Thursday, May 10, 2012

'Are You MOM Enough?' Happy Mother's Day from Time Magazine

Seriously?

What the heck is up with that "Are you MOM enough?" headline? And, for that matter, what would possess Time Magazine's editors to pair such a shamelessly Mommy Wars-baiting kind of question with an intentionally salacious (not maternal, not nurturing) image of a nearly 4-year-old boy, who's identified by name, standing on a chair with his mouth on his slender, tank top attired twentysomething mother's exposed breast?

This cover is not about provoking a rationale discussion or even a lively debate about the pros and cons of attachment parenting or extended breastfeeding, two subjects certainly worthy of intellectual dissection. The cover isn't, as the editors claim, simply promoting the lead story inside the magazine which profiles America's leading attachment parenting advocate, who happens to be a seventysomething pediatrician. It's about titillation. Yeah, I said that.

Once you get past the cover, the magazine's lead story is entitled, "The Man Who Remade Motherhood." The accompanying articles (available for Time subscribers and on sale tomorrow on newsstands) are about Dr. Bill Sears and his attachment parenting philosophy which includes the promotion of extended breastfeeding through at least the first year of a baby's life and beyond, co-sleeping with the baby, not letting a baby "cry it out" and wearing the baby around in a baby sling. Other articles include a woman's tale of extended breastfeeding and a token analysis of attachment parenting and comparing its tenets to what science has discerned by studying its practice. Again, I think that these are important subjects to assess, particularly when it comes to tension between attachment parenting and the ability of women to work outside the home.


However that cover does a disservice to breastfeeding and flouts what breastfeeding advocates repeatedly say about it: It's not sexual and we need to get beyond seeing breasts as sexual objects and recognize that they're purposeful, functional parts of the female anatomy after a woman has a baby.

I'm a very low-key breastfeeding advocate, having nursed my babies for a long time, and think women should be able to do it wherever and whenever they and/or their babies need to. But this cover isn't about all of that. It's about newsstand sales. The magazine's editors should be embarrassed by their craven exploitation of this woman and her son, whose friends will be able to Google this image of him, at almost 4, suckling his mother's breast. Did anybody think about the impact of this photo on the kid?

Image credit: Time Magazine.

21 comments:

umommy said...

Wow. I'm speechless. Thankfully you have crafted the right words about this Time cover. Titillating indeed!

GJevon said...

I disagree they are sexual and you have to be dumb not to think so. As a man I did not learn that breast are attractive it was natural. Yes I know they have a purpose but that purpose is not exclusive.

elyse said...

she said that *breastfeeding* was not sexual, and that we should move past seeing breasts only as sexual, that they have more than one function.

Steve said...

That cover is disgusting. Do we have to sexualize EVERYTHING? A mother and her child?! Exploitation at its worst. Holy f***ing Freud that's shameful.

Anonymous said...

I'm so glad you said that! It does seem exploitative -- and here's a clip from Huffington Post that seems to suggest that as well:

Schoeller said in an interview on TIME.com. “I liked the idea of having the kids standing up to underline the point that this was an uncommon situation."

Anonymous said...

BTW -- Someone comments in one of these articles about how will you explain this cover to your child when you go to the grocery store. I did show it to my six-year-old daughter (an extended nurser herself) and asked, "What is this child doing?" She looked at it and said, "He's nursing." So much for having to explain.

Anonymous said...

This cover is TOTALLY EXPLOITATIVE! Shame on TIME! This cover doesn't show a caring mother loving and nursing her child (regardless of the age) It is meant to be provocative. I wouldn't be surprised if that wasn't an actual mother and son. While breast feeding is natural and nothing to be ashamed of, I am unsure why a group of women want their bodies to be deemed as "nothing" and "no big deal". And while I don't think women need to hide it (breastfeeding), this cover is disrespectful to motherhood, womanhood, and frankly childhood. The cover woman should be proud to know she has provided fodder for some pedophile. Give me a break.

ChatterAnt said...

I think this is very well written as well, and one of the most intelligent commentaries I've read regarding this cover and its cover issue yet. If the argument is about what is natural...Masturbating is natural as well. So is changing a tampon, picking your nose or urinating. Lets do that anytime or anywhere, too. Or we can be a decent, well mannered human being, and be discreet about it. I am a huge supporter of breast feeding (was breast fed myself until I was 2), but I am also well aware of when babies are not babies anymore. If the discussion is about natural mothering, lets think about what other mammals behave this way... Don't worry, I will wait. I personally feel that this is a private issue, and don't really care. It IS a disturbing photo. But, the editors didn't exploit anyone. She is a grown woman fully capable of making decisions. She, by herself, is exploiting her own child. He and his future girlfriends or partners can talk about this in therapy together in his future for sure. Mothers so concerned with being that attached to their growing child are filling some kind of hole on their own soul and that is an entirely different issue all together. My point is, just because you can, doesn't mean you should. I think these mothers are a bit selfish and extreme. Cut the cord. Babies do grow up, people sleep in their own bed, and all kids cry. Accept it. It really is OK.

Anonymous said...

What was that mother in the photo thinking? Her son is going to be traumatized by that photo for the rest of his life.

Kids are cruel, and the son will be teased mercilessly because of that photo.

Peter said...

The editor doesn't care what he puts on the cover. He cares only about the sales figures of the magazine. By getting upset about it and talking about it, you're giving him exactly what he wants. Well done.

Anonymous said...

I would love to continue reading this post (only got half way through) but the white print on black background should be reconsidered. Everything goes blurry after a few minutes.....and my eyesight is stellar. Just a suggestion.

bethannfranz said...

I thought these photos were beautiful, absolutely beautiful. When, as a student nurse, I witnessed my first mastectomy I wept with all the feeling that came alive in me from witnessing the loss of what had once nurtured human life. I suspect that part of man's love for woman's breast has to do with a deep, though probably unrecognized, sense of reverence for this amazing organ. Strong feelings of love and connection often border on the erotic. It is what our mind does with the emotion that makes the difference...

deniseadler said...

Thanks for cutting to the chase on this! Ironically, when I first saw the lead in cropped picture I was intrigued. With the full image I was appalled. I am so sick of the American attitude towards breastfeeding, as something we should do but only in private so as not to dispel the sexual nature of our breasts. That said, the men and women who chose this cover want their cake and they want to suck on it. This is an article about Bill Sears so put him on the cover he's an interesting character with a lot of thought provoking advice. Or do put a picture of a mother breastfeeding her child just not this one. The provocative stance is meant to provoke, this was not an accident. This cover is exploitative at best and a divisive distraction from an important issue at worst. It speaks volumes to America's puritanical roots and uneasy relationship to sexuality, but not a lot about breast feeding or child rearing or even the article it is supposed to be representing! Happy mother's day indeed!

Anonymous said...

To : Chatterant

That was the most insightful, fair, non-bias and senseful comment I've ever read on any story.

All should scroll to it and read it.

Anonymous said...

Attachment parenting can get out of hand though. My- ex-wife BF our second daughter for over 4 years, co-slept for 5+ years, and carried her everywhere on the nipple. In turn, this daughter ended up clinging to Mom all the time and would push me away from her. Not until we separated did she learn to sleep by her self and begin to learn some independence. She is also underweight because she would not eat much food on her own. I think this is more about the needs of the mothers after a certain point.

charlene said...

It is about personal choice! there is always the extreme..but there is nothing more beautiful then children that are loved and give love! The word attachment parenting bothers me..does holding your childs hand do damage too! LIVE AND LET LIVE..and everyone will come out fine!

Anonymous said...

I chose the advice of this doctor in two ways: baby carrier while nursing! Didn’t know our picture would appear in a newspaper for all to see. What I was doing was not only natural, but also discreet for a big cloth covered him up. It was an unusually sunny Indian Summer day. Probably only I knew what was going on underneath; the newspaper photographer, whose picture was placed under an article about the unusually warm weather, had no idea about the nursing infant while I pushed his stroller filled with shopping just purchased from the grocery store. That was my first warning what we do might be criticized. What is the rule for moderate behavior? What really was tragic in our case is breast feeding issues were used later as a means to force a separation between me and my child, then three-and-a-half years old, in a custody battle. The court-appointed psychologist stated in his decision filed in court implying my extended-time (nursing a toddler) was an "unhealthy symbiotic relationship!" I was prevented access from my child. This was very traumatic, probably affecting my now almost 28-yr.-old son adversely. He won't talk to his father or me, or his half brother or step mother. I only pray he'll recover one day. The diversion of the court away from the "allegations" that his father (an attorney) had sodomized our little boy dispelled the notion that something was wrong with the father, (to avoid his being labeled as a pedophile) and instead, focused on "Well let's see what's wrong with the Mother?" The photo shown in the cover of this Time Magazine issue, brought tears to my eyes, as I remembered the face of my estranged son, realized those were the happiest times of my life; nurturing my son in more than merely the exchange of the age-appropriate milk from my body, by including the warmth and comfort that this bonding includes, part of a family/community/country etc., etc. I pray for forgiveness from my son of me, who, in his mind, might have "failed" to use more caution in avoidance of going against the norm, or thinking outside of the box, or just simply not being moderate enough. He probably is embarrassed. I shall celebrate the day when we can interact in a mother-son relationship once more, understanding one another. Please G-d allow the rift that has developed between us to mend, and restore normalcy to the situation, which would be the best Mother's Day's gift, ever! La Leche League representatives were afraid to serve as "expert witnesses" on my behalf in court, for fear that their child/ren would be separated from them if such a case appeared in court in the future, and they really let me down, for the court-appointed attorney on my side (a man) was unsuccessful attempting alone to convince the male judge to question the psychologist's opinion, golf buddy of the child's father). How should a person react when going against the norm? The arm around the child in the picture, holding him against her, with the child's arms hanging loose in front suggest that the mother is "holding on" to this closeness between mother and child too long. It is this instinctive bonding that takes place naturally during the act of nursing at any age which is "under fire" so to speak, that makes me want to cry and speak out, even anonymously, but hoping that in so doing, my voice one day will be heard, and the hurt healed. My biggest mistake was appearing at the Senate Hearings in Washington, before Senator Biden (reputation of father-attorney on the line) resulting in further animosity and attempts on my life... one should really be careful what one does, but I was trying to do the right thing for my child, however, what is one to do when faced with such adversity? Love, pray and hope for the best... Happy Mother's Day to all the mothers who are blessed with appreciative children! I have loved my son, and always shall. I am very grateful for those first few formative years of his life. Nursing is never a one-way street.

Anonymous said...

Looking at her size and his size, I doubt she provides enough milk to satisfy his nutritional needs.

One has to look elsewhere for the reason he is still sucking on his mom's tit.

Anonymous said...

When I was in high school, my parents had a Sunday get-together after church; some family, some friends. At one point after dinner, I saw one of the kids go up to his mother and tug on her skirt. He said something to her and then they came over to me. She asked if there was a bedroom they could use for a little while. I said certainly, and pointed to one. Seeing the puzzlement on my face, she explained that she needed to feed him. Now I was more confused. Hadn't we all just had dinner? I mentioned it to my mom after everyone left. She got embarrassed and fumbled through some explanation that some children "needed to fed longer than others". I still didn't understand, but never forgot that odd incident. It wasn't until months later that I realized the woman had still been breastfeeding her son.

He was 5 years old. This was 1975.

Bill Sears didn't come up with some radical new idea. It's been going on forever. He just wrote about it.

I just wish I knew how that kid turned out.

Anonymous said...

And when she actually stopped breastfeeding him.

Rachelanne Arava said...

Thank you for writing this article. While I agree that breastfeeding is a natural practice and should be celebrated in our culture and brought into the mainstream, I none the less found this cover extremely untasteful.

Why is the child in army atire and glancing at the camera? Why is the mother posing? Why do they want to exploit themselves in an intimate practice? That's right, even though breastfeeding is normal and natural and our culture should encourage it however and whenever, this picture is suggestive of creepiness. Why portray breastfeeding this way when we have the opportunity to bring it to the light? This picture gave me a dark feeling.