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What Is The Youth Ki Awaaz On Breastfeeding In Public?

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Earlier this month, Malayalam magazine ‘Grihalakshmi’ took a bold stand by featuring a model breastfeeding a baby on its cover. The cover sparked a nationwide debate, and led to reactions filled with joy, surprise, disgust and anger. The cover was trolled, the model was shamed, memes were made comparing it with the act of men peeing in public. Needless to say, the cover made hundreds pretty uncomfortable.

We asked the Youth Ki Awaaz community what they felt about the issue of breastfeeding in public, and the ‘Grihalakshmi’ cover. Did it smash patriarchy or was it indecent and unnecessary? Many users published their thoughts on Youth Ki Awaaz, and sent in diverse responses. Here’s a glimpse at some of them:

1. “Slams patriarchal mindset right in the face”: Ram Bhattacharjee

I stand with the magazine and the lady who projected the image. For how long will women, men or whoever does an out-of-box thing be targeted? Targeted by misogynists, fringe groups and so called “thekedars” in society! They can’t control people and they are none to decide for them. Yes, It slams the patriarchal mindset right in the face.

2. “Unfortunately in India when a mother gives food to her child, it offends some people”: Aishwarya Sandeep

“Just because you feel awkward because breasts are connected with sexuality, you force the poor mother, who is lactating, and her child for whom, breasts are a source of nourishment to move to uncomfortable places such as a washroom, or any secluded place.”

3. On a country being embarrassed of looking at a mother breastfeeding: Nirjhara Rastogi

“A country that is embarrassed of looking at a mother breastfeeding her child, or a country that cannot be adult about breasts in the 21st century, deserves to be embarrassed about being themselves, more than anything else.”

4. “Male entitlement should be decimated”: Karthik Rajagopal

“It smashed patriarchy. We need to take the struggle to the next level. Male entitlement from mainstream society should be decimated. Most taboos and stereotypes are products of this narrative; they should go!”

5. “Can we shut the hypocrisy?”: Divya Agarwal

“Can we shut the hypocrisy looming over? Our society is a patriarchal society, driven and controlled by the men and the powerful. Women are allowed to exhibit only those emotions which are convenient to the other sex, and carry out activities which fit in the male-dominated society.”

Can We Be Done With The Hypocrisy Looming Over Breastfeeding?

6. “It’s hard to accept change”: Joyeeta Talukdar

“There are many magazines on motherhood where the pros and cones of breastfeeding have been shown along with pictures. But yes, for a magazine cover, it is new and according to me, it’s always hard to accept change in society. With time, many will copy and follow the same trend.”

Photo by Veejay Villafranca/Getty Images)

7. “स्तनपान नवजात शिशु के मूल अधिकार के साथ-साथ एक मां का विशेषाधिकार है”: प्रशांत प्रत्युष

“ज़रूरत इस बात की है महिला शरीर को लेकर समाज अपनी पूर्वाग्रही धारणाओं से बाहर निकले। साथ ही साथ बच्चों के लालन-पालन के लिए महिलाओं के नैसर्गिक क्षमताओं को कानूनी सहायता देकर अधिक सशक्त बनाये, जिससे महिलाओं को शर्मिंदगी नहीं सहजता महसूस हो सके।”

दूध पिलाती महिलाओं को देखकर हमारा समाज असहज क्यों हो जाता है?

8. “People love breasts as long as it’s for their pleasure”: Bharathi Surendran

“In my opinion, the cover was beautiful. All I could see was a beautiful act of bonding. Breasts, albeit sexualised, are not a sexual organ. Their primary and most important goal is nursing. People love breasts as long as their display is for their pleasure.”

9. Comparing breastfeeding with peeing in public is insane”: Sonali Sapna

“Comparing Breastfeeding with the act of peeing in public is insane. Let’s just swap the world. What if a man would have to breastfeed the child? Then nobody would have an issue with it. The fear of losing the patriarchal power is making these people uncomfortable. Let’s all breastfeed wherever we need to and make this “NEW ABNORMAL”, a “NORMAL TREND”.”

Created by Anwesha Patel

Are you comfortable with breastfeeding in public?

10. “Some acts are better left behind closed doors”: Free 49

“Actually objective of the photographer is to show naked female body in public: a fancy dream of teenage youth. This is a punishable offence as per Indian law. Nowhere on earth women show naked breast in public to breastfeed. Everywhere they cover up. Don’t try to bring some uncommon thing for publicity.”

11. “One can’t just argue about traditions all day long”: Ashly Abraham

“Coming from the same state where this magazine is published, I can say that I wasn’t surprised at the negative reactions. People should have have appreciated a bold move like this, instead of all the trolling. Living in this century, one can’t just argue about traditions and cultures all day long. This kind of a move helps stop the sexualization of breasts and women’s bodies. That is the bigger picture here which many of us fail to realise.”

12. “The photo falls within its own patriarchal mesh”: Minakshi Bujarbaruah

“Very bold step by the magazine and we need more of such strong voices. It did succeed to challenge and make many uncomfortable. However, I am not very sure about the portrayal of the model and her strictly adhering to normative symbolic representation of ‘married Hindu women’. That excludes many other sections of women and in that sense the photograph falls within its own patriarchal mesh.”

13. “We have plenty to be outraged about”: Akshita Prasad

“Seeing a model breastfeed on a magazine cover isn’t something that should cause us shame, or offend us. We have plenty to be outraged about, plenty to feel shameful about. We are a patriarchal society that fails women, our collective shame, outrage, outcry, and action should focus towards that.”

14. “सैद्धांतिक रूप से हमारा समाज स्तनपान के खिलाफ नहीं है, बल्कि उसको डर है स्तन के दिख जाने से। इससे पुरुष सत्ता को शर्म लग जाती है”: शेष नाथ वर्णवाल

“एक महिला जो ट्रेन के सामान्य डब्बे में सफर कर रही होती है और बच्चा भूख से रोने लगता है। ऐसे मौके पर महिला द्वारा स्तनपान कराने की दुविधा, बच्चे की रोने की आवाज़ और स्तन को घूरती बेशर्म आंखें, कभी न कभी लोगों ने ज़रूर देखी होगी। ऐसे में बच्चे की भूख को शांत करने हेतु स्तनपान कराना अश्लील है या माँ द्वारा बच्चे को स्तनपान कराते घूरती आंखे अश्लील हैं, इसपर सोचने की ज़रूरत है।”

15. “A magazine cover is not the place”: Shubha Chogle

“Public may look at it from different angles. The models, in fact, should not be ready to give such poses and should be ashamed no matter how richly they are paid. Such kind of pictures will surely raise anger in public since Indian women are considered to be of high dignity.”

My opinion on the Grihalakshmi poster on breastfeeding

16. “Trolls just needed a reason”: Arunchandra C.

The magazine drew flak even from women alleging sexualisation of the female body because we’ve been so thoroughly conditioned that you should breastfeed your child covered up completely. No matter how literate and liberal one calls Kerala, Malayalis still live ages behind in terms of perceiving such things. P.S. I am from Kerala.

17. “We are expected to feed our child in a public toilet, the most unhygienic place there is”: Pooja Kochar

“The problem is that we are living in a culture that has sexualised breasts so much that it is hard to look beyond it and accept the fact that they serve a bigger purpose in our lives. Apparently, a woman feeding in public is more offensive than a man eve-teasing in bright daylight.” 

18. “Men’s sexual desires determine how people accept the images of a woman’s body”: Ria Das Mukherjee

“It is only when a woman chooses to do what she wants with her body that the entire nation loses its sleep. It does not matter whether she chooses to nourish her child or dress according to her own sense of style and comfort. She will be convicted for exercising her right to freedom of choice – the right which patriarchy has denied the existence of since its conception.”

19. “The need of the hour is more public breastfeeding rooms for women across all strata of the society”: Tina S

“I have attended to nature’s call among the trees while on bus trips and even breastfed in public when there were no exclusive breastfeeding rooms around. I can vouch for the fact that it is not such a blissful experience after all. We definitely need more public toilets and breastfeeding rooms for our own comfort.”

Does Gilu Joseph’s Breastfeeding Photo Bring Any Practical Solutions To The Problem?

20. “माँ सोते, जागते, रोते, कभी भी दूध पिला सकती है भाई! संसद में माँ अपने बच्चे को भाषण देते हुए दूध पिला सकती है, किस दुनिया में रहते हैं ये लोग?”: स्वप्ना कादियान

“मैंने तो तब भी लोगों को घूरते देखा है, जब माँ पूरा पल्लू ढककर बच्चे को दूध पिलाती है। नज़रें चुरा-चुरा कर लोग अपनी कल्पनाओं के घोड़े दौड़ा रहे होते हैं। ये तो वही बात हो गई कि नज़र तेरी गन्दी और पर्दा करूं मैं। माँ का अपने बच्चे को दूध पिलाना, समाज की नाक से कब जुड़ गया, पता ही नहीं चला। क्या बच्चे को दूध पिलाने के लिए भी नियम-कानून होने चाहिए? कितने पल्लू से खुद को ढकना है या कितना स्तन दिखना सही है, ये किस संविधान में लिखा है, हमने तो आज तक नहीं पढ़ा।”

What is your opinion? Share it in the comments below, and if you have more to say, publish on Youth Ki Awaaz.

You must be to comment.

    Last week you ask me to sent the suggestion With regards to Breastfeeding ( Sorry I don’t know her name – ) in fact i hate cine artist and their attitude they things whatever they do right just because they have the money power and some of the Big bosses in the society (Producer’s) who wants to make easy money gives script to act …they don’t bother about the negative impact which may create unrest problems hurt feelings etc, by their mistake it clearly shows they want to earn money for their lavishing lifestyle nothing else.
    Now coming to this breastfeeding – I am sorry she is not true mother who herselves need advertisement while feeling her child ? further no comments

    Thanking you.
    Manicklal Chakraborty

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