Dear Beverly Turner: You do realize the definition of misogyny, right?

Dear Beverly Turner,

I suppose you could call me the Queen Bee of the Gobby Women, or the Ringleader of the  “Noisy loons creating ‘Brestapo’ caricatures to appease their own consciences“. I’m quite proud to wear these labels, if you’re going to insist on stooping to schoolyard name-calling, but on behalf of my gobby, looney sisters, I wanted to respond to your allegations that we are partly to blame for the recent, slight decrease in UK breastfeeding rates.

The thing is, Ms. Turner, you’re operating under the assumption that we are incorrect in our assessment of current breastfeeding rhetoric. Your experience may not have matched ours, but why is your own truth more valid or weighty than the truths of hundreds of other women – a group so adamant, in your estimation, that we can make an impact on the collective consciousness of your great nation? Do you really believe that we are all just making this stuff up? Perhaps formula feeding correlates with a vivid imagination; I have yet to see a study showing this association, and I’ve read practically every infant feeding related study to hit a peer-reviewed journal in the past 5 years. But considering how you’ve positioned yourself as a master social critic in this arena, I suppose I should bow to your expertise in this matter.

So, let’s go with your theory for a moment. Let’s say that we all are making this up, that none of us have been bullied, shamed, scared, or downright devastated by how breastfeeding is currently promoted. If society is really so bottle-friendly, and formula feeding is “cool”, why would we be inspired to create an elaborate group fantasy to assuage our feelings of inadequacy? I’d assume that if the cool kids were formula feeding, we’d be wielding our bottles of Aptamil with pride, rather than lurking behind our anonymous keyboards, haranguing innocent breastfeeders on Mumsnet.

Or maybe – bear with me for a moment – there really are women who have been thrust breast-deep into severe postnatal depression after failing to breastfeed. Perhaps women truly exist who were raped or sexually abused in childhood, for whom a NCT nurse shoving a breast in a baby’s mouth triggers horrid memories that make a new mom want to throw her babe against a wall. Suppose there are adoptive mothers for whom the constant barrage of articles and admonishments about how superior breastfeeding mothers are to formula feeding ones is like nails on a chalkboard (if the chalkboard was your heart). Consider an alternate universe where some parents really do end up starving their babies to the point of hospitalization because they were worshipping at the altar of the almighty exclusive breastfeeding edict despite a physical inability to produce sufficient milk (there may only be 2-5% of women who are physically unable to breastfeed, but with the current British birth rate around 800,000/year, we’re talking 16,000 women at minimum- nothing to sneeze at).

I won’t discuss my reality or experience here, because I’m American. And honestly, one woman’s experience is hardly important in the grand scheme. However, I can happily point you to hundreds of personal stories British women have shared with me over the years, women who reflect the groups I’ve just “made up” in the last paragraph. I suppose they could all be lying, but I think it’s just as likely that you’re extrapolating a data set of one (yourself) to your entire country, without stopping to think about the women you’re hurting in the process.

Regardless of who is right, I would like to see these masses of vocal harpies who are crushing the hopes of expectant mothers hoping to breastfeed. I am curious why they would lobby for the NHS to cut funding for breastfeeding support, considering they tried to breastfeed and couldn’t; one would think that better support would have been welcomed by these “failures”. Claiming that the current state of breastfeeding support is harmful is not synonymous with being anti-breastfeeding; quite the contrary. With the right kind of support, not only would more women be able to meet their breastfeeding goals, but those who chose not to or could not breastfeed wouldn’t feel sufficiently disenfranchised to spend hours arguing with people like you online.

Instead of trying to understand where we are coming from; instead of listening to our experiences with an open mind and accepting that just because we dislike the posters on the maternity ward walls, we still love breastfeeding moms (and many of us wish we could have been one), instead of trusting your fellow women – you threw us under the bus.

Lastly, speaking of misogyny, I assume you know that the definition of the term is a “hatred, dislike or mistrust of women”. The only person I see hurling hatred and mistrust towards a large group of women (because formula feeding mothers who rail against a systemic failure to support our efforts while simultaneously shaming us are, in fact, still women, despite their lack of lactational abilities) is you.

Sincerely,

A particularly noisy, gobby loon (and proud of it),

Suzanne Barston

Suzanne Barston is a blogger and author of BOTTLED UP. Fearless Formula Feeder is a blog – and community – dedicated to infant feeding choice, and committed to providing non-judgmental support for all new parents. It exists to protect women from misleading or misrepresented “facts”; essentialist ideals about what mothers should think, feel, or do; government and health authorities who form policy statements based on ambivalent research; and the insidious beast known as Internetus Trolliamus, Mommy Blog Varietal.

Suzanne Barston – who has written posts on Fearless Formula Feeder.


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5 thoughts on “Dear Beverly Turner: You do realize the definition of misogyny, right?

  1. Suzanne – thank-you for fighting the good fight and making motherhood better, particularly for a group of women who are tired of the likes of Mrs. Turner and her ilk.

  2. Thank you for this. I cant tell you how I was looked down upon for not breastfeeding or even attempting to. For me its very simple.. the idea repulses me. I know Im probably in the minority with that, but it does. I feel that trying to breastfeed when I felt like that would have a negative rather than positive impact on bonding. When I had my last child local branch of The La Leche League would not take no for an answer. They barged into my room 3-4 times a day to try to convince me to change my mind.. I felt like they were trying to induct me into a cult, and I felt harassed. Finally I had to get the hospital involved in keeping them out. I’m not saying all the chapters are like this one, but this one really went out of their way to tell you that you’re less of a woman and mother if you don’t breast feed. You ARE NOT. Im also happy to say both of my children have made it into adulthood and have suffered no ill effects because I chose formula.

  3. I gave birth to my son via emergency c-section after 14 very hard hours of painful labour. He then went on to spend 48 hours in the NICU recovering from a pneumothorax, and I wasn’t able to nurse him for the first time until he was over 24 hours old. We spent two more days in the hospital waiting for my milk to come in, and trying to nurse through a tongue tie, while his weight dropped lower, and lower. We began regularly visiting two of the most practical, and helpful lactation consultants you could ever meet (the mystical “feeding consultants” this blog has dreamed about) who tried absolutely every available solution that might allow me to exclusively breast feed my baby, but in the end it turns out that the oddly shaped, small, and widely spaced breasts that had always made me hate the way I looked in a bathing suit, had an even more cruel trick up their sleeves. They would never allow me to sustain a baby on breast milk alone, no matter how hard I tried, no matter how much I wanted to, no matter how many women nurse in public, no matter how many celebrities promote breast feeding, no matter how little formula gets passed out in hospitals, no matter how much support there is out there, it won’t be enough for me. My story is not unique, not by a long shot, and after all I, and other women like me have endured, to have someone so casually throw my situation around, and label me…me! as a barrier to breastfeeding, and then to tack on the word mysogynistic at the end of it, is a particularly sharp and hurtful barb! I cannot even mention here the things I would like to tell Ms Turner to do to herself…I am just seething! Thank you Suzanne for your sanity saving blog, and for trying to set Ms Turner straight.

  4. Thank you for understanding and expressing so well – the nails on a chalkboard heart describes exactly how I feel. After being unable to nurse my firstborn as long as I’d wanted to, it still breaks my heart a little when I see other mothers breastfeeding. I have to keep reminding myself to let go of my regrets and above all to be thankful, because my baby is alive, thriving, and no longer starving! And I must try to ignore the careless, hurtful words of those who would judge me, because they don’t know the whole story, and they haven’t walked in my shoes. If they had endured the same struggles, perhaps they would be a little more gracious.

  5. Thank you, thank you, thank you for this site and your support of the numerous women who have struggled to breastfeed or who have been harrassed and bullied for formula feeding….the stories say it all, and my story is like so many others on this site. Thank you for being our collective voice.

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