Behold—or not—the Breast!

Behold—or not—the Breast!

A photograph of a group of uniformed female soldiers breastfeeding their babies went viral on the Internet over the weekend after being posted on Facebook. We commend these women both for their service to our country and for their motherhood.

And no, this blog is not seeking to hash out the issue of women in the military, because women serve admirably in the U.S. military, and have been legally allowed to serve in combat roles since early 2013 (though we do trust that nursing soldiers will be recused from active combat duty roles). This blog is about breasts and breastfeeding, and seeks debate on why they should even be considered controversial.

Take for example the photo of the breast feeding soldiers. Former U.S. Air Force soldier Tara Ruby staged the photo to commemorate the building of a dedicated nursing room at Fort Bliss, Texas. According to Ms. Ruby, support for breastfeeding female soldiers “wasn’t even an option or a consideration” back in the late 1990s when she served. In her Facebook posting with the photo, Ms. Ruby stated in part:

“I remember nursing my oldest in the shadows, hiding on toilets and where ever I could while in uniform. My second baby I was told to cover up, that no one wanted to ‘see that.’ I remember that breastfeeding wasn’t cool or the norm.”

After posting the photo last Thursday, Facebook reportedly removed the image and any copies circulating as a result of Facebook repostings. However, after Mr. Ruby and others reposted the photo again on Friday, Facebook has allowed the image to remain in circulation. The company has not responded to news organization requests for comments about the initial removal, but the company has a history of removing of photos of breastfeeding mothers, citing offensive content violating the Facebook Terms of Service.

Offensive? What is offensive about breastfeeding, let alone a breast?

The vast majority of women who breastfeed in public do so in such a discrete manner that the actual suckling is not even noticed, and the odd creepy voyeur hoping to catch a peek of nipple is likely to be disappointed.

And yet, despite discretion and the often barely perceptible hint of the actual breast and/or nipple, many people (and organizations) still take great offense when a mother tries to breastfeed in public. Due to complaints or management prudishness, women are still asked to leave stores, restaurants and other public places–essentially treated as pariahs–because of their breastfeeding.

However, in a rare example of sensibility, the federal government and all 50 state governments have enacted laws to prevent breastfeeding from being treated as “indecent exposure.”  Unfortunately, there is still a large swath of the population that seems to feel that breastfeeding is indecent, if not downright pornographic.

Breasts are beautiful, both aesthetically and functionally, and a mother providing natural sustenance to her child should be considered with reverence not with disgust.

What do you think? Hash it out!

–Originally published September 14, 2015 by Hash It Out!