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Friday, April 5, 2013

Why Everybody Hates Breastfeeders

Mislactony is probably a word you had never heard of, but I’ll bet you have heard of misogyny.
Misogyny is: Misogyny (pron :mi-soj-uh-nee) is:
The hatred or dislike of women or girls. Misogyny can be manifested in numerous ways, including sexual discrimination, denigration of women, violence against women, and sexual objectification of women.
Mislactony is a word I made up, (What? You can do that???) sure, why not.
Mislactony: (pron.:/ mis-lak-tuh-nee is:The hatred or dislike of breastfeeding. Mislactony can be manifested in numerous ways including discrimination against breastfeeding women, denigration of breastfeeding and women who breastfeed, violence (verbal or otherwise) against women who breastfeed and the sexual objectification of women in such a way that interferes with breastfeeding.

I made up this word because I believe there is a singular culture that sits alongside misogyny and it is the process whereby breastfeeding women and advocates are denigrated, undermined, treated with verbal violence, objectified, sexualised and discriminated against.
Some of you reading this will take this as a cue to roll your eyes. No WAY you think, breastfeeding women have it ALL, not only do they think they are gods gift to human kind, but they are smug know it alls that get government support AND a bigger cup size. How dare they complain?
But the truth of the matter is that women who breastfeed are still in the minority, the WHO advises that less than 40% of infants less than six months of age are exclusively breastfed worldwide. When you look at figures at 12 months and 2 years, breastfeeding becomes very niche indeed. Women who breastfeed are still excluded from basic rights such as fair employment or being allowed to eat in public. Breastfeeding is still both actively and passively undermined, and people who advocate for breastfeeding are still openly criticised and bullied.
There are people who actively hate breastfeeding and all boob kind and there are people who undermine breastfeeding while at the same time purporting to support it. For many women the pressure to not breastfeed is strong and sometimes it is relentless.

Despite all of this, many people still think that breastfeeding and breastfeeding advocacy is a sanctimonious and blessed pastime reserved only for the self indulgent, privileged or the very stubborn.

 So what does mislactony look like? A lot like misogyny

Control of attire: When women are told how much or how little they can wear, or what style of clothing they can wear, this is misogyny. When a breastfeeding woman is told to ‘cover up’ ‘feed discretely’ or be ‘modest’ this is mislactony.
Reduced rights in employment: When women are excluded from employment or receive lesser pay or prestige based on their sex, this is misogyny. When a breastfeeding woman is refused employment or she experiences discrimination based on her lactation status, this is mislactony. In NZ 38% of all women who stop breastfeeding at 3 months, do so because they must return to work.
Socially acceptable derogatory terms:  When a woman is called a feminazi, bull dyke lezzo or butch bulldog for requesting equal rights, this is misogyny. When a lactivist is called ‘the breastapo’ or a ‘BF Nazi’ or a ‘tit hitler’ for requesting equal rights, this is mislactony.
Body autonomy: When a woman is not afforded the rights to her own body this is misogyny. When a breastfeeding woman is told that her breasts are for her husband, or that she is simply not allowed to breastfeed, this is mislactony.

Derogatory terms based on sex: When a woman is called a bitch, a slut, a whore, a witch or other gender based insults, this is misogyny. When a breastfeeding woman is called a cow or similar based on the function of her breasts, this is mislactony.
Control of basic day to day activities: When a woman is prevented from leaving the house, is not permitted to drive or perform other normal day to day activities, this is misogyny. When a breastfeeding woman is told to ‘stay at home’ to feed their baby or ‘express to feed’ or simply to bottlefeed rather than feed in public, this is mislactony.
Denigration of specifically female functions: When women are degraded based on their physical attributes or their sex, this is misogyny. When a breastfeeding woman has the act of breastfeeding compared to defecating, urinating or other acts that are considered unpleasant this is mislactony.
Controlling of how we manifest: When women are told how to behave to meet certain societal expectations of sexiness, attractiveness and modesty, this is misogyny. When breastfeeding women are told how they must breastfeed, how long they must breastfeed, when they must breastfeed. This is mislactony.
When support systems are removed: When support networks or systems that are essential to women specifically, such as rape crisis, fertility support and women’s refuge are removed, maligned or attacked, this is misogyny. When support systems such as volunteer service La Leche League are attacked or there is limited access to medical staff who are trained in lactation support, not enough lactation consultants or even medical staff who actively undermine breastfeeding, this is mislactony.

 When advocacy is shut down: When women who talk about feminism or womens rights are shut down using predictable rhetoric such as accusations of misandry or man hating. This is misogyny. When breastfeeding women who advocate for breastfeeding are shut down with predictable rhetoric such as accusing them of hating on formula feeding mums, this is mislactony.
When inherent abilities are undermined: When women are told they are inferior simply on the basis of their sex, this is misogyny. When breastfeeding women are told that their milk is inadequate, runs out of goodness or that their breasts are inadequate, this is mislactony.
Sexual double standards: When women are judged based on their sexuality in ways that men are not, or are required to be both sexy and virginal at the same time, this is misogyny. When women who are breastfeeding are told to keep their breasts concealed, that no one needs to see that or that they are disgusting and getting a thrill from feeding their child, while at the same time we have breasts plastered all over our malls, billboards and magazines and sex is used to advertise almost everything under the sun, this is mislactony.

I know that to many of you a lot of these seem extreme or tenuous, but the thing is, they are not. These are real incidents and they happen on a daily basis. If we want to give every woman a chance to best meet her breastfeeding goals, it is not to tell them how breast is best, or how bad formula is. It is simply to stop all the mislactony!


  1. Very thought provoking Sian, Thank you

  2. With the exception of my own mother's home, I have had positive breastfeeding experience everywhere I have gone. I breastfeed my 30 month old daughter on demand every day in public. I have never had an off color comment. I have a terribly supportive husband and although I chose not to return to work after my daughter was born, I was given the option of bringing her with me everyday so I could nurse her and care for her. I now feel very fortunate. I have not heard most of the horrible terms you mentioned. It makes me sad that their are mothers who are being called these horrible names and being treated so badly.

  3. While I was pregnant I wrote about what Ina May Gaskin calls Nipplephobia. I think the two are interconnected. Although I haven't had any really negative experiences with breastfeeding myself, I have heard quite a few.

    You can read my post at the link below if you're interested. :)

  4. If you're looking for beautiful maternity clothing then My Tummy designs some really nice designs which are all created in Europe. There are pregnancy dresses which are very flattering to the bump, pregnancy trousers and also breastfeeding tops too. It can be hard to find flattering pregnancy shorts but My Tummy has it covered.