Our Misogynistic Culture: Demonizing Strong, Powerful Women

So is it that the culture of the United States is becoming even more misogynistic, or is it that we are just noticing it more? Is it that the display of misogyny has become more acceptable, like the open displays of racism, xenophobia, homophobia and basically anything-that-isn’t-just-like me-ophobia, or is it that we are on the cusp of exiling these ideas from our modern society? A cornered, injured animal will growl the loudest and fight its hardest in a last effort to save itself when it knows it is about to be overwhelmed. Those who have enjoyed their top shelf, white male privilege for generations, passed father to son like some treasured pocket watch, are not eager to see that watch stop ticking in their hands.  They can feel the growing pressure of those men who have cast their watch aside and embraced equality. But what do they do? Do they cast aside the ridiculous notion that men are superior? No, like that cornered animal, they growl, bite, scratch and do everything they can to keep their perceived dominance alive. Thus we are seeing a rise, near epidemic, of fresh misogyny in our country.

We have witnessed it in the coverage of the Olympic games in Rio. The U.S. women were the brightest of stars, yet account after account, their achievements were understated, dismissed or accredited to men. When none of this could be done, they were vilified.

We have witnessed it in the rape culture and ridiculous (non) sentencing of white men who commit atrocious crimes of sexual assault. We have seen the judicial system, not once, but three times, all but dismiss these heinous acts, blaming the women for allowing themselves to be in a situation where they could be raped, for drinking, or sleeping, while suggesting that young men just make mistakes and shouldn’t have to pay for it the rest of their lives.  They dismiss the crimes with an attitude of, “boys will be boys, but girls must be mindful of that and be responsible.” In this attitude, they vilify the victims, suggesting they, and all women, must be responsible for the actions of men. They suggest it is our responsibility to not attract them or make them think naughty thoughts which could lead to them acting compulsively. The girls are vilified for speaking out, for wanting justice, for being assaulted and having the audacity to want the perpetrator held responsible for his actions.  The message is not just for those victims, but is sent to all our daughters, sisters, and mothers. It says our safety is secondary and that it is just the privilege of boys, especially white middle and upper class boys, to be sexually impulsive and demanding; that consent is just a matter of opinion, and the victims opinion is not the one that matters.

We have seen this in business. Women gaining wealth, power and success are attacked for trying to be men. Their feminine attributes are criticized. Innovative decisions are scorned and women must achieve far better results than their male counterparts to be awarded half the respect. They are accused of using sexual prowess to gain promotions, and if they are the boss, they are belittled by male peers. They are vilified, their accomplishments justified by claiming they are more like a man than a woman, anyway. And if this cannot be done, they are called man-haters and are belittled based on physical attributes.

We see this in reproductive rights for women. Women are shamed for pregnancy that occurs outside wedlock.. meaning without the supervision of a husband. They are vilified for an abortion but slut shamed if they have their child. They are condemned if they give it up for adoption as being selfish, but criticized for needing assistance to feed their child if they cannot afford it. The fact that the father is not there is largely blamed on the woman. She is considered a slut for sleeping with a man who would leave her in the first place. Or she is trash, someone a decent man wouldn’t want to marry. Most of the time, people assume that the father left because of her, not because of his own selfishness. The man, who may be hunted down and eventually required to pay some child support, is still given a pass at being a father. The vilified mother is left to work, spend all of her income, all of her strength, all of her time, every possible resource she can muster to care for her child, and be shamed by the community the whole time. So, unless you follow the idea of social norms, go to school, get married and then have a child when you are financially stable, as a woman, you will be vilified. Even if you are married, but poor, you will be shunned. While employers are able to deny birth control coverage by your insurance, pregnancy, married or not, means you didn’t keep your legs shut. I always find it amazing to see a poor, married woman with several children slut shamed by the very people who don’t believe in abortion or birth control. It is also amazing how a woman is blamed for her husband’s shortcomings. She is frequently blamed for his infidelity, or a crime he commits, or a lie he tells, or his lack of success. Women take the brunt of blame for every failure. Women are vilified if they do not want children, vilified if they can’t afford them, vilified if the father walks away, demeaned if they cannot have children, vilified for exercising their right not to have a child. Women are vilified for having sex and, astoundingly, for NOT having sex.

And finally, the pinnacle of hate, the Mecca of Misogyny: Politics. How dare a woman to venture into the man’s domain? Women in politics are forced to be strong. After all, politicians feast upon the weak with relish, a nice dill relish preferably.  To survive a woman must be strong, idealistic, focused, tenacious, and fierce. She must protect her ideals with the veracity of a mother bear overseeing her young. To find enduring success, she will face no end of attacks. Any shortcoming will be magnified a thousand times and used against her. Any successes will be marginalized or attributed to the contributions of male counterparts. The status quo will stop at no length to maintain their power and prevent true equality in government. Women have fought against misogyny from the onset of entering the political arena. The campaigns alone have been fraught with misogynistic allegations employing everything from artificial slut shaming, calling women’s emotions erratic to claiming women do not have the mental strength to withstand the vigor of political office.

You have only to look at today’s campaign against Hillary Clinton to see that the embodiment of misogyny in the United States is still beating; its fundamental bigotry pulsing through our process at a furious pace in its attempt to do as much harm as possible before being silenced. I will grant that HRC has her own legitimate controversies to deal with and there is plenty of opportunity to disagree with any political opponent or candidate based on issues which will reflect the leadership of our nation. However, the attacks on her for the grounds of being female are unfounded. But why stop at Clinton? Oh, wait, they didn’t. Elizabeth Warren, another woman who is outspoken and an instrument of change is regularly attacked in the media circus and by men across the political isle. In fact, any woman who displays strength and conviction is attacked based on gender. Even Sarah Palin found more than her own share of misogyny on the campaign trail when she as attacked for her wardrobe. her makeup, her hairstyles and even her role as a mother. Women running for office have been proclaimed as unfit for such things as having a menstrual cycle. If they fight back against these perceptions, or even acknowledge the obvious misogyny, then they are labeled man-hating feminists, as if feminist is a bad word. They are portrayed as bitter women angry that they were not born men. They are criticized for even wearing a pantsuit, as if they are attempting to appear masculine.

Our First Ladies  are belittled as much as they are revered. They have been delegated the role of quiet support for their husbands, to be good examples of a loving wife and expected to manage ‘women’s causes’ like promoting reading programs for children, healthy eating (for children), beautifying the country, and decorating the White House. While many have taken their role and used it to show strength, and all have attempted to do with it what they could, some pushed their roles further, becoming true activists for larger, but legitimate causes. When a First Lady did so, she would be ridiculed for overstepping her boundaries. She would be criticized for not acting a proper Lady, for not being a solemn pillar of strength completely devoted to her husband’s aspirations and demeaned for having goals and passions of her own.

From the fledgling birth in 1848 of the Women’s Suffrage movement through today, women have fought against every possible insult, defamation and even physical injury. Today women technically have the same rights as men, on paper, (now that they have equal opportunity in the military) but a society run by men have offered much of this grudgingly. It has been through the slow instance of more adequate representation, better education and perseverance that this has been achieved. As our society slowly evolves away from the ideology of religious fervor which denigrates and vilifies women as the source by which evil was brought into the world and that they are meant to be helpmates and servants of men, more people see that our girls have as much to offer as our boys. Through the strength and bravery of fierce women, intellectual women, and philosophical women, the way has been proven: Men and women may have different bodies, but they have equally capable minds with the ability to achieve greatness.

So, if all of this is true, why are we seeing such animosity to feminism? Why are reproductive rights still an issue? Why are we so far behind much of the world in even realistically considering a woman to lead our country? Indira Ghandi was made Prime Minister of India fifty years ago, in 1966. Golda Meir became the Prime Minister of Israel in 1969, Margaret Thatcher became Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, 1979, Maria de Lourdes Pintasilgo became Prime Minister of Portugal in 1979, Dame Eugenia Charles became Prime Minister of Dominica in 1980, Milka Planinc became Prime Minister of Yugoslavia in 1982, Gro Harlem Brundtland became Prime Minister of Norway in 1990, Khaleda Zia Prime Minister of Bangladesh in 1991,  Édith Cresson became the Prime Minister of France in 1991, Tansu Çiller became the Prime Minister of Turkey in 1993, Kim Campbell became the Prime Minister of Canada in 1993, Agathe Uwilingiyimana became Prime Minister of Rwanda in 1993, Benazir Bhutto became the Prime Minister of Pakistan in 1993, Claudette Werleigh became Prime Minister of Haiti in 1995, Jenny Shipley became Prime Minister for New Zealand in 1997, Anneli Jäätteenmäki became Prime Minister of Finland in 2003, Beatriz Merino became Prime Minister of Peru in 2003, Yulia Tymoshenko became Prime Minister of the Ukraine in 2005,  Angela Merkel became chancellor of Germany in 2005, Portia Simpson-Miller became Prime Minister of Jamaica in 2006, Han Myeong-sook became Prime Minister of South Korea in 2006, Jóhanna Sigurðardóttir became Prime Minister of Iceland in 2009, Jadranka Kosor became Prime Minister of Croatia in 2009, Julia Gillard became Prime Minister of Australia in 2010, Yingluck Shinawatra became Prime Minister of Thailand in 2011, Helle Thorning-Schmidt became Prime Minister of Denmark in 2011, Ewa Kopacz became Prime Minister of Poland in 2014, and this year, 2016, Myanmar chose Aung San Suu Kyi as State Counsellor.

But we, the United States of America, who boasts loudly around the world about our land of opportunity, who praises itself as the shining city on the hill, the land of freedom, the protectors of freedom, and deigns to think of itself as the moral authority on equality, still questions a woman’s right to govern her own body, ridicules women who dare to aspire to positions of power, empowers misogynistic ideas in our education system, refuses to enforce equal pay and equal standards for women and persists in slut shaming and a victim blaming rape culture where violent sexual crimes against women are marginalized into a “boys will be boys,” society. A man’s right to have the “college experience,” is more important than punishment for the violent rape of his victims. We fall behind all these other countries in recognizing that women have equal ability to lead a nation, to make decisions of war and peace, to be analytical and steadfast in the face of adversity. And as we battle this last hurdle, the screaming insults against women are all the louder, even if there are fewer voices raised.

If polling trends continue, The USA, in November, will join the ranks of fifty-four countries around the world who have chosen women to lead their nations. Politics aside, we sit at the brink of a great moment of poetic justice as we witness the little girl told by NASA that women could not be astronauts, who is all grown and poised to become the first woman President of the United States of America. If this last victory is realized, there will no longer be anything our little girls cannot grow up to achieve.  We are witnessing the loud and obnoxious death-throws of a misogynistic culture, and its Grim Reaper is wearing a pantsuit.

We are One Woman, One World.

 

Learn more about Ann Lavendar by visiting her website or contact by email at annlavendar@annlavendar.com

Fashion and Politics! The Many (Two, Maybe Three) Pantsuits of Donald Trump!

Much ado has been made of Hillary Clinton’s pantsuits. They denote a variety of colors and modest styles. But I think that is completely unfair! Secretary/Senator/Former First Lady Clinton is receiving entirely too much attention for her wardrobe choices simply because she is woman. News, pundits, bloggers and even everyday citizens are spending valuable time reflecting upon which pantsuit Hillary wore yesterday and today and speculating on what it will be tomorrow. Men certainly do not get to take advantage of this valuable and insightful coverage. In fact, people rarely even notice one men’s pantsuit from the next, no matter how long they spend toiling over what to wear! See how desperately unfair this is? If people spent more time looking at what Mr. Trump is wearing, then they might miss any number of gaffs in his speeches. Hillary’s pantsuits are definitely providing an unfair distraction and advantage to her campaign! No one is even listening to what she says if they are busy talking about her attire. I feel Mr. Trump deserves his fair share of time in the flashing lights of the Fashion Police. So, in the interest of equal opportunity, let the show begin!

For this segment, I have asked for the help of my dear friend and colleague, the fictional author marq truong. (Yes, he likes it lower case. some people are just weird like that).

Ann: Thank you marq for helping me out with this pantsuit fashion show! I love talking to you. You’re like that voice in my head when I don’t want to see reason!

marq: Thanks Ann! All things considered, that’s a compliment. And certainly wouldn’t want to miss an opportunity to judge someone on something as baseless and superficial as what they wore this morning! So what’s up first?

Ann: Absolutely! Well, first we have Trump in Blue!

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marq: Yes, I see. Sporting a blue pantsuit with lapel, standard white shirt and red tie.

Ann: I see he has accessorized! A flag lapel pin. And that, marq, is not just a simple white dress shirt, I see cuff links.

marq: I thought fitted pantsuits were all the rage right now. He could definitely use a tailor on this one, look at the wrinkling around his armpits! I think he must have put on  few pounds since he was fitted for this one.

Ann: Well, it happens. Up next we have a real sporting Trump! Dressed up  for a sporting event wearing… a black pantsuit and red tie.

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marq: Well nothing gets me in the mood to cheer my favorite team like throwing on a business pantsuit and power tie! Is that the same tie?

Ann: I don’t think so. The first one seemed a more pinkish red while this one has orange undertones. Definitely not a good look for him, bringing out that ruddy red blotch on his cheek. However, coming up here, yes, I think this may be the same tie.

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Marq: I think it is the same suit. Of course, you just can’t go wrong with a nice, black little number. Such versatility!

Ann: Too true! From the Ballpark to the auditorium! Oh, marq, I think you will like this next one. Trump is back in blue.

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marq: yes, Ann. I like him in blue. It is a little softer and easier on the eyes. And especially against that blue background, it is more flattering for his body type.

Ann: Too true! Too true! The dark blue against a blue background is definitely trimming! But, I daresay, is that the same tie?

marq: Hmm. Well one could argue it is. And of course, he has gone with his standard white shirt once again. Oh, but up next, yes, we see some variance. In his hair, at least. It has bleached to almost white.

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Ann: I see what you mean. He has moved back to a black pantsuit and red tie. And he appears to be wearing the same pantsuit coming up!

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marq: yes, Ann, I believe it is the same pantsuit and tie. At this point I’d wager it is even the same shirt. Mr. Trump must like to travel light. Then again, how many black pantsuits does a man really need if he has a good dry cleaners?

Ann: The uses are endless, marq. Here we see him, next, pulling out this hot number at a debate. That same loose fit, which I must say does wonders to disguise a less than perfect figure.

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marq: I see exactly what you mean, Ann. This pantsuit basically drapes over him. This fit is perfect for anyone who has a few extra curves in places they’d rather not share, if you know what I mean. I can certainly relate to this suit.

Ann: Don’t be silly marq. You look marvelous, Darling! If Senator Cruz, standing next to Trump can pull off that sport fit,  you certainly can! And now I see, well, is this suit blue or black?

Real estate tycoon Donald Trump flashes the thumbs-up as he arrives on stage for the start of the prime time Republican presidential debate on August 6, 2015 at the Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, Ohio. AFP PHOTO/MANDEL NGAN (Photo credit should read MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)

marq: We are back to blue, and thankful for it! This color, of all the two colors we have seen him in, is definitely his best.

Ann: I have to agree with you there. It is my favorite, too. Though I still think this red tie does no favors for his complexion. Don’t people with his skin type usually go for something more subtle?

marq: Well, there really aren’t many people with orange skin, but yes, that would be conventional. However, Trump is all about power and red says power.

Ann: well, against that complexion it may say power, but it also says he doesn’t care what he looks like getting it. That slight orange tint to his skin simply clashes with red.

marq: Ouch! So harsh, but I have to agree. I never mind a little clash for flare, but it simply must be done with style. But what is this coming next, Ann?

Ann: Oh here is a nice little gem. We are back to classic black and moved to that pink toned red tie. But the real pearl is the darker toupee. This ensemble works to highlight those orange features, really bringing out his spray-on tan!

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marq: Oh! Work it Trump! Oh, but wow. I was not expecting this one. Just, wow.

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Ann: Yes. Wow says it all, I think. It looks like he just came back from the body shop where he had his hair and skin dyed to match.

marq: And setting it off in horrific delight is that pinkish red tie. Honestly, Ann. Someone needs to tiptoe into his closet while he is sleeping and take scissors to that tie. An orange complexion simply cannot, should not, ever wear that color.

Ann: It should be a crime. Wow. And it doesn’t get any better, either, marq.

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marq: Well, maybe a bit better. The dye in his toupee has faded a bit, moving on to more of a yellow, so it is really only his face clashing with the tie. He seems to really like this classic black pantsuit.

Ann: And the tie.

marq: Well, yes, and the tie. I fear it might be getting a little overdone. The black is really too harsh a contrast for him and accentuates the white circlets depicting the protection placed over his eyes during the application of his tan. Now, most people would not want to draw attention to this. What you wear matters. It says more about you than what comes out of your mouth, sometimes.

Ann: Have you heard what comes out of his mouth?

marq: Well, no, not really. I’ve been far too busy examining his wardrobe. Like I said, it can really tell you a lot about a person, how they see themselves and how they want to be seen.

Ann: Well, then, apparently in this next fashion spotlight, Mr. Trump wants his toupee to match his white shirt. Hey, how many white shirts do you think he has? Two? Three?

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marq: I’m thinking three. One to wear, one to send to the dry cleaners and one back-up in case of a spill. But you won’t believe what is coming next. It is almost as if he could hear us.

Ann: what is it, Marq?

marq: Just take a look. So refreshing. A quick little series of four, the first two in black and the second two in blue, but he has ditched that awful red tie.

In the early going in the second GOP debate, Donald Trump (left) is targeted by Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (right), Florida Gov. Jeb Bush (center) and others.
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Ann: The blue tie is much better, even if the stripe does have a certain car salesman flair to it. But the second one with the yellow tie, I am just not sure what he is going for there. It is like his tie and his hair flip-flopped, making his hair red and his tie yellow.

marq: You got me there. I was just too excited to see an old dog with a new trick.

Ann: Well here comes another new trick. He has ditched the red tie for a red baseball cap. Still wearing that baggy black pantsuit, though. And cuff links. With a baseball cap.

marq: I think he is going for that diamonds and denim cliche, only Trump style.

Ann: Maybe he will wear the cap to his next sporting event, now that he has one. I think it is safe to say he does not own a white shirt that does not require cuff links.

AYR, SCOTLAND - JULY 30: Republican Presidential Candidate Donald Trump visits his Scottish golf course Turnberry on July 30, 2015 in Ayr, Scotland. Donald Trump answered questions from the media at a press conference. (Photo by Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)

(Photo by Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)

marq: that is a wardrobe failing for the casual dress. Or, perhaps he doesn’t realize they make white shirts with buttons on the cuffs.

Ann: Someone running for president should know this. How can someone relate to the common man if he doesn’t even know about cuff buttons?

marq: I don’t know, Ann. I just don’t know. But he does appear to have purchased a solid blue tie, doing away with that awful stripe. And what looks like a light grey tie as well. That is a serious departure for Mr. Trump from the bold colors we typically see. And that might be a charcoal grey pantsuit. But then again, it could just be how the light is hitting it.

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Ann: Hmm, I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt and say he definitely might have a third pantsuit in grey. But up next is the return of the stripe.

Marq: Please say it isn’t so!

Ann: I’m sorry. This looks like two separate blue striped ties, one light and one dark,

 

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marq: Well at least he wore the dark blue with the darker pantsuit. He really likes his little black tent.

Ann: Why, yes, marq, he does. He has a history of black pantsuits and red ties. Here he is, much younger, sporting the early rendition of what we most typically see today.

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marq: Fits about the same, too. And it appears that, at least at some point in his life, he had another shirt that wasn’t white.

Ann: So it would seem. But he definitely loves little black numbers. And here we see blue pantsuits again. Oh, but that is just not pulling it all together. Dark blue pantsuit with a baby blue tie? Is he going to a bridal shower? If he wore this to meet a head of state, they’d be expecting a gift wrapped box of diapers!

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marq: Maybe this is Trump exposing his feminine side. He’s trying to reach out and say, “I’m soft and cute and huggable.”

Ann: Well nothing too huggable about these next two selections. He’s in boxing blue with what might be that charcoal suit. I do like the charcoal as being softer than the black. But I’m just not sure the baggy jacket is doing him any favors.

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marq: hard to tell, that one. We would have to see what he looks like in anything else to know. It might be doing a lot of favors.

Ann: That is true! And here we have, another black and blue. Ever notice how his wardrobe reflects his bruised ego?

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marq: My eyes feel bruised from the monotony. And it doesn’t get better. No one seems able to part Mr. Trump from his red tie fixation.

FORT WORTH, TX - FEBRUARY 26: Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks at a rally at the Fort Worth Convention Center on February 26, 2016 in Fort Worth, Texas. Trump is campaigning in Texas, days ahead of the Super Tuesday primary. (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)
(Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)

Ann: Tell me about it. But this pinkish red tie is definitely the worst. I mean, I simply can’t listen to anything he says because it is so distracting.

DAYTONA BEACH, FL - AUGUST 03: Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump speaks during his campaign event at the Ocean Center Convention Center on August 3, 2016 in Daytona, Florida. Trump continued to campaign for his run for president of the United States. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
(Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

marq: Me either! He could be suggesting a decorated war hero and his family are really terrorists plotting against our country…

Ann: Or beseeching a foreign country to commit espionage against his political opponent…

marq: or suggesting an assassination, and I would never know the difference. Not that anyone would say or do anything like that, just that I wouldn’t even know because I can’t get past this wardrobe atrocity!

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Ann: Even when you dress it up, it is still so mundane! I think this is just his standard black pantsuit with a bow tie and cummerbund.

marq: I told you that pantsuit is versatile!

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Ann: Blue, Blue Blue.

Marq: Oh now this is fabulous!

Ann: Did he?

marq: I think he did!

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Ann: It appears here he is sporting a matching tie and toupee set!

marq: Polished off with that baggy black pantsuit.

Ann: But he always seems to run back to that red tie as quick as he can. What do you think that means, marq?

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marq: I think it means that he should feel very lucky the fashion police have no judicial authority.

Ann: Spot on, marq. So, now that the fashion show has drawn to a close, we need to sum it all up. What was your overall impression?

marq: My impression, Ann, is that Mr. Trump definitely owns a black pantsuit and a blue pantsuit, and potentially a dark charcoal grey pantsuit. He is a man who likes to pack light for the campaign trial. I’m thinking he has three to four white shirts.

Ann: You think as many as four?

marq: very possibly, but I would not put it over that. He has one red hat, two red ties, one with a pinkish hue and one with an orangish hue. One black belt. One black bow tie. Two horrible yellow ties. Two solid blue ties, one dark and one light. One light grey tie, though that may have been borrowed. And two striped blue ties. So that is two to three pantsuits, three to four shirts, one belt, one hat and nine to ten ties. However, primarily he wears only two of them.

Ann: That is a pretty small wardrobe for a billionaire. Do you think he is looking for simple sophistication?

marq: Difficult to tell, but I think simple minded wardrobe really fits the bill. It says a lot about who he is and  how he thinks. Judging by his wardrobe I’d say he is a man who does not like to manage too many choices. He wants to see things through a slim scope of ‘this’ or ‘this’. Just like picking a pantsuit: black or blue; or a tie: blue or red? We aren’t seeing any subtle complexities depicted here, no nuances of thought or suggestion, just pretty straight forward. He is actually a very simple minded man and I am just not sure that a man who can’t look in the mirror and see that his red tie clashes with his face is someone who has the capacity to lead our nation. His choices show no diversity. Just a dark, depressing mood. This is a choice he makes every day, what to wear!

Ann: And you get this just from what he wears?

marq: Well, of course! The pantsuit never lies!

Still think we should be judging candidates based on their pantsuits? Because that makes a lot of sense, right?

or if you want to judge by pantsuits, I’ll take diversity

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at least these say something.

We are One Woman, One World

credits for photographs: abcnews.go.com, bleaherreport.com, blogsatreuters.com, businessinsider.com, cbsnews.com, cheatsheet.com, dandyfashioner.blogspot.com, dnaindia.com, esquire.com, getkepmt.com, hollywoodreport.com, jezebel.com, kansascity.com, mashable.com, mic.com, money.cnn.com, nydailynews.com, nytimes.com, pastermagazine.com, politico.com, qz.com, racingtotheredlight.com, theblaze.com, time.com, sblog.dallasnews.com, usatoday.com, yahoo.com, damemagazine.com, freepublic.com, instyle.com

Breasts Are Not Men’s Sex Toys. Get Over It.

Once upon a time, when I was a kid, we researched information by looking it up in encyclopedias. For those of you not quite as old as the dirt beneath the pavement, encyclopedias were collections of books which contained information about historical and famous people, events, things, animals and places. If you needed to write a report, you reached for an encyclopedia. It was like the stone age search engine, except the articles were well vetted for accuracy and devoid of opinion. Why am I bringing up the obsolete reference resource? Because I remember reading through them and seeing photographs from tribes in other countries that showed women topless. My first reaction was of shock. Women just running around without shirts on! Women openly breastfeeding babies! In fact, that is how I learned the actual purpose of a breast is to feed a baby. When I was young, no one spoke about breastfeeding. You gave a baby a bottle. I didn’t think about it. Women covered their breasts, for the most part, unless they wanted to look extra pretty for a man, then they showed just a bit of them. I was surprised to see they were actually useful for something else. But then quickly decided we must be feeding babies with bottles for a reason, it must be healthier and feeding a baby like that must be barbaric and uncivilized and probably dangerous. And I, of course, also thought Yuck! Who wants to drink human milk?” Just to set the record straight, I was six years old. So the conclusions were not so atypical or illogical. Or were they?

At six years old I had already determined breasts had a particular use, to make you look feminine and attract men. To sum that up: I thought breasts were for men. Even though I had no comprehension about sex, how babies were made (I had not read that entry in the encyclopedia yet, as Africa comes long before Reproduction in the alphabet) or really any idea of physical relationships outside of holding hands, hugging and kissing. Yet, the impression that the purpose of women’s breasts were for men had already been so well ingrained into my psyche that, I deduced, when confronted with their actual purpose, it must be a primitive practice they only do because they have no other choice.

It is a shocking revelation that by six years old I had already identified my body parts, which still had yet to arrive, were meant for men. I was not outright told that. No one had said, “When you grow breasts, those are special toys you use to please your husband.” No one had even told me that men liked breasts or found them attractive or that they were considered attributes to a woman. At least not directly.

However, I watched television and movies, even cartoons. I listened to the conversations around me. I saw what people wore and how others responded. I saw the world, even if I didn’t intentionally calculate and classify everything. I learned it all. I heard comments about women with large breasts, and the suggestions that it was why they were so popular. I heard derogatory comments about flat chested women. I heard women commenting on their own breasts, wishing they were bigger, or fuller, or perkier, or looked better in a bathing suit. I heard old ladies’ breasts called knockers because they were saggy and old. I saw television shows where a woman jumped up and down and a man was distracted by her breasts bouncing. I heard men say things about appealing, curvy figures. I heard and saw a great many things about breasts, yet none of them had anything to do with feeding a baby. Not once.

So what does that mean? It means I thought breasts were toys, men’s toys. No different than anything shelved on the boy’s toy isle, except for grown-ups. Taking away the identity of our bodies degrades us into submissive toys. Sure, men can find breasts attractive. But the greedy lust of our ancestors has created a degrading atmosphere. We have been taught that sucking on a breast is a sexual act rather than nourishment for a child. Misogynistic men do not want to see a baby sucking on a breast because they find it disgusting.  Why? They aren’t disgusted by puppies or kittens. And the answer is not because it makes us look like animals. The fact is, they have been claimed. They are designated as sex toys rather than serving a real and vital purpose in child bearing and development.

At six I thought breast feeding must be wrong, unclean and unhealthy simply because I had no evidence anyone did it. When I asked about it, I was told it was frowned upon and respectable women gave a baby a bottle. Women had been taught it was unsavory to breastfeed. A misogynistic society further placing women beneath men by devaluing their purpose, by claiming their bodies and demeaning natural practices which benefit both a woman and a baby, simply because the men preferred to keep breasts all to themselves. Pretty much, they just didn’t like to see a baby sucking on them because they liked sucking on them, too. They were sex toys.

To this day, despite the medical community encouraging breastfeeding to new mothers, despite knowing the irreplaceable benefits to both mother and child, we still think of breasts as sexual toys first. We have a culture refusing to let go of the idea that breasts are somehow indecent simply because men like them. So, the rational is that because men find breasts attractive, it is disgusting to feed your child with them. They have equated breastfeeding to a sexual act in public. Now tell me who the sicko is: the woman nourishing her infant in the most healthy way possible or the deranged person berating her who seems to think it is somehow sexually explicit and indecent?

Despite my shock at age six, by the time I was a young woman, I had learned the benefits of breastfeeding and elected to breastfeed all three of my children. Twenty-two years ago, breastfeeding was a serious challenge. In fact, most women were discouraged from it simply because it was so difficult. By my third child, a decade later, it was somewhat easier, only because breast pumps were not quite so cumbersome. Still, it was impossible to travel anywhere and breastfeed. At that time you could not even feed your baby in public if you were completely covered. You were expected to go into a toilet. Because that is sanitary. Right? Even today many people argue or suggest women should do this. Think about that for a minute, think about why this is misogynistic. Why is it offensive? Why do we place more importance on the fact that some man may find breasts exciting than we do on the nourishment, well-being and safety of an infant?

So, I finally came to the conclusion that the pictures I saw long ago did not depict a primitive ideology. I think, perhaps, the more primitive is the one we seek to overcome today, for it is one of coveting and human ownership. Breastfeeding does not demean a woman in any way. Misogynists demean women for breastfeeding. It has been taught to us as unacceptable behavior, but it only is so because we yielded to the opinions of people with, evidently, very naughty minds. We accepted that it was uncouth in public because breasts were sexual organs. If we decide to see something one way, we can decide to see it another. Collectively, that will not happen overnight. But we can begin the process by teaching our children, both boys and girls, what breasts are for. Do not teach children to be offended by breastfeeding, and they won’t be. We can support local, state and federal legislation to protect women’s rights to feed their infants, however, breastfeeding is perfectly legal in most states. (Idaho, time to catch up with the rest of the world.) The real problem is public harassment. To defeat this, we must continue to stand together and support businesses and venues which provide friendly atmospheres for nursing mothers.  Our daughters will grow up with a healthier self-image and our sons will have greater respect for women and their bodies.

See the links below for more information on the benefits of breastfeeding!

We are One Woman, One World.

21 Amazing Benefits of Breastfeeding

http://www.womenshealth.gov/breastfeeding/breastfeeding-benefits.html

http://www.babycenter.com/0_how-breastfeeding-benefits-you-and-your-baby_8910.bc

http://www.webmd.com/parenting/baby/nursing-basics

http://www.llli.org/nb/nbjulaug01p124.html

http://www.fitpregnancy.com/baby/breastfeeding/20-breastfeeding-benefits-mom-baby

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/08/01/map-where-its-legal-to-breastfeed-in-public_n_5637301.html

 

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