Victoria's Secret Model Preaches The Truth On Breastfeeding Shaming

by Meredith Bland
Originally Published: 

Model points out breastfeeding-shamine hypocrisy

You know who knows a lot about the sexualization of breasts? An underwear model. That’s why Candice Swanepoel’s recent Instagram post about breastfeeding is so refreshing and a welcome addition to the discussion of public shame and breastfeeding.

Swanepoel, who has modeled for Victoria’s Secret, gave birth to her first child in October, a boy named Anaca. Yesterday she posted a gorgeous photo of Anaca breastfeeding along with a few words about the shame many women are made to feel for breastfeeding in public.

In a post that has now been liked 495,000 times, Swanepoel quickly gets to the heart of our hypocrisy regarding breasts and breastfeeding. “I have been made to feel the need to cover up and somewhat shy to feed my baby in public places but strangely feel nothing for the topless editorials I’ve done in the name of art…?”

Exactly. Louder for the people in the back, Candice! And double-time for those with rhythm!

What Swanepoel points out is that while she has done topless photos for work without feeling any shame at all, it was breastfeeding her child in public that made her feel embarrassed. We are more than happy for women to bare their breasts as long as it can be sexualized, but it’s inappropriate to use our breasts for something as natural and pure as feeding our children. That’s because breasts have been sexualized to the point where they are considered only slightly less racy than vaginas. Breasts are our safe sexual happy place — we see breasts everywhere, and we might see photos of totally nude women here and there, but you’re not going to see a close-up of someone’s vagina selling Adidas anytime soon.

But breasts! Breasts we can sexualize and still share widely. They are the female body’s version of Baby Bear’s bed for Goldilocks — not too much, not too little, but just right. So when a woman takes her safe, sexy breasts and puts a baby’s mouth on them, those people who have accepted that breasts are for arousal find it borderline obscene. And it’s easy to accept that that’s what breasts are for when the vast majority of images that include women who are considered desirable focus on their tits.

Maybe if we saw women as more than sexual objects and breasts as more than an accessory to sex we wouldn’t be as shocked by breastfeeding? As Swanepoel writes, “The world has been desensitized to the sexualization of the breast and to violence on tv…why should it be different when it comes to breastfeeding?” But that’s all crazy talk, because not only do breasts not go with anything other than getting folks off but also, mothers aren’t supposed to be sexual — even if they’ve posed for Victoria’s Secret.

We need more women breastfeeding in public without shame. Part of getting there would be a balanced representation of women in the media but hoo boy we are not going to get there today. What we can do is continue to feed our children where and when we need to, and educate people about breastfeeding. “Breastfeeding is not sexual it’s natural,” writes Swanepoel. “Those who feel it is wrong to feed your child in public need to get educated on the benefits breastfeeding has on mother and child and intern [sic] on society as a whole.”

Word. Give that woman a round of applause and a straw for her drink because her hands are full of hungry baby.

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