Dr. Joan Bushwell's Chimpanzee Refuge

Speaking as a mother who breastfed both of my kids and was a card-carrying member of LaLeche League (an uneasy relationship since I worked outside the home but valuable all the same for many other reasons), I figured I’d weigh in on this, but not from the Facebook angle. There are plenty of other offerings among my SciBlings on the Facebook debacle, and I am sure you can find them via the main page so I am not linking them here. I can’t say I am surprised at FB’s reactionary response to the photos of the mother in question. Breastfeeding is ridiculously sexualized in the US.

So here I offer you Exhibit B:

Bill Maher made a pig of himself (not surprisingly) when he weighed in recently on public breastfeeding as Katharine Mieszkowski reports in Bill Maher: “Don’t show me your tits!” via Salon’s Broadsheet. Since not all have access to the now gated community of Salon, here’s the text. I hope Ms. Mieszkowski will forgive me for reprinting this rather than just providing a link. There’s also a video of Maher’s idiocy in the Salon piece.

HBO’s Bill Maher is a self-professed libertarian, except when it comes to moms agitating for the right to breast-feed in public. Then he’s all about telling us what to do with our bodies and babies.

In a segment on “Real Time With Bill Maher” on Sept. 14, which inflamed lactivists the Web over, Maher ridiculed a recent nationwide nurse-in to object to Applebee’s treatment of a breast-feeding mom in Kentucky. (As we mentioned last week, you can catch some choice video of the Applebee’s nurse-in here. One highlight: adults brandishing bananas put blankets over their heads to demonstrate that infants might find it challenging to eat that way, too.)

Among Maher’s digs against the lactivists, he compares breast-feeding in public to masturbating in public: “Next thing, women will be wanting to give birth in the waterfall in the mall,” he jokes. He carps that these moms are just “too lazy” to plan ahead or cover up. And what do these mothers really want, according to Maher? To feed their hungry children and avoid crying fits in public, maybe? Nah, says Maher, what they really want is attention! Yep, what they really, really want is guys like Maher looking at their boobs.

But Maher knows one place where food and breasts mix: Hooters! Get it? Hooters. Yuk, yuk! A joke that really only proves the lactivists’ point that breasts are considered 100 percent socially acceptable when they’re intended to sexually titillate lascivious middle-aged men but “Ewww, gross” when they’re used to feed a kid.

I really would have been happy to make it through life without ever writing the words “Bill Maher” and “masturbating” in the same sentence, but as they say on Fox News: “We report. You decide.” Here’s the video; the nursing fuss comes at the end:

Broadsheet prediction: Forget Applebee’s. The next lactivist boobalicious action will take place outside the studios of “Real Time With Bill Maher,” uniting thousands of moms with babies at the breast, in a lactating throng not seen since Manila. Poor Bill Maher. To get to work, he’ll have to stumble by, covering his eyes with both hands to avoid possibly catching a glimpse of — horrors! — a nipple.

Better still, here’s a Broadsheet contest: The first daring lactivist who actually infiltrates the set of “Real Time With Bill Maher” and disrupts the show with a one-woman nurse-in wins my voice on the outgoing message of her home answering machine or voice-mail. I may be no Carl Kasell, but I can promise dulcet tones, too, and I’ll even throw in the lactivist nursing slogan of your choice; pick your favorite here.

Addendum:

Here’s the New Rules clip.

Comments

  1. #1 Tara C. Smith
    September 20, 2007

    Ugh. About 5 years ago I had some respect for Maher, but that’s gone as he’s come out as anti-vaccine, anti-public breastfeeding, and I’m sure probably other stupidity I’m forgetting about right now.

  2. #2 sailor
    September 20, 2007

    I used to have respect for Maher, but in this case he has clearly been masterbating to his image in front of a mirror instead of using his brains.

  3. #3 B8ovin
    September 20, 2007

    If you watch the clip you might notice two things: Mahr is not against breastfeeding in public, and his reaction is to the stridency of the reaction to Applebee’s. I suspect every person I respect has one or two ideas I disagree with. I am not inclined to dissolve my respect for those differences. Indeed, the reaction to Mahr’s mostly comic commentary is exactly the point of that commentary. I find the over-reaction of the breastfeeding mothers (all four of my children were breastfed, sometimes in public) not unlike the conservative reaction to the Move-On ad, much ado about nothing.

  4. #4 Back in Black
    September 20, 2007

    I find the over-reaction of the breastfeeding mothers (all four of my children were breastfed, sometimes in public) not unlike the conservative reaction to the Move-On ad, much ado about nothing.

    This condescending SHIT is so unbefuckinglievable that I would rather take a pencil, sharpen it, and ram it in my ear because that would be more pleasant than entertaining the very IDEA that women’s reactions to Maher’s fucked up spiel are the same as right wing reactions to Move-On. Listen to the clip again, Buh…buh…B8hoven. Do you spell with 3 for ‘e,’ too?

    Look, babies are freakin’ RANDOM WALKS! Twenty-seven fuckin’ degrees of freedom! Chaos theory! You had four of them. FOUR! You should KNOW. “Plan ahead,” my ASS!

    Yeah, Maher thinks it’s OK for women to breastfeed in public, but only if they cover themselves and their kids up with a fucking BURQA! Just how much breast was displayed in Applefuckbees? A quarter of a globe? A half? “Janet Jackson?” Oh, no, a half a breast was exposed. The fucking sky is falling down. Dogs are lying with cats. Frogs are lying with locusts. Flee! FLEE! Flee for your LIVES!

    Maher can wave his “comedic” DICK around all he wants about the narcissism of lactivists, but I’ll make an alLUUUUsion to what Zuska and Sandra noted about women in science: the little things add up. For women whose kids need to nurse – and you can’t always predict when they will need to – these BULLSHIT little things add up! That’s ONE of the reasons those “narcissistic” women are protesting.

    “Maher’s mostly comic commentary?” Yeah. Equating public masturbation with public breastfeeding is a real fucking LAFF RIOT!

    OK, I grant you, the bit about Applebees being nauseating was funny.

    Disclaimer: On occasion, Doc Bushwell is possessed by a demonic avatar of Lewis Black.

  5. #5 Kevin
    September 20, 2007

    Disclaimer: On occasion, Doc Bushwell is possessed by a demonic avatar of Lewis Black.

    Which is good, since unlike Bill Maher, Lewis Black manages to be both funny and relevant

  6. #6 Rhapsody
    September 21, 2007

    I do think Bill Maher has a point about activism being too narcistic and with their actions not getting the point across. It borderlines on populism on which the one shouting has just one goal: attention all to me me me. I had a run-in with fanatic boob-nazi’s myself who run like a bull through the china shop with an utter lack tact and diplomacy (in that respect they do not differ from Christian activists), not taking into account the other sides perspective (and no I am not talking about mothers being to tired to nurse their babes and such). Livejournal, Myspace and facebook are companies who offer services to users, but users have to play by a set of rules. Legislation changes often, the internet changes and they have the right to change the rules to reflect that, just as long if they inform their customers in a timely manner (see the AOL ruling). I always think that when it comes down to an organisation like LaLeche Leagues should rethink their PR strategy because well, there are good breastfeeding programmes in the world. They at their turn suffer from the bad pr boob-nazis are raining down on moms who really try their best, but will end up reacting cynical to every breastfeeding programme out there because boob-nazi’s have no tact whatsoever to be open to what they are causing. That simply cannot be the goal to promote breastfeeding because it is so important to the child. Yet mothers do shy away from it and it is a bad thing.

    Now as for breastfeeding in public, all I can say: Maher is a man and he acts like a pig. The thing is with breastfeeding is that you cannot control chauvinistic reactions like that. If breasts turn a man on: that is not the mom’s problem. Telling nursing mom’s to cover up because a man cannot control his hormones says more about the men then about breastfeeding/nursing in problem. It is sad that social communities like Livejournal and facebook are more listening to male puritans who think that having control over one’s own sexual urgers is a problem caused by another. maybe the fact that those who run the companies are men as well or are in a majority. If they have moral issues with this, well have a deep look inside yourself because it sadly says more about you. Blaming the fake source of your problem will not solve it, neither does supressing a fundemental right of mothers to nurse their child wherever the child needs to be fed. I rather have a mom nursing her babe, than listening to frustrated hunger cries of a baby who cannot plan or time a very prime need. Just my 2 eurocents.

  7. #7 Doc Bushwell
    September 21, 2007

    I do think Bill Maher has a point about activism being too narcistic and with their actions not getting the point across. It borderlines on populism on which the one shouting has just one goal: attention all to me me me.

    Yep, it certainly is in-your-face. Arguably, there are many instances of vociferous protests, seemingly narcisitic at the time, that led to social change. If the bared-boobed winged harpies of lactivism make it possible for a woman in the near future to nurse publicly without a fuss, then they have accomplished something. Given the puritanical nature of the US, I am not optimistic that will happen, so maybe their battle cry just amounts to a futile “me, me, me.”

    I had a run-in with fanatic boob-nazi’s myself who run like a bull through the china shop.

    Oh, I hear you and empathize. I had similar experiences since I worked outside the home, an anathema to the official tenets of LLL. I agree that the inclination of LLL to didacticism hurts its own cause by driving moms away, exactly as you note in your first paragraph. That said, the particular local (and heretical) group I was associated with was very supportive, accommodating and flexible in their approach. This included the explicit recognition that not all mothers are able to breastfeed their kids, and that children can and do thrive on formula.

    in that respect they do not differ from Christian activists

    Likewise, they’re similar to noisy atheist-activists whose vociferous screeds may catch the “reasonable faithful” in the crossfire.

    Livejournal, Myspace and facebook are companies who offer services to users, but users have to play by a set of rules.

    True enough. Like you note, it’s the puritanical attitude of “the rules” that rankles.

    As for your second paragraph – beautiful! You articulated precisely what bugs me about the whole brouhaha – Maher and Facebook together.

  8. #8 jomega
    September 22, 2007

    Speaking as a guy here: While i don’t entirely understand this entire brouhaha about breastfeeding (after all, a tit with a baby’s face stuck to it is still covered, and for most fellas hardly boner-inducing), it occurs to me that perhaps the cause of such strong reactions against breastfeeding is jealousy – namely that a titty with a kid attatched to it is no longer OURS (and again, speaking as a guy here, and I think you’ll find many who would bear me out on this, in the blackest pit of our hearts they are all ours, at least potentially). What Facebook’s problem is, though, I have no clue.

  9. #9 llewelly
    September 22, 2007

    … it occurs to me that perhaps the cause of such strong reactions against breastfeeding is jealousy – namely that a titty with a kid attatched to it is no longer OURS (and again, speaking as a guy here, and I think you’ll find many who would bear me out on this, in the blackest pit of our hearts they are all ours, at least potentially).

    What a revolting sense of entitlement. Sick. Sick. Dr. Bushwell, is it possible a drug to cure this could be devised?

  10. #10 Doc Bushwell
    September 22, 2007

    jomega: in the blackest pit of our hearts they are all ours, at least potentially)

    llewelly:Dr. Bushwell, is it possible a drug to cure this could be devised?

    Indeed. I am all over this like a hen on a spotted tick. I will be filing an IND* for amammillavir in the near future.

    *IND = investigational new drug in Pharma-dur/FDA parlance.

    jomega, that comment pretty much sent me over the edge, i.e., breathless from pant-hoots.

  11. #11 jomega
    September 23, 2007

    Thanks, Doc. I do my best.

  12. #12 llewelly
    September 23, 2007

    ‘amammillavir’ … love the name. Thank you, Dr. Bushwell.

  13. #13 Toot Uncommon
    August 14, 2008

    Natural State
    I think that, in the wild, boobs are not considered a sex item. In primitive societies, every member of the tribe sees boobs every day. No one is aroused, except maybe the hungry babies!

    Unnatural State
    Women with saggy breasts are jealous of women with pert breasts, the saggy breast moms get traditions of cover the boobs. Generations later, we have laws saying that men can show nipples, but women can not. Women no longer breast feed in public. Boobs’ purpose is long forgotten.

    Now, boys associate boobs with a mystery zone, a part of women that only husbands can see, it becomes eroticised. Now we have a nation of men, conditioned to become aroused by breasts. Women breast feeding are rare and novel, so many boys and immature men gawk and stare.

    Maybe we need to pass a law that says breasts can not be covered for any reason except say sunburn or surgery! Sure, it will be awkward for a year while we all get used to it, but in two or three years we should get back to normal.

    How about a TV ad featuring babies and breasts, with old lady moms cooing at the babies. Babies sucking breasts and grandma talking about how babies need love and comfort. That should demotivate aany remaining lust thoughts in the immature men that remain.

    Have contests for sexy women that happen to be light up top…