I want to get a few things clear...because there seems to be some confusion about discrete versus discreet, euphemisms, and breasts. It all stems from this breastfeeding debate sparked by Mill Baher (yes, that's intentional).
1. Discreet versus discrete
Discrete = separate, or, in math, no calculus.
Discreet = judicious in conduct, prudent, modest and unobtrusive
As you see above, discreet can mean modest and unobtrustive, but the dictionary---although it defines those words---can't define the varying subjective interpretations of what qualifies as "modest" and "unobtrusive."
That's why the euphemisms are a problem. And interfering in the discussion about breasts.
Opponents to breastfeeding in public enjoy employing words such as "obscene" and "offensive" and "private" as well as phrases such as "whip it out" and "boob hanging out" and "private moment between mother and child" and "nursing should be discreet."
Let's focus on that last one, shall we?
They don't mean discreet. They mean don't do it. They don't want to see it or know about it. They want it away from their mind, not their eyes, their mind. That's because of skeeves.
Modesty is a red herring, as are the rest of the synonyms for discreet. It really is about the act of breastfeeding. It really is about the skeeves some people get when they think about a baby nursing at a woman's breast.
But they don't want to make it about them; they want to make it about her.
You know, there is historical precedent for this, but that doesn't make it cool.
People can talk about alleged exposed breasts, discreet, and blankets all they want, but the truth is that a blanket isn't very discreet. It won't stop your mind from wandering into "milk flowing from woman's breast to baby's mouth." You will know there is a baby under that blanket. Plus, because it looks kind of odd, it is more likely to attract your attention, which will, of course, lead your mind to nursing.
Further, although some babies might not mind the blanket over them some of the time, I've never met one personally. Most babies object to the blanket, and we all know how babies object: vehemently. I don't blame them; it's dark, stuffy, gets hot, and blocks the view of the world around them, about which they are immensely curious. I wouldn't end up very modest if I depended upon a blanket.
Regardless, as I said already, blankets, modesty and the breast are red herrings here, anyway.
These things are all euphemisms for the real problem: the act of breastfeeding. The breast isn't the issue. Knowing that a baby is suckling at the breast is the issue. Because of skeeves.
I think until some people are honest enough to say, "It doesn't matter how discreet you are or what you do to try to hide it, if I see you and realize you are breastfeeding, I will skeeve out."
I think breastfeeding skeeves out a lot of people.
I understand skeeves; I get really skeevy about a lot of things.
People walking through my house in shoes. That skeeves me out. Seriously, do you know where those shoes have been and what they've walked in?
Public bathrooms skeeve me out, big time. Especially the floors. If only you knew the lengths I went to in order to ensure that no part of me or my stuff other than the soles of my shoes (see above) touched the floors of a bathroom...well, you'd laugh. It must be a real sight. (That said, do you think I want to take my baby in there to nurse? I'd be choking back gags and hurls.)
People who walk out of bathrooms without washing their hands. Skeeve skeeve skeeve skeeve!!!!
Celery skeeves me. Stringy vegetable that tastes like that. It's just wrong. Skeeve ick.
That rotten dishrag smell on restaurant tables. Skeeve.
Baby poo diapers. Skeeve!
Touching, cooking, cutting, dealing with raw meat. Skeeve! (I do not cook meat.)
Meat with bones. SKEEVE!!! (One of my most Horrible Moments was an Important Dinner where the gracious hostess proudly served each of us perfectly cooked---and whole---fancy birds. Dead fancy birds skinned, marinated, cooked and served on a plate. I about died.)
I could go on and on. We all have skeeves. Did you agree with my list? Yes? No? Yes and no?
See, skeeves are irrational and subjective, personal. They are personal problems.
Let me be clear...there is nothing wrong with serving roasted pheasant for dinner. It's generally agreed in our culture that this is a delicacy and ought to be appreciated and enjoyed. No, no, the problem is mine. The skeeves are mine, thus the problem is mine. It doesn't matter that somewhere out there people in the world or even people I know agree with these skeeves. It's still my problem.
Let me be even more clear...there is nothing wrong with breastfeeding a baby, even at a table in a restaurant (especially at a table in a restaurant). It's generally agreed in our culture that breast is best, and that breastfeeding is a great way to feed a baby. Feeding a baby is not something private, intimate, or shameful. It's not something that needs to go into another room, a public bathroom, around the corner or away from public. This applies whether it is feeding from a bottle...or a breast.
If it disturbs you (skeeves you) the skeeves are yours. Thus, the problem is yours. Therefore, the easy solution is...look away. Exercise mind control. Ponder more important issues, such as an impending recession or inflation.
That's what I did with the bird. I focused away from it, paid attention to dinner conversation, and ate the vegetables around it. Then, I discreetly swapped plates with my husband. I didn't stand up and rant that the hostess ought to have known I was vegetarian and was skeeved by dead animals on my plate. I didn't demand to have all the dead birds removed to accommodate my skeeves.
That's for the following reason that I made in a comment at Velveteen Mind in response to a man who claimed it was a private act, full of exposure of intimate body parts when women "pulled off their shirts" and therefore made him uncomfortable
James, why? What's the uncomfortable part? You have many rights, but yours don't trump the nursing mother's. I know...not fair. But fair is a place for ferris wheels and cotton candy...it's not a state of being.
That's adulthood. Sometimes we swallow our discomfort when we realize it is irrational and not defensible against another person's needs.
I also said
The people who are uncomfortable about women breastfeeding in public and wish a woman to be more “discreet” by finding a “private location” in which to breastfeed?
It’s not my obligation as a person—much less a breastfeeding mother—to make sure everyone around me is not uncomfortable or unhappy about anything I am doing.
Do I care about other people around me?
Of course. I care. I am considerate. I do my best to respect those around me.
But not to ridiculous levels, and expecting me to bend over backwards, awkwardly, uncomfortably, ridiculously is past the level of reasonable.
I will put my shopping cart in the carrel so it doesn’t hit your car.
I will not cower in a public bathroom to feed my child.
I will let a person with two items ahead of me in the shopping line.
I will not juggle a heavy baby for half an hour while leaning against a wall around the corner of a public place, while my friends, family, husband, whoever waits for me to return.
I will not play loud music or run a buzz saw at midnight.
I will sit quietly at my restaurant table, in my airplane seat, on the bench at the park and so forth and nurse my child. I guarantee you 95% of the time nobody even knew.
I’ve never seen a woman—and I’ve been around plenty—be anything other than as discreet as possible, even at a playgroup with only other moms.
It’s not about how long it takes to get around the corner. It’s not about respecting that some people find it “offensive” or feel “uncomfortable.” It’s not about whether a boob is for prurient interest or more practical purpose of feeding. It’s not about whether people ought to have children at all or even out in public.
It’s about a mother taking care of her child. The best place for a mother to nurse is where she feels most comfortable. When the mother feels comfortable, the milk flows well and lets down properly. Anxiety and discomfort inhibit that. The former case is good for the baby, the latter is not. Good for the baby is what it is about.
You want a mom to breastfeed in privacy?
Then give it to her.
Mind your own business.
The bottom line is this: just because you know about something, just because you see it, just because it is public...this doesn't per se make it your business. Just because something affects you doesn't mean you have some sort of right or say as to what goes on. You aren't entitled to not have to deal with something that makes you uncomfortable. You aren't entitled to demand someone do something bad for them to stem the tide of your skeeves.
You are entitled to act like a grown-up, acknowledge you feel uncomfortable, and geez, sometimes? That's just the way it is.
Copyright 2007 Julie Pippert
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