For some reason we still need to normalize breastfeeding. It's kind of an absurd concept, considering that it's normal for milk to come out of your boobs and it's normal for babies to want to get in on that, so it seems like it ought to be a foregone conclusion. Still, we keep having to remind people that it's a bodily function about as offensive as breathing, and the breastfeeding selfie — sometimes obnoxiously called a brelfie — has played its part in that.
Enter the celebrity brelfie. Particularly on Instagram, celebrities and normals alike use the social network as a platform for normalizing the practice of feeding their kids, but we tend to pay more attention to famous moms because they're, you know, famous. Tess Holliday, gorgeous plus-size model and recent first-time mom is no different, but a picture she posted that's being hailed as a gorgeous example of a breastfeeding selfie is. There's just something that's a little off about this one: It seems that the slew of websites that rushed to laud Holliday's sweet brelfie may have jumped the gun.
On the surface, it's pretty standard Instagram fare. Picture of mom and baby? Check. Short, exhausted-but-lovestruck paragraph on being tired and how lovely breastfeeding is? Check. Hashtags that put a finer point on the subject? Check. Actual breastfeeding? Whoops. Take a look:
Monday's are a dread by all, sometimes even the self employed like myself. Now I find that the day's blur together of breastfeeding, sleeping when I can, tears of happiness (& sometimes fear), & no longer having a case of "The Monday's"... Because everyday is a new adventure when you see it through your little ones eyes #motherhoodrising #normalizebreastfeeding
Unless we're mistaken, or unless Holliday has breasts that are mounted on swivel joints with omnidirectional nipples, then there's no actual breastfeeding happening in the breastfeeding selfie that everyone is racing to praise.
Not that there's any problem with that. Holliday is still pretty dang fabulous for walking into the controversial breastfeeding territory and risking the internet's ire.
If you're comfortable with snaps of breastfeeding, then sure, the brelfie is one way to normalize the process. But the brelfie is far from requisite. You don't have to do it, and you definitely don't have to pretend to do it. Plenty of us loved breastfeeding, and we did it for all kinds of reasons. Lots of us support public breastfeeding and hope that one day it will seem as normal as tying a shoe so assholes don't start harassing breastfeeding women in neighborhood Target stores.
But even with all of that rah-rah-sisterhood stuff, not everyone is super comfy with snapping a breastfeeding picture and uploading it for the world to scrutinize. You can both fight for a woman's right to not wear a cover while feeding in public while simultaneously whisking yourself off to the bathroom under a rain poncho because you'd prefer the privacy.
To be fair, Holliday didn't exactly hashtag her post with #IAmBreastfeedingInThisPhotoHaveALook; people just quickly jumped to that conclusion, crooning and praising her for her bravery. And that's fine. But we should probably all cool it a little, because when the sight of a mound of boob flesh with a baby in its general vicinity appears online, there's this crazy amount of call-and-response.
If we don't bring it down a notch or two, then we run the risk of doing exactly what jerkwads who tell women there's only one way to feed kids are doing. People will begin to feel like if they aren't in the loud, proud sisterhood of the photographed nipple, they are somehow doing it wrong.
Breastfeed, bottle-feed, do it in public, do it in private, take a selfie or don't — let's normalize it all. Anything else is profoundly uncool.
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