20170704_095643

Our country is on the verge of civil war.

We’ve been unstable for some time, but now, an issue has come to the fore which is more serious and divisive than any other matter of politics:

WHAT EXACTLY ARE WOMEN ALLOWED TO DO WITH THEIR BOOBS AND WHERE ARE THEY ALLOWED TO DO IT?

For a brief while, those of us whose boobs are put to work feeding young humans, felt that aside from the occasional anti-boob zealot (most often shop security guards –  a curious fact which requires further research) we were relatively free to continue to keep our young humans alive without being banished to our beds and that if an anti-boob campaigner attempted to prevent us, we were protected by the law.

It is illegal to ask a breastfeeding woman to leave a public place.

‘But that’s just the law!’ say Unilever, the company who make the Dove skin care range. ‘We don’t care about the law! We have a product to sell which has absolutely NOTHING to do with breastfeeding and so are quite within our rights to dredge up loads of divisive anti-breastfeeding rhetoric in order to wind everyone up and draw attention to our brand so we can make loads of money!’

Their latest ad features a baby latched on to a boob and the words: 75% say breastfeeding in public is fine. 25% say put them away. What’s your way?

Put them away? As in, ‘put ’em away love.’ As in, fellas deciding where your boobs measure on a scale of public gawpability?

If Unilever are this comfortable to use such a sexist lexicon, the first statistic should surely read, 75% say ‘Get ’em out for the laaaads’.

Unilever say their campaign ‘aims to celebrate the different approaches and opinions around parenting, including whether or not mums choose to breastfeed in public…’ completely failing to spot that whatever your sexually repressed, squeamish feelings about it, it’s AGAINST THE ACTUAL LAW TO TRY TO MAKE IT STOP.

They may as well have launched a campaign saying: 79% say domestic violence is wrong. 21% say a little spousal GBH is fine. What’s your way?

Or, 80% say women should be allowed to work. 20% say chain ’em to the sink. What’s your way?

Strolling through a shopping centre at the weekend, Gwyneth and I found our eyes drawn to a woman walking towards us, carrying a baby vertically to her body, with one arm, like a doll. As we passed, it became clear the toddler’s mouth was clamped firmly on its mother’s left boob.

Gwyneth remarked, ‘that’s the way to do it’ and I agreed it was a rather splendid, public feat of endurance and practicality.

It also made me feel wretched because I could never do that with my kids.

With eldest, I spent every waking and sleeping moment in a state of semi-undress (see pic) with my rancid, raging boobs lolling all over the place, ready to be repeatedly rammed into her starving, squawking mouth. She hated my breasts. By which I mean, she hated me and therefore, I hated me. We managed three miserable weeks.

With youngest I managed two months, but never once left the essential scaffolding of a sturdy bed or chair with precisely placed cushions. Then I got mastitis in BOTH boobs, for which the only cure, alongside antibiotics, is to CONTINUE TO BREASTFEED which is like telling a fella who’s just had a vasectomy that he must immediately go home and copulate. Vigorously. Every hour. For the next two weeks.

I still feel a bit jealous and weepy when I see women breastfeeding in public. I don’t mean at work, where boobs are out all over the place because it’s a baby class. But that woman casually strolling along while her child feeds reminded me that for most of us, we make no such ‘choice’ about breastfeeding, publicly or otherwise. Like so much about mumming, things tend to just kick off in one direction or another and you quickly learn to let it go and get on with it.

Iris Marion Young said, ‘Breasts are a scandal because they shatter the border between motherhood and sexuality’.

Which is both true and insane because if milk were produced by penises and not breasts, you can bet we women would be bombarded for all our days and in all our public spaces with proud full-frontal displays of fathering. I realise this image is an unpleasant one to bring into your Tuesday, but for most women, this is how daft male boob-confusion is.

That day in the shopping centre, there were naked boobs everywhere. It was the first time youngest had noticed all the Ancient Greek-style statues that line the walkways. He giggled and blushed and gawped, already aware that these body-parts are secret and faintly rude.

The Greeks were mad about the naked body. They saw it as a mark of moral virtue. In Athens, they held an annual naked celebration in honour of Athena – the city’s patron goddess – where nude young men ran through the dusty streets while the older, fatter, slower men were slapped by the watching women as they plodded by.

Ah, thems were the days of true gender equality…