Breastfeeding in Parliament

A woman breastfeeding her child can be a rather sublime sight, that is if she is not stared at. But does sublimity or subtlety even matter when the mother in the act ends up as an "internet hero"? 

Victoria Donda Pérez is an Argentinian MP. She decided to breastfeed her 8-month-old daughter in Parliament, when the session was on. 

Working women have praised her; her critics say it falsely conveys that women can have it all when that is not true.

Was she aware that her pictures were taken and would be in the media?  Assuming she is okay with it, I am not one bit impressed by Ms. Pérez's act on grounds of prudence as well as feminism. 

Breastfeeding is a natural activity as are many others, some of which we might not even have much control over. We control them in a public space anyway. I am not comparing sneezing, breaking wind or picking the nose to nursing, but surely there could not have been such urgency to feed the baby. If anything, this comes across as terribly unprofessional. 

This is not an issue about women's rights over their bodies; it is just that such rights as exercised in this manner convey that the woman has no choice. Even if we excuse the politician for elitism, the larger question is: is the woman a mother on the job? This just sends out the message about the feminised woman as the only one who can have any power, or acceptance.

Why are women applauding the "balancing act"? It isn't news that only a woman can bear a child and nurse babies. But such validation of 'balance' also unburdens the father of responsibility, and he will be the first one to call her superwoman.

Such a public act in a work place (as opposed to a park or even the office canteen) only consolidates the stereotyped role of a mother that deny her the option to make a studied choice — which could be fixed feeding hours at the office creche or collecting the milk for use at intervals. 

Suppose this was not in Parliament, but a regular office conference. Would the response be the same? Unlikely. It only means that in some ways this is sought to be made into a political statement. 

And it is no surprise at all that she has been nicknamed "Dipusex" (sexy MP). It takes a simple, natural activity to make a woman into a fantasy object. Women object to such labels on other occasions when they want to be recognised for their work or talent alone. How is it different this time? Is Ms. Pérez not being reduced to a pair of breasts, even if they are of a mother's? 

The Oedipal implications are too obvious. 

PS: In India, women from the labour class do breastfeed at the workplace on construction sites or in small industries. That is because the child is with them all the time. 


  1. On the one hand, the image may be a finger in the eye of legislative bodies who insist on the facility of a screen between their male and female legislators. On the other hand, Farzana, as you note:

    >>The Oedipal implications are too obvious.<<

    Indeed, Farzana, which may be why Ms. Pérez was rather swiftly nicknamed "Dipusex" before more . . . well, "playful" analysts recognized the irony: Legislative bodies have often been associated with teats and nursing . . .

    And then there's the recent tweet purported to be from Ayatolla Khamenei of an silhouetted image of what appears to be President Obama holding a gun against his head with caption that fades from apparently louder words to ever smaller words. Perhaps you've seen the American film, Blazing Saddles? :)


  2. {Legislative bodies have often been associated with teats and nursing . . .}

    Hmm...milking? Here, Mark, is an old one:

    COMMUNISM: You have two cows. The government takes both of them and gives you part of the milk.
    CONSERVATIVISM: You have two cows. You lock them up, and charge people to look at them.
    DEMOCRACY: You have two cows. Your neighbors decide who gets the milk.
    FASCISM: You have two cows. The government takes both, hires you to take care of them, and sells you the milk.
    LIBERALISM: You have two cows. You sell both to the rich. The government then taxes the rich one cow and gives it to the poor.
    MARXISM/LENINISM: The proletarian cows unite and overthrow the bourgeoisie cowherds. The egalitarian democratic cow revolutionary state with the cow party as vanguard disintegrate over time. Marx choked on a veggie-burger before he could explain what happens to the use-value, exchange-value and sign-value of bovine leather.
    NAZISM: You have two cows. The government takes both and then shoots you.
    REPUBLICAN: You have two cows. Your neighbor has none. So?
    SOCIALISM -- PURE: You have two cows. The government takes them and puts them in a barn with everyone else's cows. You have to take care of all the cows. The government gives you as much milk as you need.

    PS: Just checked about Blazing Saddles...where does it fit in here? I am lost!

  3. >>Hmm...milking? Here, Mark, is an old one<<

    :) Excellent. That your Marxism/Leninism entry includes "Marx choked on a veggie-burger before he could explain," in effect, gives the old joke new life -- or, in effect, *milks* the old joke -- extracts a certain essence from the old joke that was thought to have been played out, as it were, and goes a long way to help explain your postscript query. Think "fracking" (or think Viagra). :)

    Re. the Blazing Saddles reference: Well, it's been a few years, but, as you doubtless discovered, the film was a spoof on the cowboy-movie genre. Lots of cowboys and bandits gathered around nightly fires, eating beans and . . . well, "shooting the shit," as they say. In that the typical bodily reaction to eating beans (frijoles, especially suited to dry land farming, and pretty much a western U.S. staple) is flatulence (gas), "Blazing Saddles" might be suggested as one great big fart joke (probably the oldest among many dusty, yet lingering old jokes). And yet, there were any number of layers of various kinds of humor to the film, as I recall, one of the salient layers being the casting of a black cowboy among white ones. Without getting into a discussion about "tokenism" (aka role models, in certain quarters) -- and relying on a sometimes treacherous memory, lol -- there's a scene where the black cowboy has apparently infiltrated the bandits' campfire but is somehow discovered as not being one of them. Thinking quickly, he jumps up, holds a pistol against his own head and shouts, "Nobody move! One false move and the nigger gets it!"

    The joke (pun intended) was loaded, i.e. largely dependent on how individuals in the audience chose to interpret it. Same with Ayatollah Kamenei's apparent reference: On the one hand, Muslims -- especially the Shiite version -- seem to make Westerners (or, rather, certain Westerners) very, very anxious -- so there is room, after 30 years of economic/social blockade, to read his tweet as somewhat commiserative as well as funny. On the other hand, the reference may, rather, point to the "bandits" and/or "cowboys" in the American Congress and (playing off the predictable effectuality of the black cowboy's sort of "suicide" gambit) thereby also commiserative (some have suggested the Majlis as also variously comprised of cowboys/bandits), perhaps fatalistic, but nevertheless funny. Personally, I want to say the Ayatollah's tweet was directed at the Nobel Peace Prize committee. :)


    Ps. I see where there's something going on with cows of late, there, in India. Will you comment?


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