And right now is one of them.
A twitter friend of mine posted a link tonight to an article that has sparked inside of me what can only be described as ire. Rage. Anger. And a touch of sadness, too.
Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, host of TLC’s Shalom in the Home, wrote an article that was posted on Beliefnet.com. It has since come to my attention that the article was posted several years ago, but the fact remains that if this article is available on the internet, someone is going to read it (hello, Twitter) and then the “ideals” spread in this article will have a chance to spread. The article in its entirety can be found here.
Rabbi Shmuley asserts that breastfeeding is a cause of the demise of marriages, or at least the demise of sex in marriages. He tells one mother on his show that she has committed the “cardinal sin” of marriage by putting her child before her spouse. Her 11 month old child.
(Yes, this mother co-slept. And yes, I can see how co-sleeping, particularly when the husband is displaced from the bed, can contribute to a lack of sex and feelings of separation in a marriage. HOWEVER, I have a friend who co-sleeps and practices extended breastfeeding with her children who is currently expecting baby #3. And she HAS THE SUPPORT OF HER HUSBAND. ::gasp:: Obviously, there are couples who make it work, no matter what anyone else says!)
Rabbi Shmuley also asserts that breasts are meant for the husband’s pleasure and not for the purpose of feeding children. He tells this mother on his show that “her obsession [yes, he calls breastfeeding an obsession] had turned one of her most attractive body parts into a feeding station, an attractive cafeteria rather than a scintillating piece of flesh.”
OH. MY. WORD.
Ladies, in case you didn’t know, when you said “I DO” and signed your marriage certificate, you signed away your breasts. They became the property of your husband to be ogled at his leisure. They certainly aren’t there to feed your child or anything.
Later in the article he says that breastfeeding leads to the “de-eroticization of a woman’s body, as her husband witnesses one of the most attractive parts of her body serving a utilitarian rather than romantic purpose.” He contends that “the erotic nature of a wife’s body is one of the principal elements of attraction in marriage. When a husband ceases to see his wife as a woman, and begins to see her as “the mother of his children,” a negative trend has begun in his mind that can only subvert his erotic interest.”
(And I am not even hitting on the part of the article where he says men should be present for but shouldn’t witness the birth of their children lest they fail to see their wives’ vaginas in a sexual light ever again.)
I LOVE knowing that the reason my husband is attracted to me, the main reason, mind you, is my body. My flabby, pale, stretch-marked body. Certainly not my brain. (Please tell me y’all got the sarcasm there.)
He goes on to say that “a wife who spends a year giving all her emotional and physical affection to the baby has left her marriage a barren wasteland, bereft of romance and affection.” And “when a mother gives her breasts to her son and takes them away from her husband, the effect on the marriage can feel the same” AS AN EXTRAMARITAL AFFAIR.
Y’all, I cheated on my husband by breastfeeding OUR son. Or that’s what Rabbi Shmuley says my husband must feel like I did.
He then goes on to talk about how science discusses the benefits of breastfeeding and fails to mention what he, Rabbi Shmuley, sees as “its most negative consequence”–that breastfeeding will “get in the way of” a marriage.
Here’s a newsflash for you, Rabbi Shmuley. What you’re spouting in your article ISN’T SCIENTIFIC. It’s psychological, at best. SCIENCE tells us, through the recording of data, that breastfeeding IS best for children because it DOES boost their immune systems and promote mother-child bonding. What you’ve written here has no basis in facts other than those you’ve gathered on your own through counseling couples (and counseling implies therapy which definitely falls under the realm of psychology and not hard science). I’d bet good money that there are twenty (or more!) couples in the world who have managed to maintain a healthy relationship while breastfeeding for every one couple you’ve counseled.
Here’s where I’m going to get a little rant-y.
The thing about this article is that 1) it’s incredibly degrading to women and makes us, yet again, long for and seek out “perfection” and 2) it also doesn’t give men much credit, now does it?
I mean, let’s just break down the advertising serving as a companion to this article, and I realize that he didn’t select the advertising, but those of us making a go at this blogging-for-money thing can tell you that ads which appear on a site are usually driven by content and target audience.
On the top, I’ve got a poochy belly and some hands trying to fasten some blue jeans. The ad reads “Gain Flat Stomach Fast!” To the side, I’ve had two ads–one for teeth whitening, and another for “Drop 25 pounds FAST.” All ads tout the “perfect” myth. HOW RIDICULOUS!?!?
I never thought I’d actually admit to watching the TV show One Tree Hill (perhaps religiously, okay) but “ZERO IS NOT A SIZE” PEOPLE. And size is just a number. Feel good in your skin, no matter how saggy it is. (And yes, I realize I’m preaching to the choir here.) Confidence is sexy. I know my husband would agree with that sentiment.
He talks about the “de-eroticization” of women and every day we hear of women being persecuted for nursing in public, even when using nursing covers. Or women who refuse to breastfeed because they think it’s “weird.” There’s nothing “weird” about feeding your child, in public or otherwise. And I, for one, think we NEED a little “de-eroticization” of breasts in this country. Then maybe we could have a conversation with someone bearing a pair of XY chromosomes without feeling the need to remind him that our eyes are located on our faces. And perhaps we’d get the sort of recognition we deserve when we do choose to breastfeed our children.
See, breastfeeding wasn’t easy for me. But I NEEDED it to to work since my body failed me during delivery. So I did what I had to do to make it work. And work it did. For eight months. When Joshua refused to nurse after about 4.5 months, I pumped exclusively. Had the thought of going through Thanksgiving and Christmas only being able to eat a Spicy Chicken Sandwich and Double Stuf Oreos not been too much for me to bear, I would’ve kept going. Those of you who’ve been around this blog since before the switch know how emotional a topic stopping was for me.
And I would not have been able to be successful breastfeeding had it not been for Dan. Dan, who was, at times, my only champion. The only one in real life telling me I was doing a great job. He literally FED me, people, because my hands were tied up with Joshua and nursing him. That is one person leaning so heavily on the other for support that it’s unreal. That’s a bond. That’s intimacy.
As for point 2, this article gives men ZERO credit. It effectively transports them back to the caveman days. Actually, no. See, cavemen chose their mates based on who seemed most “hearty,” capable of bearing up against harsh winters and being a gatherer whilst being pregnant and perhaps caring for young children. This article insinuates that men see women as nothing more than objects of their own desire, and women are expected to fulfill that desire regardless as to what they feel at that moment. It insinuates that men are only attracted to women physically.
I AM NOT AN OBJECT, PEOPLE.
I am a person. I have a mind. I have thoughts. Good ones, too.
And here’s the thing about intimacy in marriage. Mom, Dan, people who know us both, if you want to stop reading, now’s your chance, but I swear I’m not getting gross here. That’s just not my style.
I don’t want to be intimate with someone who only wants to be with my body. If Dan can’t love me for my mind (which, despite the depression and anxiety is still in MUCH better shape than my body) then I don’t want him to love me at all. Because there are TWO parts of me. The physical and the intellectual. And there are two parts of him. And I love both parts of him.
If the only intimacy we share is physical, then that’s not intimacy at all. Intimacy is the sharing of EVERYTHING. The good times AND the bad times. Sickness AND health. Richer AND poorer. See, see what I just did there? I QUOTED OUR WEDDING VOWS. Or part of them.
Marriage isn’t just about the good times. It isn’t just about the sexual fulfillment of one or both spouses.
If a marriage can’t survive breastfeeding a child or two, which lasts for a short time, then that marriage had bigger issues to begin with.
To quote my friend Karen, who always has the right words when I don’t, and who always has them eloquently, “it always comes down to the same issue. You can attempt to blame situations like breastfeeding, overworking, not enough sex, too fat, too skinny, blah blah on the demise of a marriage. But I will always argue that a good marriage that is built on solid ground can survive those ebbs and flows if the couple wants it to. If you plan to be married for someone for any length of time, you should understand that it isn’t always going to be easy, sometimes you are going to take a back seat to something, sometimes you (or your partner) aren’t going to look or feel your best…those are things that happen over the course of a lifetime with someone, and if you aren’t prepared for it, don’t get married.”
Well said, Karen. Well said.
Monday 7th of June 2010
Seriously?! Seriously???!! I was hoping that, at some point during this post, there would be a great big "just kidding!" and you'd tell us that the article was, in fact, a joke. Wow, just wow. I love that he says that breasts are not meant to feed a baby, but are for the husband's sexual pleasure. I guess that's why they produce milk then, right? Makes so much sense. Grrr. Things like this get me so fired up because I feel like there are so many misconceptions about breastfeeding out there already & the scary thing is that some people will consider his article fact & will formula feed because they're scared of ruining their marriage. Also? I feel bad for this rabbi's wife.
Oh, and I breastfeed. And co-sleep! So my husband must be about ready to serve me with divorce papers, right? Hardly. He loves having our 6 month old son in bed with us. Like anything else, you get out of a marriage what you put into it. Yes, it's work. But it's work whether or not you're lactating.
Sunday 6th of June 2010
I was going to blog about this article, but you've said everything I would have, only better. So I think I'll just link ya up if you don't mind. Thanks for posting this! (And I'm happy I finally clicked thru from Twitter to your blog!!!)
Sunday 6th of June 2010
WOW - just wow.I see the point that having a child latched onto your breasts isn't exactly sexy, but how can anyone say that feeding your children is NOT the function of the breasts. Look at all mammals - breasts are for feeding. In fact humans and dolphins (I believe) are the only animals known to have sex for pleasure; it seems presumptuous to think that because we have sex for pleasure, that our bodily functions come second. Ridiculous. amber :)
Sunday 6th of June 2010
The fact that I am pregnant with baby #3 after co-sleeping and extended breastfeeding my other two proves that my husband is still attracted to me despite (and perhaps because of) all that time spent doing that darn mothering stuff...!And my husband is just as shocked by the idiotic dribble of this guy as I am. As a man, he's offended. And he pointed out the same thing I thought--the Rabbi sounds like he has some personal issues. Men have a vested interest in the well-being of their children, and most will be supportive of things that are for the benefit of the child. Marriages fail for a variety of reasons, but breastfeeding/seeing the birth of children/co-sleeping are not the reasons, and it's a sick counselor (can't believe he's even allowed) to suggest it.
Sunday 6th of June 2010
You touched on a few things I forgot in my post hehe. Of course I absolutely agree with you!!!
I am just now a new reader, so I don't know your back story (yet). But from what you said here and things you've said to me on Twitter, I gather that breastfeeding your son was the only way to make you feel like the woman we're "supposed" to be. I was wishy washy about breastfeeding. My baby was born at 34 weeks and I pumped my ASS off because I had an awful pregnancy, my body wasn't supporting him the way it should, I couldn't carry him full term, and then there I was, not able to care for him at all. Pumping was ALL I HAD. That breastmilk was the only thing that I could do for my own baby. So I totally understand that you NEEDED to be able to do that. I am with you 100 percent there.
Hope that wasn't too off topic ;)