Tasteful Magazine Cover?

Does this magazine cover offend you? Before you answer, let me point out a few things about it. Babytalk is a free parenting magazine that OBs and pediatricians have on hand in their offices. The magazine is also mailed out to parents who request it. It's not sold in stores. And the people who read it? Are overwhelmingly mothers of young babies.

This magazine cover has ignited a shit-storm of controversy, however. And not from the conservative right. And not from uptight churchfolk asking us to please "think of the children!" Instead those that are offended by this magazine cover are the very people who read it-mothers, many of whom are currently breastfeeding or who have breastfed their own babies.

According to this article, one mother of a 13 year old boy, who had breastfed all her children, has said of the cover, "I shredded it. A breast is a breast — it's a sexual thing. He didn't need to see that."

Another mother said, "I'm totally supportive of it — I just don't like the flashing," she says. "I don't want my son or husband to accidentally see a breast they didn't want to see."

First of all, in my opinion, a breast is not a "sexual thing" (regardless of how American culture has objectified women and their bodies to a collection of parts, breasts included). Breasts contain mammary glands. Breasts feed babies. And this function is the ONLY reason women are born with them. And does this woman actually believe her 13 year old son has never seen a woman's breast before? Please.

And then there's Ms. Contradiction's comment about "supporting" breastfeeding, but feeling uneasy about her son or husband "accidentally" seeing a breast they didn't want to see. I don't know about you, but I don't know a single hetero man who would run away, eyes covered, screaming with horror at the sight of an exposed breast.

My feeling is this. Where are these mothers and their outrage when it comes to women posing with their breasts exposed on the covers of Playboy and Maxim? Where are their concerns for their husbands' and sons' delicate constitutions when it comes to seeing women's bodies objectified and exploited in these magazines for the sole purpose of male enjoyment? It's an outrage for BabyTalk magazine to show a very "tasteful" picture (no nipple or areola expose) of a mother breastfeeding her infant, and using her breasts for the purpose for which they were intended, but guess what? If Little Jimmy was found with a dirty magazine under his bed, these same complaining women would explain that away with a simple "Well, boys will be boys."

So, what do you think? Is this cover "gross" (as another mother was quoted as saying in the article)? Have we as a culture debased women's bodies so much that no matter how much we hate to admit it, we do see breasts exactly the way the Hugh Hefners of the world want us to?

13 Responses to “Tasteful Magazine Cover?”

  1. # Blogger Marie

    Oh brother! No, it doesn't offend me or make me uncomfortable.

    I love the editor's comment: "It's not like women are whipping them out with tassels on them!"  

  2. # Blogger Geekwif

    I am one of those "conservative right" and "uptight churchfolk" and I see nothing wrong with this cover. How anyone could say it is "sexual" is beyond me. This is a child being fed by his mother. It's almost frightening that anyone would find anything sexual about that.

    As for the woman who didn't want her husband and son to see it, perhaps she should examine her own marriage if she is so threatened by her husband accidentally seeing a breast in such a completely non-sexual context.

    Just MHO. :)  

  3. # Blogger angela

    Hi,
    I've been reading your blog for a while now and enjoying it.
    I'm completely in agreement with you on this issue and am stunned that anyone, let alone a mother who has breast fed, would find it offensive. It's just a breast and probably half the adult population has two.  

  4. # Anonymous Anonymous

    This is an ironic post, considering this previous post of yours.

    The problem as I see it is not that

    "we as a culture debased women's bodies so much that no matter how much we hate to admit it, we do see breasts exactly the way the Hugh Hefners of the world want us to"

    but that people are, in general, okay with things like breastfeeding, childbirth, children, and other natural expressions of life, but only at a distance.

    Our society in particular has an obsession with hygiene, appearance, and sterility. One trip through an American grocery store shows this. This is a very superficial culture and althouogh Americans may support breastfeeding in theory, in actual practice (especially if done in full view of others) it makes most uneasy.

    Ask yourself why the nursing mother at the party bothered you, but the magazine cover doesn't. Is it because the cover is a flat, 2-dimensional image and not an actual woman nursing a child in front of you?  

  5. # Blogger M

    Hm.... tough question. I am not offended by it but I also don't see the purpose of it being on the front cover. Granted, it's a noteworthy topic for it's intended audience. I am EXTREMELY modest when it comes to any form of nudity and so for me, I find it unnecessary. However, I realize that most people aren't as uptight about the human body as I am and would imagine that this cover wouldn't embarass many people.  

  6. # Anonymous Schnozz

    I responded on my blog, and what I said was probably a cross between your previous post (the drinking fountain one) and this one. The ew factor and the respect factor are both there for me, I guess!  

  7. # Blogger l

    I don't get what the fuss is about. I mean, why is it that breastfeeding and the public acknowledgement of it is both taboo and an expected undertaking of a "good" mother? The message I get is that I'm expected to perform this function when I birth a child, but for godssake, don't let on that I actually DO this! Regardless of the target demographic of this magazine, nothing more was exposed than what you would find in a designer's advertisement or on the E! network - less, actually. I say get over it, people!  

  8. # Blogger sher

    Hope this gets to you Kristi,

    Blogger is being a stinker to me. I don't find it offensive at all!! It's sweet.  

  9. # Blogger sher

    Ahem,

    I mean the picture is sweet. Blogger is the stinker.  

  10. # Blogger sunShine

    When my issue came in the mail the other day I thought it was a fabulous cover. I want to go and have professional photos taken of me breastfeeding my little one. I don't ever want to forget what he looks like when he looks at me while breastfeeding. Anyway breastfeeding is a beautiful and natural thing, people need to get a life or something like it.  

  11. # Blogger MissMeliss

    Personally, I think it's a sweet picture. It's not sexual, it's natural.

    But then, I've never understood why people freak out over body parts. Every woman has breasts, they're not a sex organ unless we choose for them to be.  

  12. # Blogger Kristi

    Marie-LOL. Somehow I think if they were doing that, no one would complain.

    Geekwif-Good points. Me thinks the woman quoted was a wee bit insecure.

    Angela-Welcome, and thanks for coming out of lurkdom! You're right. It's very interesting that the very people finding the cover offensive are the ones participating (or who have participated) in the act being depicted.

    Anonymous: I addressed one main issue in my post. The issue is that these mothers who have breast-fed their own children are concerned about their husbands and sons seeing the barely exposed breast in a natural function (which you would assume they’ve seen before, having lived in a house with the moms while they were feeding their babies), but then said nothing of the sexual exploitation of women’s breasts for male enjoyment in “adult” magazines. It’s a contradiction that’s completely overlooked by these mothers. My point being that sexual exploitation of women's bodies is condoned in our society while the natural function of breast-feeding is not.

    You’re addressing a completely different issue, which I view as one of discretion. The magazine shows a completely discreet image of breast-feeding on the cover of a publication that is mailed predominantly to nursing mothers whom one would assume would be completely comfortable with the image. They’re not, and this really surprised me, hence my post. In the case of my friend, who was breast-feeding in public, discretion wasn’t used. Now, to address this separate issue, if you want my views on breast-feeding in public, which is unrelated to the topic of this blog post, I’m all for it, just so long as a bit of this discretion is exercised. Do I believe women should breast-feed in public bathrooms only? Absolutely not. But should they use a sling, which I plan on using, or some other material to make the feeding as private as possible in restaurants, etc., yes. The magazine cover is discreet, and so is breastfeeding in public when the proper “covers” are used. In my mind, I see no irony.

    M-Believe me, I used to be pretty uptight as well. But I think going through IF treatment has really lessened (or eliminated entirely) these feelings for me, since so much of our bodies has been poked, prodded, and exposed.

    Schnozz-I've read and responded to your post as well. You made some excellent points.

    L-You're right. The message clearly is "Do it, but dont you dare do it where I can see it." Funny, though, this cover reveals less of a woman's breast than you'd see during a trip to the beach, or as you say, on E!

    Sher-LOL. I got the message, and I think it's sweet too.

    Sunshine-It's completely natural, and so very odd that the very women breastfeeding their infants are the ones finding the cover so offensive.

    MissMeliss-Exactly. Unfortunately, I'd say 99% of the population see them not as a source of food for babies, but as "objects" designed for sexual purposes.  

  13. # Blogger annelynn

    (haven't read your other comments yet, so please forgive repetition!)

    I SO AGREE with you on this. I saw the brouhaha over this cover on CNN.com and I was thoroughly disgusted, for the exact same reasons you are. The breast is not primarily a sexual organ - it is there to feed babies. I hate that a woman would actually call it "gross," in the same breath as she would likely dismiss a Maxim cover as a "for the boys" kind of thing. Bullshit. The boob is supposed to be for babies, not for men.

    This article made me inordinately angry, especially given that I'm not a mother. I hate how sexualized our society has become. That a baby feeding where she or he is *supposed to feed* is being considered somehow provocative is absurd in the extreme.

    Thank you for your words on this matter!  

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