posted in Mom Stories
A few weeks ago, I posted what I described as a “calm and serene” series of photographs of women breastfeeding. Erin White’s Women in the Wild photographic collection, showing women breastfeeding in nature was, to me, undeniably beautiful. “A romance with motherhood,” I called them.
What did I see that others did not? On our BabyCenter Facebook page, the mood veered from adulation to offended — to the point where one reader commented, “This isn’t art, it’s pornographic.”
The first photo featured in the post. Click here to see the original post and photos in full.
What about these photos struck people as indecent? Because some women raged about it:
“In regards to ’embracing postnatal scars…’ My stretch marks are not for display and I sure as hell don’t want to see yours! There’s nothing attractive about it no matter what these women in denial say. I liked it better when women were more modest and didn’t feel the need to strip down for “art.” Go put some clothes on for goodness sake!”
“Whatever happened to modesty and self respect? The kids will see the pictures when older and I doubt they will be proud of their exposed mothers!”
“I don’t get it… I just can’t see ever wanting staged photos like these or feeling the need to post them online.”
Not all the comments were so fiercely opposed. Many voiced support and admiration for the women. But, the negative comments were so vicious, I asked the photographer, Erin White, to share her perspective on them. She did and also provided some behind-the-scenes photos revealing the atmosphere during the shoot.
Me: I was interested in your response to comments on Facebook regarding the first post – probably a lot of the reason you are doing these shoots to begin with: to counter negative stereotypes of breastfeeding.
Erin: The project has received an overwhelming response from the public. There is negativity, but there is also such an outpouring of emotion from women that were moved by the images.
Me: The negative comments seemed to focus on the idea that breastfeeding should be hidden away for the dignity of the mother and child.
Erin: As women we are conditioned from an early age to believe that our bodies and their functions are inherently shameful. We grow up in fear of our ‘flaws’, constantly comparing our own bodies to those of celebrities. Our culture tells us that the female form is only beautiful if it meets very specific, and often unattainable standards of beauty. New motherhood and breastfeeding often have the effect of magnifying our insecurities. Pregnancy and breastfeeding change the female physique, our society tells us that these changes are not just undesirable, but that they are gross. We are encouraged to breastfeed because it is widely accepted as being healthiest for baby, but told to make sure that we cover up, because, “nobody wants to see that.”
This creates a lot of uncertainty for new mothers, who may already be struggling with other aspects of breastfeeding, or having trouble accepting their postpartum bodies.
Me: Readers focused on the nudity and that women don’t breastfeed in the middle of a forest. Do you feel they missed the point of the shoot?
Erin: The images are art