11 October 2010

Day 198: The Countess

The Countess by Rebecca Johns.  ISBN: 9780307588456 (ARC - published Oct. 12, 2010).

Breast feeding is such a charged topic these days, what with people upset by the idea of exposed boobies.  Somehow they are not offended by the dozens, if not hundreds, of nearly exposed boobies they see on TV, walking past clothing stores, on billboards, and on young women (thanks Seventeen Magazine for being sleazy enough to prove my point and in such a season-appropriate manner, too).  I hardly think that breast feeding in public is any more offensive than offering up literal mounds of flesh for sale, because really, these companies aren't selling you a product, they're selling breasts because that's what you're buying.

Oh sure, yeah, okay, you bought the top because it looked cute on the really busty model, but you were hoping it would make your boobs look that good.  Oh yeah, you bought the beer because you wanted to drink watery piss, not because of the hot girl with the low cut top you wish you could get.

But there are historical issues surrounding breast feeding as well, ones that might make you pause and think about why it's such an uncomfortable topic to begin with.  For the most part, it has to deal with ownership issues.  We think it's weird now to give our children to other women to breast feed, that there's something "wrong" and "dirty" about the idea of letting another woman breast feed your child.  But that's just the thing, you're not thinking about the child's nutritional needs when you get squicked by the idea of someone else's breast in your infant's mouth, instead you're thinking, "That's MY baby and it is WRONG for someone else to feed that child."

So, noble women pretty much never breast fed their own children.  It was seen as degrading for them to engage in activities synonymous with that of farmyard animals.  Just because they were treated much like broodmares didn't mean they had to actually feed their children like them..  But breast feeding a child is in some ways a way to claim ownership of a child, and that is something that the men of the time could not allow women to do.  Women did not own their children, they belonged to the marriage, and the marriage was a business contract that mainly benefited the husband.  Women who remarried before their children were grown frequently lost the right to raise their own children.  So by setting up a social situation in which it was seen as dirty and base to breast feed your own child, men took away one of the very few powerful acts women had during that time: influence over potential heirs.

Here's another thing: breast feeding acts as a rudimentary form of birth control.  Women who breast feed are not as likely to get pregnant right away.  So of course if you don't allow your wife to begin breast feeding to start with you can jump right back on her and start (hopefully) producing Heir McWorthington number 2.

It's "interesting" how something that takes control out of women's hands regarding their own bodies is seen as a sign of prestige and wealth.  Sort of how they've spun wearing skimpy, yet outrageously priced clothing as empowering and taking self control when really it's just more of the same.  Since when does wearing almost nothing help women do anything that resembles being empowered?  I don't see Danica Patrick* driving around in a racing suit with strategically missing portions from the midriff, chest, and legs.  You know why?  Because you can't do shit in a string bikini for fear that it will fall off, which I'm pretty sure is the entire reason they were designed to begin with.

So sure, breasts are great, they're sexy, but there's more to it than that.  They serve a very necessary function in providing the best and most nutritious source of food for our children.  If anyone should own them, it should be the women who have to care for them (both the boobs and the sprogs), and I'd rather see a child's head tucked under a nursing blanket in a restaurant than have to listen to that same child screaming its head off just because someone has overly sexualized and fetishized female anatomy is offended by someone else feeding her child.

*Not exactly immune to the self-loathing, given her involvement with the absolutely disgusting Go-Daddy commercials.

My review can be found on Goodreads.

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