Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Defining Feminism

Recently,'s editor Peggy O'Mara published a piece claiming that breastfeeding, and more specifically, the right to breastfeed in public, is "the feminist issue of our time."  I had a flood of thoughts upon reading it, and I feel compelled to respectfully disagree. 

Let me start by saying that my almost 27 month old daughter still nurses 6+ times a day, even [gasp!] during the night in bed with me, and I have no issues with nursing publicly.  I think Peggy made some very valid points about breastfeeding being a basic human right, among other things.  However, saying it is "the feminist issue of our time" is a bold statement. 

My initial reaction was that the seemingly endless battles for reproductive rights would probably be at the top of my list of current feminist events.  Then I began expanding my view to encompass the international scope of women's rights.  I could feel my heart sink as I reflected on young girls who had their water poisoned at their schools in Afghanistan, or the BABIES who are raped and maimed in the Congo.  These are just two examples of the numerous atrocities committed against females worldwide, and suddenly, breastfeeding in public certainly did not seem like it was at the top of the list of feminist issues.  Even the assaults on reproductive freedom here in the US seemed somewhat myopic to me.

It is important to note that I am very passionate about rights for breastfeeding mothers, and infuriated by what has been going on lately with attempts to redefine rape, limit women's access to birth control, and disable the ability for a woman to make life transforming decisions about her own body.  I just wish that a few more feminists in the US would be equally outspoken and enraged about the treatment of women all over the world.  Rarely do I see information flying around social networking sites about the lives of the women in Darfur, or the acid attacks that are becoming increasingly popular in many countries.  I am a survivor of rape, a survivor of domestic violence and a survivor in general, but I am humbled to think of the things so many women around the world have to face in their lives everyday, just trying to achieve having their basic human rights met.  Is breastfeeding THE feminist issue of our time?  Personally, I don't think so.


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