Sunday, July 24, 2011

Baby Gluton and Our Roles in Society

I'd like to preface this post in saying that yes, I am writing again about breastfeeding, however, this post is not just about breastfeeding. A friend of mine posted a picture of the breastfeeding doll Baby Gluton on his Facebook page and asked, "Any thoughts about this doll, or the appropriateness of this doll, or the appropriateness of subjecting girls to doll toys which may reinforce their place in society at such an early age?"
Baby Gluton, the breastfeeding doll
So far, his post has drawn in a lot of responses. One woman said, "Breastfeeding is a primal human function. It does not place us anywhere in society. My issue is with an advertisement which focuses on childrens breasts."

I agreed, also stating that my children already use their dolls as breastfeeding dolls, as they recognize that as how we feed babies. While I understand and appreciate the idea behind promoting breastfeeding, I don't see the point in the doll. Every doll we have is a breastfeeding doll.

My friend then asked me whether or not I have problems giving my girls dolls to play with. "I do take issue with giving a girl anything that reinforces where society thinks her place in it should be. Girls are more than milk containers and incubators. ... I think females deserve a greater role in life than to be subservient to their man in marriage, and to be a home-school teacher. :)," he said.

"I'm fine with giving my girls dolls to play with. I see no problem in nurturing their want to nurture something else. They also have a play workbench with hammers and nails and screws, etc, Tonka trucks, etc. My girls play Batman and Spiderman.

"I get what you're saying here, sir, in that perhaps by giving girls dolls that we're pressuring them or brainwashing them into thinking that this is what their job will be when they grow up and that it's wrong to think otherwise. I agree to a degree, but I also think that when children are treated with consideration and support and are accepted as what they are and what they want to become, they are less likely to be browbeaten into thinking that they have a "place in society." My girls don't BELONG in the kitchen, barefoot and pregnant, but if they choose that path, I will accept them just as much as if they choose to run for President or want to become a firefighter or a teacher or whatever else. I intend to raise them to know and understand that, so no, I see no problem in my girls dolls."

Another notable response in the thread came from a woman who was bothered by the doll:

"This doll infuriates me. Breast feeding is not natural and not everyone can do it. Mom and baby have to learn how to do it, and I know from several girlfriends that the process can be frustrating and draining and maddening. Especially when you've been told your entire life by everyone you know that it is natural. Aside from that, not everyone can do it. There are any number of reasons why some women cannot breast feed. From the anatomical to the practical.. And if your mother and/ or your sisters had issues breastfeeding, the chance that you will have the same or similar issues increases dramatically. For instance, my sister had numerous infections the first two times she tried to breastfeed. So when I got pregnant, I discussed this with both my pediatrician and my ob/gyn. We decided that I probably shouldn't even try. Ultimately, it didn't matter anyway because my milk never came in. So I think giving a doll like this to a child simply reinforces society's expectations and can only lead to incredible disappointment later if she us unable to breastfeed."

For a long time, I've been trying to hold my tongue when it comes to commenting about breastfeeding on Facebook. I've posted about some of the drama that I've encountered there regarding the issue, and while I feel that it is important to try to dispel some of the myths about breastfeeding that cause the most misunderstanding, I also find it incredibly important to hang on to a level of sanity that I can't maintain when faced with that amount of opposition. However, it's comments like these, as well as a few other things that have been said in the past, that will bring me to jump up on my soap box.

"It's not breastfeeding that bothers me in the slightest, nor is it the promotion of breastfeeding. I think that the idea behind it is good, that we as society should be more supportive of breastfeeding than we are - because although everyone says, 'Oh, EVERYONE says you should breastfeed,' when I announced my plans to breastfeed, everyone from my mother to my OB to my friends and co-workers advised against it. 'It's hard! It's gross! It hurts!' I heard every excuse in the book for why I shouldn't do it, while only two people told me that they thought it was a good idea.

We tout the health benefits for both mother and child, but when it comes down to the nitty gritty, we're all perfectly okay with not doing it. 'It's great for you, but so is exercising and we all know how often we actually make it to the gym.'

I get that there are a lot of women who can't - but generally speaking it's because there are so many myths about breastfeeding that women buy into because they're so widely spread. For instance, statistically speaking, only about 2% of women have actual medical reasons for having supply issues. Breast milk runs on supply and demand and if you never even put your baby to your breast, your body is going to see that as zero demand for milk and thus, your milk is not going to come in.

I also get that there are all kinds of infections, ranging from thrush (I'm sure it's fun having a yeast infection on your boobs) to mastitis (which, having been lucky enough to never suffer from, I can say that I can DEFINITELY see where that would probably deter me from continuing to breastfeed).

There are also other reasons that breastfeeding isn't always the best option for the family, like the working mother (and I don't give a crap about all the laws passed allowing working moms space and time to pump - as a working waitress, I can say from experience that even though it is within my legal right to take that time to pump milk while I am at work, I am going to lose money if I practice that right.)

What I am saying is that I get that there are reasons to not breastfeed and I am not trying to pass judgment on those who do not - what works best for your family to make a healthy baby and a healthy mother is your own personal decision - but please don't tell me that breastfeeding is not natural because it is something that has to be learned. I am glad that was brought up, that is does have to be learned, but just because mother and baby have to both learn how to do it, that does not make it unnatural. It's no more unnatural than any other learned task we, as animals, do. Would you say walking is unnatural? Or chewing and swallowing solid food?

Breastfeeding is NATURAL (whether you like it or not), should be promoted (although perhaps not with this doll), and supported wholly. And just because we may choose to breastfeed, that does not mean that we are picking our place in society or bowing down to what we think that we, as women, are SUPPOSED to do. In choosing to breastfeed, we are choosing to feed our children the very best thing we possibly can - a food that is made SPECIFICALLY for them.

I'm sorry to make this so long, sir (referring back to the original poster), but while to a degree I get where you're going with your arguments, I am also a little bothered by the assumption that we're bowing down to the societal roles that we're supposed to follow by educating ourselves and taking the time to choose our children over ourselves while they are young.

I don't know if you've ever seen the movie Mona Lisa Smile, and not to give any spoilers, but there is a point in time when one of the girls in the class chose to be married and raise a family instead of going to law school. The professor went to her house to speak with her about it, telling her that she can choose both. The girl responds, 'Do you think I'll wake up one morning and regret not being a lawyer? ... Not as much as I'd regret not having a family, not being there to raise them. I know exactly what I'm doing and it doesn't make me any less smart. This must seem terrible to you... You stand in class and tell us to look beyond the image, but you don't. To you a housewife is someone who sold her soul for a center hall colonial. She has no depth, no intellect, no interests. You're the one who said I could do anything I wanted. This is what I want.' I feel that that best sums up my feelings towards the time that I put my childrens' benefit over my own career or personal life."

I'm hoping that my words won't come across as harsh, but I was really bothered by the statement that just because breastfeeding is a learned process it's unnatural.

So what do you guys think? Do you think that a doll specifically designed for pretend breastfeeding is okay? How do you feel about giving girls dolls to play with? Any responses to those who posted above?