Breastfeeding, SIDS and Women-Blaming Culture

This article published in The Australian is currently doing the rounds on Facebook. Basically, a research and advocacy group called sids and kids has added breastfeeding to the list of things which statistically decrease the chances of an infant dying of SIDS. This isn’t new research and the links between SIDS and breastfeeding have been reported here previously. Scientific research has demonstrated time and time again that breast milk is best for babies and the World Health Organisation recommends exclusively breastfeeding for the first 6 months and then up to 2 years. I posted a link on my FB wall. The first two comments suggested that the publication of the research was designed specifically to make women feel like shit.

I don’t think anyone can argue with the research but what comes up, time and time again, is the idea that somehow promoting this research is done only to “punish” women who formula feed. Now, I’m usually at the head of the queue at the woman-blaming culture protests and am a firm believer that the Patriarchy deliberately and maliciously sets women up to police other women’s behaviour to the detriment of all women. The Patriarchy punishes women in a million and one ways. I just don’t think the issue of breastfeeding and SIDS is about women-blaming culture or, at least, it shouldn’t be. It should be about what has the best outcomes for infants and mothers. Breastfeeding has health benefits for both the mother and the infant and very few women are physically incapable of breastfeeding. Statistically, the number of women who physically can’t breastfeed is insignificant in the face of the number of women who “can’t” for cultural reasons. The reason many women “can’t” breastfeed is because of structural inequalities in employment and home life, lack of support, and the constant misinformation spouted by so-called professionals like Dr. Christian Jessen and Gina Ford. Ford, at least, has the excuse of not being a medical doctor. Dr. Christian is just a misogynistic tool.

Breast-feeding is normal. This doesn’t mean that women who choose not to or who can’t breast feed are bad mothers. It simply means that breast milk fits the needs of babies in terms of their immune systems and long-term health as a result of millions of years of evolution. What we need to do is separate the emotion from the science. Breast feeding, like putting a baby on their back to sleep, statistically decreases the chance of an infant dying of SIDS. It doesn’t prevent SIDS nor does it mean a mother who loses a child to SIDS and who didn’t breastfeed is responsible for her child dying. That would be women-blaming [not to mention vile, disgusting, evil and utterly lacking in humanity].

We need to support women who want to breastfeed better and we need to tackle the misinformation about formula which actively puts babies at risk: like how to prepare formula properly. We also need to challenge the myths of breastfeeding like the fact that breastfeeding doesn’t necessarily change the shape of your breasts: pregnancy can and does that. And, really, who the fuck cares that your breasts have changed shape because of pregnancy? Bodies change. That doesn’t change who you are; nor does it make you less sexual if you do. Frankly, if your partner finds you less sexy because your body has changed shaped after birthing his child, then you need to kick his pathetic, judgemental, whiny-arse to the curb.

We need to ensure that every woman has access to real information about breastfeeding and formula feeding in order for each woman to make the best choice for herself and her child. We need to respect the decision of each individual woman whilst exploring the structural inequalities which force women to make “choices” which are not appropriate for them. What we can not do is refuse to publish information that might make some women upset because they did not breastfeed. Preventing all women from accessing real information because a few women might get upset is precisely how the Patriarchy victimises women: by withholding information and pitting women against women.

 

‘Fun Feminism’: In Defence of Radical Feminism

I love Julie Bindel. I don’t always agree with everything she says but she makes me think which is a precious gift in a society driven by Patriarchal media-soundbites which erase the voices of those who don’t conform and labels them stupid to boot. Bindel, along with Bidisha, Cath Elliot, and Samira Ahmed are some of my favourite journalists because they don’t play the Handmaiden game.

Not everyone feels quite the same love I do as evidenced by this article in the New Stateman making the rounds on Twitter. Again. It is simply a brief outline of the difference between Second Wave Radical Feminism and the, unfortunately, increasingly popular “fun feminism”, otherwise known as Third Wave Feminism. The difference being, according to Bindel, that the former is a:

A political movement to overthrow male supremacy, according to us radicals. These days, however, young women (and men) are increasingly fed the line from “fun feminists” that it is about individual power, rather than a collective movement.

Radical Feminism is anti-porn not anti-sex as the Third Wavers dismissively suggest. We do not believe that women’s liberation is about “choice” and that individual “choices” must be respected irregardless of the harm they cause other women. The “choice” to do Burlesque only exists if you have the education and status to be “risque”. Burlesque isn’t a “risque” activity though. It is one that clearly has negative consequences for women who work in the sex industry due to poverty, addiction, and lack of alternate possibilities. Radical Feminism is about freeing women from male oppression and violence. Lap-dancing isn’t a route to women’s liberation; neither is prostitution. These are lies perpetuated by The Patriarchy. We are not man-haters. If anything, Radical Feminists are the ones who believe that men are actually capable of empathy and humanity and aren’t just animals ruled by their cocks.

“Fun Feminism” is why Terri White wound up as an assistant editor at Nuts magazine rating young women, barely into adulthood, on their breasts without any consideration to the harm she was perpetuating. “Fun Feminism” is why Caitlin Moran can claim, without even the barest hint of irony, that “beauty regimes” and housework aren’t Feminist issues. “Fun Feminism” is the reason why we are required to preface any discussion of violence against women with the statement “obviously all men aren’t rapists or abusers or porn-users” [although, considering porn is the most financially successful industry in the world, a seriously large number of men have to be consuming it to make it profitable]. “Fun Feminism” is why ageing female journalists are slowly being erased from the media. “Fun Feminism” is the reason our daughter’s are being taught that the only power they have is their sexuality and that being physically attractive is the most important thing in the world. Ever. We need more Radical Feminists like Julie Bindel being controversial and being heard. We need more Radical Feminists asking questions and demanding real answers and not the minimising bullshit the BBC comes out with when questioned why their children’s programming features more boys than girls than any of the commercial channels manage. We need more Radical Feminist voices loudly critiquing the “Sex-industry” and challenging pornographers and those who deny the damage done by prostitution.

UPDATE: Bindel on Brooke Magnati’s new book in the Guardian and here on the Myth of the Violent Lesbian.

UPDATE 2: Bindel’s article spawned quite a large discussion on Mumsnet.  KRITIQ had some quite interesting things to say about labelling movements. I’m going to copy some of those statements here since they pushed me out of my comfort zone in a positive manner [which is a particularly lovely gift KRITIQ has]:

[l] don’t like the term “fun fem” and still think there’s a risk it can be used just to dismiss and silence those who don’t meet some arbitrary standard of feminist values. I’d rather see arguments against the perpetuation of specific beliefs and practices rather than a list of “things that aren’t really feminist,” which will probably get lots of things tacked on the end and there will never be any agreement on.

For what it’s worth, discussion of sexual oppression IS going to be scary, regardless of how it’s done. It’s impossible to keep the political from being personal and vice versa, so people will have strong feelings and use strong language in articulating these. Perhaps one needs a strong stomach to engage in discussions here and elsewhere on feminism. Being just a textual medium, perhaps we would all benefit from remembering how easy it is to misunderstand and be misunderstood. But, I would never want folks to feel they need to sanitise their experience or views to be more palatable. The experience of being at the sharp end of misogyny, whether individually or collectively, isn’t something that should be sugar-coated, imho. …

Regardless of the origins of the term “fun fem,” … I still don’t think it’s a helpful term. That was the point I was making. It’s too porous to have a useful definition and like “politically correct” can be easily used as or experienced as just a throw away “slur.” I’d prefer to get beyond what could be seen as just name calling to actually challenging and questioning people about those specific points about prostitution, sexualisation of children, pornography, collusion with rape, etc.
Equally, I despise the term “sex positive feminism.” It suggests that those who don’t think prostitution, porn, stripping, etc. are tickity boo are “negative” about sex, which ain’t the case. Similarly, I don’t like the term “pro life” for those who oppose a woman’s right to choose. Advocates of reproductive rights and choice aren’t anti-life, fgs