A man studying to become a midwife in the UK has been banned from a breastfeeding class because the women in it weren't comfortable with a male presence. It's a completely backwards situation that is going to backfire and put male midwives at a disadvantage. As a woman, I get it, but as a mom and someone who wants to see more public acceptance of breastfeeding and comfort with women's bodies, I think it sets a terrible precedent.
In the UK, there are 20,000 midwives, only 132 of which are male. It's a rare profession for a man, and we should support the idea that some men may choose to go into a caring profession that is so heavily focused on women and their bodies. This isn't something we should be discouraging at all!
Also: how many women deliver their babies with male OB/GYNs? My guess is a whole lot. So how is this different?
Midwife-in-training Chris Butt said he obviously sees the intimate parts of women in his work all the time. He doesn't deliver babies behind a screen, after all. So what gives?
I have never wanted a male OB/GYN and I also never nursed in front of a man other than my husband. So I get all those things. I get why a woman might not want a man in her class. But how is he supposed to become a midwife without being in the class? Also: how can we ever change men's attitudes about breasts and nursing if we never let them see us in action?
Boobs are only as sexual as we let them be, and by keeping them covered around all men, we make them more mysterious and sexy. Isn't that an odd truth? As a modest woman myself, I can SAY that, but then, in practice, I always nursed under a cover.
So how do we fix this? I think we all need to acknowledge that men play a role in society when it comes to breastfeeding. Any mom will tell you that if her husband or partner wasn't supportive of breastfeeding, then breastfeeding wouldn't have happened. Men matter in this equation. It's a fact.
Babies don't happen without men and nothing in our society will change if we don't get the men on board, too. The best way to make that happen is to expose them to it all. The more they know, the better.
So this class banning a man who is specifically TRYING to do something different and be outside the mold is part of the problem. A man becoming a midwife is something we should encourage. We need more of them.
Do you feel comfortable nursing in front of men?
Image via fifikins/Flickr