Unable to recognize purity and innocence

Unable to recognize purity and innocence

There’s been a rash of news stories recently about breastfeeding moms being chastised—or worse—when feeding their children in public. Now, I’m not advocating indiscreet public disrobing, and I think that some nursing activists may perhaps be looking for a fight in some cases.

It’s ironic to say it’s traumatic for a child to happen upon the mother feeding her baby, while so many advertisements show a lot more skin than a nursing mother ever does.

In the news in the Boston area last week was a mom who sat down in the aisle of a store to feed her baby and was berated by the store manager. Frankly, I don’t think it matters whether she was giving the baby a bottle or her breast, I don’t think you should camp out in a store aisle to feed your child. Nevertheless, the manager’s claim that breastfeeding was gross and indecent was the height of irrationality.

Christopher West comments on his site about the seeming contradiction in a society in which, on the one hand, we exploit women’s bodies for commercial and prurient purposes, and on the other hand we freak out a woman using her breast for the innocent purpose for which it was intended.

I remember attending the Second World Meeting of John Paul II with Families in Brazil in 1997. Nursing mothers were a common sight at this international gathering. What I found intriguing, however, was that women from “first-world” nations tended to drape themselves and sit off in a corner, while women from other nations seemed to have no qualms whatsoever about feeding their babies in full view of others. I remember one woman unabashedly roaming the crowd passing all manner of bishops and cardinals with her breast fully exposed while her child held on to it with both hands happily feeding. The only people flinching seemed to be those from the northern hemisphere.

Isn’t it interesting that the part of the world producing the most pornography and exporting it to the rest of the globe has seemed to lose all sense of the true meaning of the human breast? What a commentary on the sad state of our sexually wounded culture! Breasts have been so “pornified” that we can fall into thinking that even their proper use is shameful. In other words, we have been so conditioned to see a woman’s body through the prism of lust that we find it very difficult to recognize the purity and innocence of breast-feeding.

Heck, it affects all of us. What man who doesn’t live in a cloister can say he doesn’t encounter salacious images of women all around him on a regular basis? Driving in my car I see not only billboards, but also women on the street. You certainly can’t avoid it at the mall. And we all know about TV and magazines and newspapers. Even worse stuff shows up in your spam email (although good spam filters can prevent you from having to see the images in most cases).

Even for men who don’t patronize the porn industry at still affected by it —and by extension so are the women around them.

The pornographic Puritanical society

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  • I am continually surprised by the “scandal” caused by modest nursing mothers in public places. Frequently, the infant is “at fault” for embarassing people with his/her obvious slurping. It’s almost funny, but as a mother who “did time” in smelly restrooms so as to feed babies who would otherwise offend polite society, I’m all for the brave mother who dares to offend (modestly). She’s a public sign of sane behavior in a mad world.

  • Pope John Paul himself explained this phenomenon.  Since westerners have become so fixated on women’s breasts for their sexual value, they have come to lose any conscious appreciation for women as mothers.  That’s why our perspective is so twisted.

  • I think the woman should have shown a little more discretion, but how can the store manager say that it was gross and still put out those magazines in the checkout line that are far worse.

  • My wife was once told—when she asked to use a fitting room to nurse—that it was a biohazard!

    I can get what you’re saying about finding a better place than the middle of the store, whether you’re using a bottle or a breast, but when you’re an exhausted parent with a hungry baby, you don’t have much choice.