Thursday, May 10, 2012

A bridge too far?

  This morning I woke up, fed my 3 sons breakfast, poured a cup of coffee and sit down at the computer to see the latest news. The big story, obviously, was that President Obama had stated in an interview that he supported same sex marriage, which was the first time a sitting President of the United States had taken this stance. I jumped on to facebook to check things out and saw a post referring to the recent Time magazine cover that had just hit news stands, so I looked it up on the news and saw the picture, posted above. I was a bit taken aback, to say the least, but not for the reasons that you may think.

  I read the article that accompanied the picture to get a better idea of what was behind the cover before I solidified my opinion. The New York Daily News article gives a basic summary of the story of Jamie Lynn Grumet, the 26 year old mother (above) and her 3 1/2 year old son, standing on the chair in camouflage pants. You know, the one with his mouth on his mother's boob. Jamie Grumet believes that breastfeeding is not only good for a child with regard to nutrition, but to parent-child bonding. She, herself, claims that she breastfed until the age of 6. She cites this as a contributing factor in her feeling secure.

  She said she remembers the being breast-fed and the positive feelings associated with it.
“It’s really warm. It’s like embracing your mother, like a hug. You feel comforted, nurtured and really, really loved,” she said. “I had so much self-confidence as a child, and I know it’s from that. I never felt like she would ever leave me. I felt that security.”--NY Daily News article

  I, in no way, disagree with the basic premise that breastfeeding a child is a very positive experience, for both child and mother, for a myriad of reasons. I support the fact that this person chooses to continue breastfeeding her child and raises him in the manner that she believes is best. the article also reveals that she has an adopted child from another country. She states that breastfeeding helped forge a bond between her and the child as well as help comfort him during the possible traumatic experience of being in a completely new environment. At the end of the article, Grumet is quoted as saying,

  “There are people who tell me they’re going to call social services on me or that it’s child molestation,” she said. “People have to realize this is biologically normal. It’s not socially normal. The more people see it, the more it’ll become normal in our culture.”

 Once again, I support her rights as a parent and her decision to do this. The only problem I have is with the cover itself. Now before you start calling me a prude and a misogynist who's not comfortable with seeing something natural and beautiful, like breast feeding, let me be very specific. In the article, Grumet is quoted as saying that breastfeeding helped her "feel nurtured and really, really loved...I had so much self-confidence as a child, and I know it's from that."

  The imagery on this Time magazine cover does not give me the sense of nurturing or being really, really loved. You have a woman standing with one arm around a toddler, looking at the camera, with a look that does not say, "bonding moment" to me. Then you have her son standing on a small chair, with his mouth on the mother's breast as he stares directly in to the camera. How is this an example of a "very positive experience"? Is this how breast feeding is normally done in their household? Of course not, but my point is that this cover seems to be for shock value alone, which is what bugs me. Now, once again before you start hurling names at me like, curmudgeonly, sexist, white man, who should have been born in the 19th century, I understand the value of shocking imagery that can push the envelope and the conversation at the same time. I just don't think this cover is one of them.

  The biggest problem I have is the boy. Here is a 3 and 1/2 year old boy who doesn't understand the situation he's being placed in and has complete trust in his mother to do what's best for him. He is being dropped in to the midst of a rather controversial subject and he has not say in the matter, nor is he mature enough to make the decision if he was given the chance. the imagery comes across as stark, uncaring, and almost exploitative. Was this pose necessary to promote the content of the article, specifically the warm nurturing feeling that this boy and his mother get from the hug-like bond of breast feeding even at 3 and 4 years old?

  When this young boy grows up, he may very well defend this cover and be very proud of it, as I hope he does, but he may also have to fight through the jungle of nature when the nurturing factor of his parental bonds aren't there to protect him. That is quite a ball & chain to hand over to this child before he can even understand the enormity of what he has been assigned to. I don't believe that this is a horrific thing or that it should be taken off the new stands and I still defend the mother's right to decide what's best for her children, even though I may not fully agree. In the end, I think that this cover does more harm to the message as well as to Jamie Lynn Grumet's nearly 4 year-old year-old son Aram, than good. Then again, what do I know. I was given formula.

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