Yesterday, I had a crappy day at work. But that’s not why yesterday made me tired.
Yesterday was the day Time Magazine released their Attachment Parenting article. You know, the one with The Cover.
The cover depicted a quite lovely young woman nursing a quite mature-looking toddler, under the headline, “Are you mom enough?” You can see it here.
At first glance, the cover just pissed me off. I found it to be so obviously shocktastic, which, of course, sells magazines and creates a buzz (cha-ching!) But for those of us who fight the good fight every day in the face of people telling us how “disgusting” or “inappropriate” we are, it’s a buzz we don’t need.
So I spent my afternoon thinking about it.
And then I got pissed off again when I watched snippets of The View and heard Elisabeth Hasselback and Barbara Walters and even Whoopi spewing off ignorance, judgement and absolute fiction about how breastfeeding “should” be done.
And then I thought about it some more.
And then I spent a few hours browsing comments online. Not the best idea when I was trying to get un-pissed off.
But then a funny thing happened. I looked at the cover again, and the old Literature major in me started to stir. I started to analyze and delve deeper. And I realized that the headline was not about breastfeeding at all. In fact, the photo wasn’t really even about breastfeeding. The article was about Attachment Parenting, and the divide it creates. The self-examination it creates, and how that can cause us to set unattainable standards for ourselves and question whether we are good enough, “Mom” enough, and whether others are, too. How this style of parenting seems so unnatural to some, and so natural to others…and then the unnatural feeling of the posed photo started to make sense to me.
AP parents know that at any given moment they could be severely criticized for either breastfeeding, cosleeping, baby wearing, whatever…and that after a while, your defenses are up almost all the time (a funny by-product of a gentle, natural parenting method…) The “Go ahead. Challenge me.” attitude that I often feel myself putting out can be seen in the mother’s defiant stance in the photo, and in the look on her face.
I related to that mother. She could be me. (…although I for sure don’t look that hot in skinny jeans.)
Which brings me to another thing I had to re-examine my initial feelings about – the sexual nature of the photo. At first, I wasn’t sure. Now, I am. I don’t think they sexualized the mother. I think they chose a real mother, and challenged the public’s eye – sure, she is pretty sexy, but if you can’t separate that from the fact that she is nursing, that’s YOUR problem…not hers.
So, in the end, I saw the photo not as a misreprentation of extended (I prefer “full-term”) breastfeeding, but as a provocative sort of performance art, where these 2 subjects embodied all the facets of a huge social issue.
And I felt better, having worked that out for myself.
I do actually believe that Time Magazine is thinking the same way, but they also know that the general public will not analyze the text of the photo, but instead react predictably and run to the streets yelling “Pedophile! Disgusting! She should be ASHAMED!” …and they did. They took the bait, and mothers are bashing each other all over the media shitstorm that’s happening right now. I just wish people could see how clearly they were being baited, and stop being so damned predictable in their quickness to judge others based on nothing but their own hang-ups.
Learn, people. Love and LEARN.
I guess in the end I’m glad the lid has been lifted a little on the discourse that needs to happen. People need to see that photo (and that includes all the little boys in the grocery store, for all those commenters who feel they have to shield their children for some weird reason) and the highpoint of my day was when I was nursing my own 30-month-old son last night and he said, looking at the image on my laptop, “Look Mommy! That kid eat moot!”
It’s not something he sees often, so for that, I thank you Time Magazine. I have mixed feelings about your motives, and I definitely have strong feelings about what I think people should do for their kids, but I will not bash my fellow mothers today. I simply wish them all a very happy Mother’s Day full of peace, acceptance, and lots of moot, if they so choose.