by Michele Zipp
Because I am a breastfeeding advocate who wants to help normalize the act of nursing a baby, I was thrilled to see Vogue Netherlands feature model Ymre Stiekema topless and breastfeeding in the October issue. Perfect! I thought. Except for the odd black garbage bag chair she was sitting on and that nun-like hat. But because it's fashion, there was a reason for that. The photo shoot was styled so it would resemble a Vermeer painting a la Girl With a Pearl Earring. Here we have Girl With a Breastfeeding Baby. Oh how I love the Dutch.
Many media outlets are talking about Vogue Netherlands now and I'm hoping that Anna Wintour is considering the same type of inadvertent breastfeeding coverage (or uncoverage) in Vogue America. Though I did notice that certain sites were concerned that the image of Stiekema breastfeeding was not safe for work, so a big NSFW warning was placed in the post's headline warning those that what they were about to see was NOT SAFE in some way.
Before I continue, I need to point out that I would love to run the image here at The Stir; however, we do not have the rights to do so as it's an image shot by a professional photographer for Vogue. That's the only reason we aren't seeing the beauty of what I feel is a safe for work image here.
However, HuffPo had to put a NSFW warning to let readers know that what they were about to see could potentially get you in trouble with your boss. Or that the image of a woman breastfeeding is deemed pornographic in some way. All the same stuff we seem to be constantly going through with Facebook deleting images and moms chastised for nursing in public. Breastfeeding is considered obscene by some ... perhaps by most. This has nothing to do with HuffPo's views I don't think, but rather their audience, who (generally speaking) perhaps isn't as quick to read something about breastfeeding as those of us here at The Stir. In other words, HuffPo perhaps felt they had to add that warning in as a courtesy to their readers who could believe that seeing an image of a woman breastfeeding is not safe for work.
Since when is breastfeeding NSFW? Sadly, society believes there are a lot of times. Like the mother who was fired after she breastfed her preemie baby while on work breaks. And the mom fired from her teaching job for pumping breast milk at work. A receptionist was fired from her job at a doctor's office for pumping at work as well. Breastfeeding working moms face many difficulties -- and not just the fear of getting let go from our jobs. We encounter the issue of where to pump, making sure we have a private and comfortable place to do so, and how to properly store our breast milk when we do. Breastfeeding mothers face many obstacles, which is why the breastfeeding rates are low. And deeming an image of a woman nursing a baby 'not safe for work' is yet another obstacle.
There is nothing not safe about breastfeeding. Unless you count the mom who breastfed her child while driving a moped. Images of a woman breastfeeding shouldn't be grouped in with images that are truly not safe to view at work like nude photos for sexual excitement. To call it that sets us back, adds to the discrimination, hurts the breastfeeding cause. We need mainstream media to help normalize images of breastfeeding -- it's one of the ways future generations could breastfeed more than our own. It's one of the ways more woman would face acceptance and encouragement. It's one of the ways our children would benefit.
Categorizing a breastfeeding image as NSFW is wrong. It makes breastfeeding mothers feel that what they are doing is wrong or should be hidden, secret, not discussed. And it makes everyone else think that seeing a breastfeeding mother is obscene, wrong, not normal, that it should be hidden, that breastfeeding is a "dirty" X-rated act. That is why it is so wrong. Mainstream media should uphold a certain standard of values even if some of the readers may object. We shouldn't bow to the few (or even the many) when the opinion that breastfeeding is obscene is what is really wrong.
What do you think of mainstream media deeming a breastfeeding image 'not safe for work'? Do you also believe it hurts the cause?