15 May 2012, 22:15 GMT
With an internet barraged with breastfeeding women wearing expressions more suited to Penthouse centerfolds than brochures touting the considerable health benefits of nursing, it would appear that we have opened the door to an unsavory bunch.
I must confess that I had not particularly rushed to see the Time Magazine cover with the woman breastfeeding her almost 4 year old son, even after hearing all the controversy surrounding it. Prior to seeing it, I believed the conversations I was hearing were actually about the length of time acceptable to breastfeed a child. However, after viewing the appalling photo I realised that this was not simply the case. Not only was I virtually stunned by what I saw, I was also a little frightened. Clearly there was another agenda afoot.
No doubt most have seen it by now, the blonde woman made up like a celebrity staring defiantly into the camera – leaning in a vixenish pose, while the innocent child stands on a chair below and suckles at her breast… a child who looks old enough to be riding a bicycle.
But my point is not about how long a mother should breastfeed her child. Certainly that is an issue to be meticulously scrutinised by medical professionals and concerned lay people alike.
Presently what disturbs me is that the photo is obviously pornographic, yet we are being hoodwinked into having another conversation – to late breastfeed or not – to ‘Attachment Parent’ or not, while a little boy is clearly being molested before our very eyes. No matter if the mother thinks she’s doing it or not.
If this seems severe, consider the argument put forth by Huffington Post blogger Erika Christakis rebutting critics of extended breastfeeding – “We have no such impulse to crack down on the myriad ways that adults fuel their own oral fixation‘s.” The suggestion that a nursing child beyond the clinically and emotionally customary time to wean from a mothers breast is indulging in an oral fixation – particularly as Christakis contrasts it with adult oral fixation’s like sex and drugs, is disgustingly inappropriate.
Further, there is a culture of early sexualisation of children that advertisers see as a fair and ripe market. So much so that a group called Mumsnet started a campaign ‘Let Girls Be Girls’ in response to their feeling that “…an increasingly sexualised culture was dripping, toxically into the lives of children.”
And if we co-sign that culture in any way – including under the guise of nurturing, how easy do we make it for child predators to act out their criminality? Not every one of them is that creepy guy hanging around the playground. Some may look just like respectable moms.
Don’t misunderstand, I’m in no way saying that all women who have decided to nurse children aged three and older are deviants. Let me state again that I’m not addressing the particular issue of cutoff age for breastfeeding. What I am addressing is the kind of language, philosophy and visual culture that exploits children. There are many mothers who feel they are doing right by their children when they continue to nurse at ages 4, 5, 6 and sometimes older. Yet I wonder if these same mothers and fathers are aware that predatory agendas may be supporting the nursing of primary school aged children for their own purposes?
Extolling the virtues of late nursing; I’ve heard some mothers say breastfeeding is ‘their time’ – that it gives them a sense of deep satisfaction. Unfortunately we live in a narcissistic era where people think each life experience should offer equal parts intensity and glory. But parenting is sacrifice, unconditional love. It is where we learn to give without expecting anything in return. The mature parent understands that in this very process there is reaping.
No argument that some may not know how to hold or love their children which is sad, for it is in this atmosphere of confused and estranged parenting that predators thrive. The instruction for example in ‘Attachment Parenting‘ that “touching” should be engaged during such activities as bathing the child is odd. For most parents, affection and playfulness is assumed during bath time – so what’s new here? Are the architects of Attachment Parenting simply preaching to all those alienated parents who throw their children in the bath, scrubbing with utilitarian efficiency as if they were a batch of dirty clothes? Of course not. Displaying affection toward one’s children in the year 2012 is not novel psychology – so, what is the major difference? I find it suspect that in a climate of so much child abuse, where children’s advocates are forging initiatives to help kids discern the difference between good and bad touching, that these Attachment people don’t know molesters could use this to confuse children.
We have become a culture that finds it perfectly acceptable to sensationalise every aspect of our most intimate lives for public consumption. The popularity of reality TV attests to that. But when such exhibitionism results in displaying our children in their most intimate moments, well friends – that’s definitely out of bounds. Referencing the Time cover photo, psychologist Dr Mona Ackerman puts it this way “…how will the kid feel in high school when a friend shows him and every other person in school a cover of him sucking on his mother’s teat?”
26 year old Jaime Lynne Grumet, the mother in question knows as she stands there in tight clothing, her nearly four year old standing on a chair with her breast in his mouth; that this is a sexual image. She didn’t drop in on the planet from Neptune – she’s seen her share of sexy pictures and should understand there is nothing maternal about this one. Or at least we should. We should know that truly loving mothers protect their children… they don’t exploit them.
It shocks me that our visual perceptions are so skewed that people can get away with abusing children right in front of us.
This should come as no surprise I guess, for when 26 policemen nearly fatally beat Rodney King to death in the now infamous incident – after a while the media began to constantly slow the camera as they replayed the incident until it almost looked like a ballet. We all know what we saw. A man was nearly lynched. Yet, because there was another agenda afoot, this time racial – we were told we didn’t see what we know we saw. It took that much force they told us. It really didn’t hurt all that bad.
The violence on the Time cover was glossy and seemingly without resistance. But violence it surely was, because children cannot consent. They cannot consent to having their privacy invaded, nor do they always know the difference between good and bad touching. Especially when it comes to adults they’ve been conditioned to trust. We all know what we saw on the Time cover and we shouldn’t pretend otherwise.
I’ve alluded to race here for a reason, as it has been historically a powerful scapegoat for all of society’s ills. The 2009 movie Precious, based on the novel “Push” by Sapphire depicting a dysfunctional African American family stirred it’s own share of controversy. The impoverished ghetto teenager impregnated twice by her father, abused by her mother and eventually diagnosed with HIV was Oscar nominated for best picture. Unusual for such a domestic drama, let alone one that was so poorly directed. And even with comedienne and actress Mo’Nique receiving a well deserved Oscar for best supporting actress, it is doubtful if this artistically mediocre film would have received so much acclaim if whites were the sexual abusers.
Even Eves Bayou, a film about upper middle-class land owning Blacks in Louisiana with inter-family abuse as it’s theme too, did not garner this kind of attention at the Academy Awards. Although it was so exquisitely written and directed by Kasi Lemmons that respected film critic Roger Ebert named it one of the year’s 10 best in 1997. No big awards for Eve. Perhaps this is because the comfort level for many lay in the falsehood that all that really nasty incest and abuse stuff is restricted to the poor ignorant Black ghetto dwellers, who do not incidentally have a fancy rationale to justify crossing boundaries with vulnerable children. Not to mention a mainstream media eager to whitewash their depraved acts.
We continue to send the message that anything the rich, powerful, famous and beautiful do is just OK – without any thought of putting children at risk. While I won’t retry the Michael Jackson case, I will forever be surprised by all the people who perceived him as the sole victim without any compassion for the pain or predicament of the boys who made the accusations. Fans continued to support Jackson’s need to be with children, even after he asserted his right publicly to sleep with kids who were not his own.
As a society, we aren’t taking our children’s care and well-being seriously. If we were, comedian and self appointed political guru Bill Maher couldn’t possibly be so secure in making comments that not only condone pedophilia but even suggest it’s funny.
Referring to Michael Jackson, Maher said on the Craig Ferguson show, that “if he had a choice between being beaten by savage bullies or being gently masturbated by a pop star…” Ferguson’s audience roared with laughter as Maher implied he’d prefer the latter. “That’s just me” he said. In another instance Maher joked about the literacy rate among children – “You realise how many 12 year old kids in this country can’t spell the name of the teacher they’re having sex with?”… funny guy. So many political progressives seem to like Maher and have been on his shows, including those who profess to be advocates for social justice… champions of humanity. But what about the children? It appears this “vanguard” would rather be considered hip and have their moment in the sun, as opposed to protesting the kind of incendiary speech that threatens the world’s most vulnerable citizens.
Sometimes even Hollywood gets it right. In the 2009 movie “And Away We Go” two thirty-somethings upon discovering that they’re pregnant go off on a journey to discover a nice environment in which to raise their child. When the father visits a childhood friend whose into the kind of attached parenting that seems jaded, he tells them they’re “horrible people” – and off they go to find a safe and wonderful place for their unborn child.
We cannot afford to be cowardly when it comes to protecting our most precious resource. We must defend our children at all costs. The path of least resistance is not the way. Let’s foster a culture of true Human Rights… for the children.
Kamaria Muntu recent collection of political poetry, “This Peace of Place” can be found under Coal Publishing is available from the e-Kindle store and Coal and Femficatio Publishing Ltd.