Breastfeeding: Inappropriate or Not?

How does a culture come to sexualize a perfectly legitimate way to receive sustenance? Despite the continuously mounting literature that argues for the long-term health benefits of breastfeeding for the child, and the beneficial hormone releases for the mother, breastfeeding is still largely viewed as taboo in the western world.

Why has the western world largely come to consider breastfeeding an inappropriate activity in public? In his post on Savage Minds, Ryan Anderson, a cultural anthropologist, suggests that this shift in thinking is related to the sexualization of women’s breasts. Citing evidence from other anthropologists such as Katherine Dettwyler, Anderson goes on to add that a large factor in the perceived inappropriateness of breastfeeding is probably the cultural normativity of the oversexualization of women.

There is evidence to support that breastfeeding can be widely beneficial to both mother and child. While breastfeeding is making a comeback in the western world as a legitimate (and usually private) way to feed an infant, it is still hugely stigmatized. This begs the question: how can future generations reduce the stigma attached to breastfeeding so that mothers don’t have to hide themselves away to feed their children? I think this starts with reducing the sexualization of body parts that serve a purpose aside from sexual pleasure.


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