Breastfeeding advocates can’t help it — when we see that a popular show or magazine is looking to discuss full-term (or extended, as they always say… or extreme) breastfeeding, we can’t help but get our hopes up a little, hoping it goes well and is beneficial to the cause. But we also wince, cringe, and hold our breath… and generally are let down by sensationalism.
My appearance on Good Morning America was pretty awesome. The reporter I spoke to and his crew were very kind, pleasant, the discussion wasn’t pushy attempts to trap me. It went well. Now, this wasn’t about breastfeeding, but coffee as an ADD/ADHD med, but still. I knew they’d have experts talking against me. The cutting room floor must look like a dump, though, for basically everything I said was left there, and the edited in commentary was purposefully designed to then use my soundbites to attempt to make me sound uneducated. I wasn’t surprised though, and fortunately, I got almost nothing but support for my side.
Later, I received phone calls from two other networks, wanting to speak to me about breastfeeding. Both times, I was asked plenty of questions about my life outside breastfeeding, with the goal obviously being to see if I was just “extreme” or unusual all around. Both times I was turned down for not being extreme enough. Recently, a talk show doing a segment on “Extreme Parenting” talked to me as well, and I was asked questions about if I used doctors or home remedies, if I homeschooled, vaccinated, if other people felt I was weird… and again turned down for not being “controversial” enough. They spoke to friends of mine as well, and one was told they didn’t want experts or anyone educated, and another was told there wasn’t enough controversy in her life for the show.
Hang on a sec… I thought you were looking for someone who breastfed, media? Who breastfed a toddler? Myself and these women all fit the bill. Let’s just be honest and say what these shows wanted was not an accurate portrayal of the common nursing mom — they want someone who can’t stand up for themselves, who looks like an extremist in every aspect of their lives, so that they can continue the false notion that “normal people” don’t nurse toddlers. This is a big problem.
Even shows designed to be fair, to come off like they’re really truly about helping people, have done this, and are mentioned (without names) above. If you saw Dr. Sears on The View, you saw how he tried to be polite and respectful, and they just talked over him, interrupted him, and laughed, being incredibly rude and not giving him a chance to finish a single sentence, much less actually answer their questions or god forbid, educate them. Then there is this woman’s experience with the Dr. Phil show recently. They made damn sure she was put in a position where it was guaranteed to be dramatic and negative towards her. It makes advocacy and education so much harder that all media wants to show when it comes to full-term nursing is people they feel like they can paint to be very unrelatable to the average mom. They don’t want you to know that the bank teller in her nice business clothes and pretty curled hair could be nursing a 4 year old. They want you to think it’s the hippie with dreads protesting Monsanto outside the grocery store is the only type of person who could possibly be nursing a toddler, or *gasp* a preschooler. It’s this perpetuated myth that keeps so many full-term nursers in the closet about it — society has made a point to paint us as outcasts or weirdos if we decide to follow the biological norm and let our kids self-wean.
Jamie Grumet, the mom from the TIME magazine cover, was so dismayed with the photo they chose, and the angle which they painted her story as well. I’m sure you all remember the incredibly aggressive headline “Are You Mom Enough?” that is guaranteed to make people think, in conjunction with the almost combative photo they chose, that women think they’re better than you for breastfeeding longer. She fortunately has landed a new cover of Pathways to Family Wellness magazine, that took beautiful photos of a close, bonded family, and talked about what life for Jamie is REALLY like. They even quoted anthropologists and medical professionals who discussed how it’s a perfectly normal thing to do.
But of course, that’s not what gets the ratings.
How, as advocates, educators, and even just normal moms, can we fight against the mainstream media’s fascination with painting us all like psychos? Like bullies, or women with major superiority complexes? Obviously, we have to make sure we’re not those things, but beyond that, how do you show your true colors through the excessive amounts of toxic lies that society keeps painting you with? That’s what we’ve got to figure out.