturbing,” and more when NIP (Nursing In Public) is discussed. Or I should say ranted about since it is rarely a discussion but more like a verbal battle of contention particularly in the comments found on online news reports and blogs and in such internet venues as Facebook and forums.
I'm a mother of 5 children. I've traveled, attend births, been in the hospital, taken mission trips, worked with the homeless, watched TV and movies including the discovery channel, and more. Trust me, I KNOW disgusting. So please, allow me to clarify what is truly "disgusting."
There are grades, levels, if you will, of disgusting, not all things gross are created equal. The mere thought of some icky scenarios are enough to turn your stomach and others just make you grimace when you actually see or experience them. All of us have an internal gross-factor monitor, it alerts us when to look the other way, plug our nose, shout out a warning or triggers our stomach to empty it's contents. Some of these are universally understood, some are more personal and developed by our cultural experiences. A few don't even make sense but most do, as a form of self-preservation to avoid things that could make us sick. When I hear or read someone say that seeing someone breastfeeding is disgusting I want to throw out some really gross ideas and see what they say. Really, Disgusting? I mean REALLY? Gross? Really? Seriously? Oh come on! I can show you disgusting.
Here is my list, it would be longer but I started feeling a little nauseated:
Hmmmm, that's icky, if I think about it too much I could be sick.
Disgusting Level 1
- Letting your kid spit out the food they've already chewed but don't like into your bare hand.
- Cleaning up your own child's poop.
- Public bathrooms.
- Porn site e-mails.
- Derogatory terms for female genitalia.
- Questionable mud puddles.
- Wiping buggers off your child's face or suctioning them out of their nose.
- Shoveling manure.
- Hearing people talk about pus.
- Hearing your parents talk about their sex life.
Like ewwww! So gross, I think I'm going to be sick.
Disgusting Level 2
- Cleaning up someone else's poop from the floor or toilet or whatever.
- Nose picking.
- Yack floating in the pool you're swimming in.
- Seeing someone urinate.
- Finding maggots... anywhere.
- Puss filled wounds.
- Ticks- as in the blood sucking insect kind.
- Seeing someone sneeze into their hands and then touch the spoon in the buffet line.
- Filthy public bathrooms.
- The idea of eating fried worms.
- Finding the shredded remains of the used tampon your dog ate AFTER she gave you hello licks.
- Stepping on a roach or any other bug so the guts squirt out.
- Hearing your parents HAVING sex.
Totally, universally disgusting, I am going to be sick.
Disgusting Level 3
- Roach in your food.
- Touching someone else's buggers.
- Finding a random used condom at the park.
- Taking a swig of milk only to find it is curdled.
- Being thrown-up on even by your own child.
- Having to dispose of a dead, maggotty animal found in your yard, worse if in your house.
- Draining a pus-filled wound.
- Raw chicken.
- The drinking water sources in some parts of the world.
- Discovering wormy dog/cat poop after you stepped in it.
- Red tide- people living in coastal areas know what I'm talking about here.
- WALKING IN ON YOUR PARENTS HAVING SEX.
Those situations are gross. Some of them are a reflection of my own personal “ick” factor and I recognize my issues with them. As always, I have a choice when faced with them: push through, look away, get over it or remove myself. As such I let The Piano Man handle any raw poultry while I hide in the bedroom. This is left over from issues in pregnancy and him dealing with the raw meat makes all the difference in the world in my being able to eat later. Once in a while our stomach turning reactions signal that something is wrong or just "off" with us. In fact, it has been nausea to food, to the normal sights and smells that are a part of life that have signaled to me that I am pregnant every single time.
Often on the internet battlefields of blogs and articles, phrases about breastfeeding being the natural and normal way to feed a human baby are met with debate swordplay that urinating/defecating and sex are natural too but nobody wants to see them done in public. In sometimes clumsy, sometimes skilled thrusts of the written word, opponents spare about what is best, disgusting, natural, intimate, and above all, whose rights come first. I have to admit, I don’t always get it. Am I missing something? The act of releasing waste from the body and the experience of sexual pleasure seem to be an obvious far cry from a mother feeding, comforting and nourishing her child. To compare these is an elementary exercise in “one of these things is not like the others.” Human waste elimination carries the risk of bacteria and disease being spread, unlike breastfeeding, there isn’t a sealed suction receptacle to contain any possible threat. Not only is public sex acts prohibited by law but again, the risk of the spread of disease and of harming the psychological development of children by exposing them to the mature nature of indecent exposure before they are mentally capable of understanding and degrading all of society would be of primary concern regarding sex in public. Furthermore, public urination, defecation and sex are illegal. Breastfeeding in public is legal in the United States, in fact, breastfeeding in public is protected in most of the United States making it impossible to charge a woman with indecent exposure and for good reason, it is recognized as the normal, healthy way to feed a human baby. As far as whose rights get to come first, I would hate to see what has become of our society when we're putting the personal tastes of adults in society over the needs of a dependent infant or child. The only disgusting possibility I see would be for a woman to not feed her hungry child when she has the means to do so, that she uses her breast according to the design of her body is no less disgusting than anyone else using their mouth to eat.
Like my red-flag of nausea before I even suspect I am pregnant, perhaps our disgust with breastfeeding in public reveals less about breastfeeding and more about some deeper issues we have has a society. Issues with the objectification of women, issues with a one-dimensional view of breasts, issues with body image and self-esteem, issues with confusing inappropriate public behavior and appropriate public behavior, issues with double of speak of what is “best” yet wanting that very thing to be hidden, issues with the complex nature of women as both sexual beings and nurturing mothers. If the sight of breastfeeding makes you feel sick even though you know it is the normal, healthy or even the “best” way to feed a human baby then it sounds like you need to get yourself checked out because that just doesn’t sound right, something must be “off” with you or maybe, just maybe, our society in general.
Because this is not disgusting.