Nudes and Breastfeeding

So naked women are exciting, yes?

Today we went to the Museum of Fine Arts. I was excited to see the exhibit “Degas and the Nude,” not because I particularly love Degas, but because I am always interested to see whats going on at the MFA and, as a Gender and Women’s studies minor (go Obbie GAWS!) am interested in exploring the idea of the naked female body as an object. I was curious to see if the exhibit would engage in the complexity (or straightforward misogyny) of men painting random female bodies for the viewer. There were some interesting pieces of women in brothels, but all the text predominately talked about the different techniques Degas used, not the subject matter. I left feeling a little blah, that I don’t like Degas very much, and that there wasn’t anything particularly evocative about the exhibit. To be fair, the babe cried a lot and so we were somewhat distracted. It was also pretty crowded, which always turns me off.

What I did become aware of was how many children were at the exhibit. Some 5-6 year old children, but also many children in their early teens, of all genders. Now, I look forward to when I can bring our baby to a museum and engage with her about all that she sees, whether it is complicated, oppressive, or otherwise. And I want to raise her in a household where being naked is normal and there is no shame around it. However, I realize this is not the world in which many children are raised and I’m guessing that many of these parents would not allow their children to see nudity in another context.

Which lead me to thinking about breastfeeding in public (to be fair, most things lead to that topic for me these days). The most awkwardness I have ever encountered around breastfeeding has been around families who have teen/preteen children, where the parents feel uncomfortable having their children see a woman breastfeeding. It’s interesting to think about how these paintings are actually quite erotic, but because they are “art” they are seen as acceptable. But when I breastfeed, a totally non-sexual act, it makes people uncomfortable because I am a real person in a public space (is that why they are uncomfortable?).

However, there is something intimate about feeding my child. And as I write this, I realize that I am perhaps supporting that idea that sexuality should remain hidden and that the only reason it is okay that I breastfeed in public is because it is non-sexual. Hmmm. I guess I just wish that women’s bodies and sexualities were allowed to be in the open in a way that isn’t objectifying. So while I shouldn’t have to hide when I need to feed my child, people shouldn’t have to hide and shame their sexuality either.

Check.

-Rachel

One of Degas’ more interesting nudes. I love the hair.

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3 comments on “Nudes and Breastfeeding

  1. Jill Landau Reich says:

    Notice the hair is red? Im just sayin’…. A. Jill

  2. Darnell says:

    “Which lead me to thinking about breastfeeding in public (to be fair, most things lead to that topic for me these days).” — LOL! I loved this post (and I love you lots, too).

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