Are Celebrity Moms Breastfeeding On Social Media Helping the Rest of Us?
If you follow any global female celebrity Instagram accounts, you’ve probably been subjected to the sight of a few boobs recently. No, not in the usual plunging-neckline way, though there’s always a healthy dose of that as well. Rather, as Beyoncé continues to take over the world, and motherhood is having a culturally important Moment, female celebrities who happen to be mothers are making statements about the ubiquity and importance of breastfeeding.
From January Jones in couture and Louis XVI chairs, to Miranda Kerr in bed with a come-hither smile, famous mothers are showing the world – proudly – that they feed their children the all-natural way. And all this publicity (and subsequent glorification) of celebrity moms breastfeeding is showing the world’s mothers – and fathers-to-be? – that breastfeeding is normal, even for seemingly superhuman women. Most people now know and agree that breastfeeding has many benefits for babies, so, one might argue, all this public attention and normalization of breastfeeding is a huge step forward for normal women who need to feed their kids every day. Right?
Well, yes and no. On the one hand, we agree with those who have applauded these celebrities for making the statement that all mothers have the right to feed their children with the part of their bodies that was made for feeding. We applaud them for staring straight at the camera and asserting that their breasts exist not only for the sexy cover shoot, but also for the nourishment of a child. We applaud them for having the courage to do publicly what most women feel the need to shroud.
But, as with so many best intentions, this particular social media moment may have gone awry somewhere on the road between good idea and successful social change. Because let’s face it, these moments are hardly public in the real sense of the word; they are private moments curated for public consumption, and that does nothing to normalize the very common experience of needing to breastfeed in public.
These insta-private moments are meticulously posed images of motherly perfection. Their makeup is done, they’ve been coiffed, waxed, dressed, and they’ve all had a good night’s rest. They’re gorgeous. And if the goal was to re-take the female breast as a symbol of devotion, nourishment, motherly sacrifice, and health, then these images have failed. Because these celebrity boobs are just as contrived for the male gaze as any others gracing the cover of Maxim.
And finally, the most important reason this particular pro-mother movement falls flat: It’s not helping real women feel any solidarity about their real-life experiences. Ask any breastfeeding mother the last time she wore a gown, much less a couture one. Or the last time she put on the perfect shade of berry lipstick, or wore silk pijamas with no spit-up on them. Or the last time she fit into something with corset boning, or had a three-person glam squad attending to her.
The truth is that breastfeeding is a beautiful experience, but it is also almost universally exhausting, frustrating, draining, maddening. For those women who have committed to power through those moments in the name of feeding their children, it’s not particularly helpful to see a bunch of skinny supermodels in designer clothes, with an infant prop on their breasts, making the whole experience look effortless.
The celebrity moms breastfeeding may have started out thinking they’d stand in solidarity with Everywoman, but along the way, they’ve just set one more unattainable standard for Everywoman to fall short of. In addition to being a super-working, super-mommy who aces professional life, home decor, fashion, sex, and fitness, let’s also now assume we have to look like a supermodel every time we breastfeed. And that our babies lie peacefully, latch perfectly, and cooperate while we take time to pose for a glamour shot.
In the name of normalizing breastfeeding, we’d love to see Gisele share a stretch mark or some dark eye circles. Until then, it might be more helpful if she kept her #blessed boobs to herself.