Wondering through the web-o-sphere like I do on occasion, I came across a very interesting photograph of a woman breastfeeding. Duality, by Rachel Valley portrays a mother and a lover, nourishing her baby and her relationship with her partner. At first glance, this photo may seem a bit extreme; some even described it as "weird" and "over-the-top."
At first I was inclined to agree that the photo was grotesque, but upon further ponderance, I began to understand the implications. This isn't the photo of a two-headed woman (although we all know that women have it going on in the brains department) but of a woman who can be those things, in those instances, that she needs to be. She can be mother when baby is hungry and lover when her partner hungers for her. Beyond that, she can be woman and be comfortable in her role as such. I really began to see the beauty of the photo, the beauty of the woman, and realized that it stirred in me a passion to be all things to all those that I love and cherish.
I also began to wonder why Rachel Valley had decided to do this photo. Was there a need, a niche, where a photo such as this was warranted and appreciated? I found a link to the photo on a forum intended for women (and some men) who are breastfeeding aware and supportive, yet some of the comments were less than cheerful in attitude or favor. Obviously the photo did not say the same thing to all people, even those who might be best equipped to understand the 'duality' of the woman and the breast.
Then I read about a mother being discriminated against because she is breastfeeding her child in public. The stories are astounding. Mothers are being harassed at baseball games, at public parks, in restaurants, at the YMCA. The list goes on and on. These mothers are simply fulfilling their rolls as mothers, yet they are being asked to move to the restroom or to otherwise hide the fact that they are feeding their children. I couldn't believe that people would be so rude and hateful and thought that surely it was either ignorance on the part of a few employees, lack of training on issues regarding dealing with the public and the law, or both. Perhaps there were a few squeaky-wheel patrons at these places who threw a tantrum because they thought they might have seen a peek of skin while the mother was latching her baby. But as I read the comments sections of the articles, I began to see that there was an overwhelming amount of people who harbored hate for women nursing their children.
As I read these stories, I began to realize why Duality was such a needed piece of artwork. People in this society really do lack a true understanding of the purpose of the female breast, and of the female body in general. We've been told that our bodies are gross. We hear it at church, in school, from our friends, family and in magazine, on T.V. and on the Internet. When the subject of vaginas comes up in those venues, it's usually in a strictly sexual context. Breasts are lumped together with vaginas because they, too, can be used as avenues for sexual gratification. The female form, in all it's incarnations, has been vilified as a sexual tool since biblical times. Forget the fact that, since before biblical times, vaginas have been used to birth our children and breasts have been used to nourish them. Twats 'n' boobs are simply sexual, end of story, now go and repent for even thinking about them.
But what if we could see the beauty in both the sexual aspect of a woman's body and the wonder that is a mother growing and continuing the species? After all, at the very basest of thinking, babies are a product of a sexual act. My babies, my children, are the bi-product of love and caring and an animalistic urge to nurture and grow. Sure, sex got them started, but love and my body grew them. My body birthed them into this world and my body gave them nourishment when they were young and vulnerable. There was a time in history when a child who lived to the age of 5 was revered as strong and capable of carrying on an enduring blood-line. During those times, it was common-place for women to breastfeed, so it just goes to suppose that breastfeeding helped that child survive and thrive.
Why does it have to be one or the other? And why do breasts, and the female body, get to only be used for sexual gratification? What if, at the very least, we all put aside our own fears, short-comings, or anxieties and showed kindness and gentleness towards the smallest and most vulnerable of our species?
I want to close with some advice for those of you who read this and who get a bit squeamish when you see a woman (or even think about seeing her) breastfeeding her baby. To you, I ask for just a small amount of tolerance. When those sirens go off in your brain and your internal dialogue is screaming "WARNING SEXUAL OBJECTS BEING EXPOSED," how about just turning your head and tending to your own business? If YOU have an issue with the mother nourishing her small and innocent child, try to use discretion with yourself and your actions and words. And if you can not understand the woman, try at least giving some respect for the mother who is just doing with her body what nature has intended.