Thursday, May 10, 2012

This Cover Doesn't Promote Breastfeeding. It Exploits it.

*Cross-posted from Notes from the Asylum.*


What the heck is up with that "Are you MOM enough?" headline? And, for that matter, what would possess Time Magazine's editors to pair such a shamelessly Mommy Wars-baiting kind of question with an intentionally salacious (not maternal, not nurturing) image of a nearly 4-year-old boy, who's identified by name, standing on a chair with his mouth on his slender, tank top attired twentysomething mother's exposed breast?

This cover is not about provoking a rationale discussion or even a lively debate about the pros and cons of attachment parenting or extended breastfeeding, two subjects certainly worthy of intellectual dissection. The cover isn't, as the editors claim, simply promoting the lead story inside the magazine which profiles America's leading attachment parenting advocate, who happens to be a seventysomething pediatrician. It's about titillation. Yeah, I said that.

Once you get past the cover, the magazine's lead story is entitled, "The Man Who Remade Motherhood." The accompanying articles (available for Time subscribers and on sale tomorrow on newsstands) are about Dr. Bill Sears and his attachment parenting philosophy which includes the promotion of extended breastfeeding through at least the first year of a baby's life and beyond, co-sleeping with the baby, not letting a baby "cry it out" and wearing the baby around in a baby sling. Other articles include a woman's tale of extended breastfeeding and a token analysis of attachment parenting and comparing its tenets to what science has discerned by studying its practice. Again, I think that these are important subjects to assess, particularly when it comes to tension between attachment parenting and the ability of women to work outside the home.

However that cover does a disservice to breastfeeding and flouts what breastfeeding advocates repeatedly say about it: It's not sexual and we need to get beyond seeing breasts as sexual objects and recognize that they're purposeful, functional parts of the female anatomy after a woman has a baby.

I'm a very low-key breastfeeding advocate, having nursed my babies for a long time, and think women should be able to do it wherever and whenever they and/or their babies need to. But this cover isn't about all of that. It's about newsstand sales. The magazine's editors should be embarrassed by their craven exploitation of this woman and her son, whose friends will be able to Google this image of him, at almost 4, suckling his mother's breast. Did anybody think about the impact of this photo on the kid?

Image credit: Time Magazine.

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