Happy Birthday baby girl! Today you are six. It really does seem like yesterday that I held you in my arms just minutes after your birth. I remember thinking at that moment (and throughout my pregnancy) that having a girl was not going to be easy. As a historian I am painfully aware of hard it was/is to be a female. Yes, women have achieved quite a bit, but there are many individuals (male and female) who think gender equality will lead to the end of human existence, and who are hellbent on placing women within the box of inequality.
Breasts are everywhere in popular culture. This is nothing new. And yet I’ve been struck in recent years by the resurgence of the breastfeeding body in visual culture and contemporary art. It’s apparently a big deal (i.e., magazine-cover newsworthy) that Salma Hayek, Alanis Morrisette, Tori Spelling, Kourtney Kardashian, Angelina Jolie, Christina Aguilera, and many other celebrities breastfeed their babies.
This may come as a shock to some of you, but I have a difficult time talking about sex.
[I will pause a moment while my friends, colleagues, and former students pick themselves up off the floor and recover from the raucous laughter that I’m sure they just engaged in.]
Okay. Let me clarify: I have a difficult time talking with my son about sex.
“Don’t expect it to be flat,” is what the nurse said to me just hours after I had given birth to my son. You know she must have seen me glance in the mirror as I was climbing, actually dragging my beat up body into bed. I look at her and said, “huh?” “Your stomach, don’t expect it to be flat,” she pointed to my enlarged abdomen, “Many women think that once they give birth, *poof* their stomachs immediately go flat.” Since I had never experienced a flat stomach ever in my lifetime, I kind of smirked, looked in the mirror one more time, and thought, “it will go down.” But it never really did, especially when I found myself pregnant a year later (yeah, what was I thinking). In that time between the birth of my son and then the birth of daughter, I thought a lot about how I wanted to look as a mother, but it wasn’t until I made the conscious choice (well really my hubby did) not to have any more children, did I really begin to assess the historical and contemporary meaning behind motherhood and attractiveness. This led me to think more about the MILF and the idea of the sexy mama.
Here we go again. That sound you hear is millions of Americans gasping and clutching their pearls over the new Time Magazine cover story on attachment parenting. The blogosphere is already atwitter with comments of disgust, outrage, and shock over the photo of an attractive mother nursing her 5 (ish) year-old-son. Let’s be honest here, however you might feel about older children breastfeeding, the picture is clearly meant to shock – it is intended to stir the pot. In fact the cover, incredibly enough, manages to alienate all mothers – either you are put on display as a freak that over-parents, or you are shamed for not parenting enough. The headline says it all: “Are you Mom Enough?” It might as well say, “You Will Never be Good Enough – Regardless of your Parenting Choices – We Will Always Judge You. Happy Mother’s Day!” (OK, maybe that title is a bit too long.)