Imagine living in a world where it’s OK to attend a topless breast-barber but it’s NOT OK to breastfeed your child in a major retail outlet?!
Well stop Imagining Australia, because this is the world we now live in.
Over the weekend there were two major incidents involving breasts (cue Law & Order’s ‘dun-dun’) both of which, incidentally, played out in Northern Australia. Now please excuse me while I open my breast-case…
Case One – A topless barber shop has recently opened in Cairns, in an attempt to delight the city’s male population. The owner of the business, Emma Gelling said, in the Townsville Bulletin, that the store was “designed as a bit of innocent fun for the city’s single men.”
Case two – A young mother breastfeeding her child in Kmart (Smithfield, Cairns) was asked to leave the store as an employee allegedly told her it was against company policy to breastfeed in store as it was offensive. Onlookers claimed the breastfeeding mother was wearing a green cloth over her shoulder and thus her breasts were not visible. The woman in question declared on social media that she was and continues to be “pretty upset” by the ordeal.
One city, two breasts, and two very different reactions.
From these two wildly contrasting responses to the exact same region of the female anatomy, one can draw various inferences. Firstly, it seems that breasts are much more acceptable to some members of the public when they’re viewed in a sexual context. Secondly, Australian women still face considerable discrimination and judgment whilst breastfeeding. Thirdly, the act of breastfeeding is grossly misunderstood by a number of people.
So, let’s go back to the basics. The Oxford Dictionary defines breastfeeding as the act of ‘feeding a baby with milk from the breast.’ According to The Australian Government Department of Health website, ‘Breastfeeding provides babies with the best start in life and is a key contributor to infant health.’ Furthermore, every mother instinctively understands that when your baby is hungry, you MUST feed him or her immediately, irrespective of your location. It requires a stop-drop & roll-up your top urgency! Just so we’re clear, women don’t do this for FUN, it’s to actually keep their baby alive!
However, despite the overwhelming evidence in support of breastfeeding, some individuals continue to label the act as ‘disgusting’ & ‘offensive.’ Whereas the display of a woman who gives a male a number two buzz-cut ‘sans brassiere’ is considered just “innocent-fun”?! The hypocrisy is simply staggering.
Before I close my breast-case, I’d like to borrow some wise words from Law & Order’s opening theme.
In the Australian justice system, breastfeeding is a right, not a privilege. Discriminating against a person either directly or indirectly on the grounds of breastfeeding is especially heinous. In Australia, the dedicated people who breastfeed their young infants are members of an elite squad known as Mothers. Don’t shame their bodies. Now that’s titillating!
Ilaria Brophy is the host of Hit Breakfast in Cairns and you can follow her here.