Juggling Ownership

12 05 2008

It’s National Breastfeeding Week in the UK, and the usual feeling of hopeful anticipation, a thin layer of hope over a large puddle of dread, has been firmly squashed by despair. The puddle of dread is the normal reaction to Just How Wrong we’ve got this in the past.
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Traditionally, just saying ‘celebrate breastfeeding’ has opened up an onslaught of argument and abuse. How dare you make women feel bad about formula feeding! Huh? We were talking about breastfeeding, how did we get there in two nano seconds….? So you always start the run up to this week with heavy duty armoured underwear on, and a neutral but not disapproving expression on your face.
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There’s always hopeful anticipation… maybe this year it will be different… maybe this year something will be achieved… ! Maybe the truth can come out… babies are born to breastfeed. You wouldn’t think such a simple statement could cause so much aggro.
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But this year… all hopeful anticipation is gone. The horror is upon us. And boy, it could not be more of a nightmare…

I came across this image from the Independent on Sunday, at the end of last month. I was on holiday, in a blissful state of relaxation, when my husband pushed it under my nose. My relaxation vanished and blood pressure started to rise. Oh no! No one could be that naive, could they? I read the article, hoping it wasn’t as bad as what I was seeing, and it was worse:
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“The key thing about these pictures is that they acknowledge that although breasts are sexual, they have another purpose besides.”
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And there it was, in black and white, the huge problem with these images, laid out clearly by the people who made them: that breasts have another purpose besides sexual gratification.
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What’s wrong with that, you might say, isn’t that true? What’s so wrong with the image? Well, a few things to say.
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Breasts are not primarily sexual objects. Feeding a baby is not a secondary function. Feeding the baby, is the primary role of the mammalian breast. That some cultures chose to hyper-fetishise the female breast into a sexual object – well that’s their cultural choice. Yes, breasts have erectile tissue. Yes, they can be very enjoyable objects during sexual play. So can the back of your neck! (One of the they most erogenous and sexually attractive areas of the female body in Japanese culture.)
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There are huge problems for breastfeeding in identifying breasts as primarily sexual – for making statements that they are for other purposes besides sexual activity. Massive problems, problems which are highlighted by the very iconography in the posters.
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To begin with, we’ve battled for years with the pernicious stereotype that your breasts ‘belong’ to your man. As the article rightly states, attitudes to breastfeeding from your partners and family, can have a huge impact on breastfeeding rates. The myth that breastfeeding will get in the way of the sexual pleasure of your partner, is one that prevents many women from breastfeeding. So I applaud them trying to attack that myth. What is truly terrible however, is that in attempting to do so, they uphold the concept that your breasts are the property of your man. They’ve not challenged the stereotype, they’ve built into the message that in the paradigm where breasts are sexual and the property of your man… there is room for the baby too.
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True, they have tried to ‘soften’ the impact of the male ownership of that breast for sexual pleasure, by putting the woman’s hand in there too. She’s giving her consent for him to own her breast… but she’s not giving the baby consent, is she? So keen were they to mediate his hand by hers, that they’ve left that poor baby’s hand over there all by itself, a true interloper in the affair. The baby is left to grasp and grope on it’s own, no loving touch by the mother inviting it in. But the last person who owns these breasts is… the woman herself. She’s left to juggle ownership of them between ‘her man’ and ‘her baby’.
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I say woman, for this image is not that of a mother. There are no stretch marks on that perfectly taught and smooth post-partum flesh. This is the domain of the model, touched up and made perfect by both the editing package, and the eye of the camera upon her. She’s a model – posing her body for sexual gratification, with her perfect, sexy and glowing cleavage on display.

A cleavage that has had every trick in the photographer’s book played upon it. Veins have been airbrushed out, cleavage shadowed and deepened, her skin texture evened out by make up and photoshop. She is the epitome of the glamour model.

Oh yes, that’s so how you speak to young women! That’s how you breakdown stereotypes about female bodies and woman’s control of them. You take a model figure and make her as glamorous and sexy as any randy young male would desire, and do an extreme close up of her glistening breasts.
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And you stick a baby’s hand on that breast.
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And then you cut her head off.
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These images are soul-less when it comes to being female, or being a mother. They are mimicking soft core pornography, with the graphic over-emphasis on the female body as sexual object. The very act of zooming onto close up on cleavage, and only showing the cleavage is demeaning to women. You are reducing her to being a breast: a sexual breast first and foremost, but one that can also accommodate feeding a baby. So that’s all right then – it’s not exploitation of the female figure because there is a baby attached.
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The fact that this has been done in the name of breastfeeding is just mind-boggling. The fact that serious minded supporters of breastfeeding could sit in a room and come up with this as a way to support breastfeeding “Hey guys… let’s take the sexual stereotype that men won’t be interested in partners who breastfeed by showing the female body stylised for sexual gratification but with a baby attached!” is just simply beyond understanding, isn’t it?
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Well, it’s not actually. It’s really understandable if you pay attention to one thing about these posters. They were made by students. Students under a brief to speak to their own age group. Students at an art school. And therein is revealed the problem with both arts education, and exam testing of the arts, in the UK at the moment. I’m actually a qualified arts teacher, and have taught Film in schools, under the auspices of the photographic teachers in the Art departments.
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So I can make a really good educated guess on exactly how these posters won the competition for the ‘best’ breastfeeding posters. They won them because all the talking about the posters, hit all the right boxes on the brief. All the complex explanation of why these posters filled the brief, on what the intent was in making them: speaking to the males, making breastfeeding glamorous, not reducing a woman’s sexuality by her being a breastfeeding mother… it all sounds wonderful. In terms of talking your art into a really good grade, this work is superb. Read the article to see the women in charge of the project speak it all out for you. The exam board are going to give this project A+++.
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The problem is, and this is a huge problem in marking for Arts subjects… no one then stood back and looked at the finished artifact as a separate whole. Sweep away the words and the intent, and actually study the artifact as an individual piece of art. Look at its effect, not its intent.
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Look at its effect and execution severed from its explanation.
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When you do that, a totally different reading of the work emerges. One that is not in the slightest supportive of raising breastfeeding rates, and may indeed be responsible for lowering them.
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That’s a huge statement to make, I know. That I’m worried that these posters will actually impact negatively on breastfeeding rates. Surely any publicity, good or bad, is good, right? Surely getting the message out, will always help?
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I’m not so sure.
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And I’m not so sure because apart from the cack-handed way these images go about presenting their message… they actually also undercut much of the work that needs to be done in order to raise breastfeeding rates. Their message is counter productive to raising rates.
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Messages, I should actually say, for these images and words shoot themselves in the foot on two main counts. One, it’s very much old fashioned ‘breast is best’ territory, which has been shown not to work. In a truly ironic touch, they even use the designer clothing concept that Dr Karleen Gribble highlighted as being such a negative message, just recently. Do you wear shop bought or designer? Is shop bought ‘good enough’ for you? Well then, so will formula be – for if breastmilk is designer, formula is shop bought, and what’s wrong with that? I bet you’re wearing shop bought as you read this! No normal woman can afford designer ‘best’ every day.
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So, again, the impact of constructed message hasn’t been very well thought out. We can see what they intended the effect to be, but that’s not what has actually happened. An understandable mistake for art students, but not one, perhaps, for the contributing agencies and authorities who paid for all this, and who are presumably going to be putting these posters on bus shelters and in maternity units. They should, quite simply, know better.
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But that’s not really a huge problem… for plenty of breastfeeding promotion is still making this basic mistake. The real problem, as I signaled above, is that these posters highlight breasts as sexual first and feeders of baby second. And that’s a death knell for breastfeeding in public.
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I bet every objection you’ve ever heard to a woman breastfeeding her baby in front of anyone else – be it Granda in the front room, or schoolkids in the shopping centre – centres upon the argument that breasts are sexual, and sexual body parts should not be seen in public? That a woman should not inflict her private parts upon an unwitting spectator. That the inherently sexual nature of the breast negates feeding the baby in front of others in the name of public decency. That breastfeeding is only acceptable if it’s discreet.
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Two problems there, of course. Discreet is a meaningless word. What’s one person’s discreet is another’s fandango up the market in knickers and ostrich feathers. The word discreet automatically gives the power and control to the onlooker, and they decide on a second by second basis what is, or isn’t discreet. Your discreet is their shameless hussy. The other problem, far more pertinent, is that as babies get older, their neck muscles develop and they can’t read yet – so they don’t know what discreet means either. So they whip on and off and have a good look around at the world. And in a world where the breast is primarily sexual – well, she’s flashing her breasts around, isn’t she officer? I saw her nipple, and that’s not right. Ask her to move on or arrest her for something. I know my rights…
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Such actions as the baby having the temerity to move its head during a feed, are totally unacceptable if you believe breasts are first and foremost sexual. The “Get Out of Sexual Context” card that a small baby is sometimes accorded to allow it to feed, is shredded when the baby gets a bit older, and a bit bigger and moves around. The sufferance that has been extended by onlookers to the act of breastfeeding, is then dropped. You can breastfeed your baby discreetly, preferably under the a blanket, and I’ll look the other way. But let me see one cm of actual breast and you’re on your way, babes, as those breasts are sexual first and foremost.
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These posters highlight and underline this concept. They are overtly reaching out to the audience to thrust the sexual dominance of the breast, down the throats of the men looking at them, to use them as a honey trap to persuade them to let their women feed their babies. They are agreeing with, and upholding, the myth that breasts are primarily sexual. The makers are proudly quoting this as their intent. They feel that by ‘admitting’ this, women will be encouraged by their partners to also allow the baby to breastfeed.
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But they won’t be breastfeeding in the park, will they? Or down the shopping centre? Not with these images of their Sexual First and Baby Second breasts looming down on them. What men are going to want their breasts out there in public, with the baby hanging off them? How much more ammunition could we give those demanding breastfeeding take place under a blanket?
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On this point, I am truly speechless. All I can say to the makers of these posters, and the two poor students who ‘won’ the competition and who are so proud of their achievements… go contact Little Angels/Be A Star. Find out how to take the same brief and hand it over to the women it’s aimed at. See how you can tick the boxes and make the posters have the same effect as the intent. Find out from them how you can glorify the body of the mother, without exploiting it. Find out that if you want to speak to young mothers and their partners… ask young mothers to come up with the campaign.
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And one final tip.
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When trying to empower women to take control of their own body?
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Don’t cut their heads off.
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– – – – – – – –
Addendum: Code Comes First
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This was, as I state clearly, a response to the article in an April edition of the Independent on Sunday. Whilst I did want my thoughts and views on the posters to come across, I was quite uncomfortable with actually highlighting the makers of the posters, and of being too critical of them. We’re all trying to get to the same place, and sometimes we’ll shoot ourselves in the foot. That doesn’t mean it’s not accepted that you’ve worked hard and are totally supportive of breastfeeding, and of supporting breastfeeding Mums. So I was very careful to completely side step names etc, as those who wanted to could always read the article for more details.
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However, completely coincidentally, I received a phone call last night from a close friend. She’d been invited, at a moment’s notice, to attend a support breastfeeding launch in London yesterday, Monday 13th. They needed mothers and babies for a photoshoot, would she come? In her own words…
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“Hi, my name is Emily a nursing mother of a 16 month old toddler. I am passionate about the rights of nursing mothers worldwide, but especially in the UK as it’s where I live. In May 2007 I organised a breastfeeding picnic in front of the Houses of Parliament on Parliament Square, to raise awareness of the lack of legislation to protect nursing mothers in public.
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We had a good attendance (about 60 parents and children) but our cause was largely ignored by those in power.
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I am of course aware of the Breastfeeding Manifesto and their aims, and am on their mailing list. Last night I received an urgent email asking if any nursing mothers who lived in and around London could come to Westminster Abbey for a photocall to promote the new CD-Rom which will be going round to every pregnant woman.
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So I booked the day off work (at very short notice), dragged my son and myself up to London on the boiling hot Tube, and arrived at the Church Conference Centre in plenty of time.”

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Something to highlight at this point. Emily states she was contacted by the Breastfeeding Manifesto, which is chaired by Alison Baum. But as you’ll see from the article, the project for these posters was done by Best Beginnings. A charity set up by… Alison Baum. All I have to go on with this is Emily saying who contacted her… but I’m worried that a contact list for one organisation, is being used by another, with a common cause and a common agenda. Worried not least because I’ve signed the Breastfeeding Manifesto. Hopefully this small point can be clarified – maybe the Breastfeeding Manifesto was indeed running this event? But they invited Best Beginnings? Perhaps it will be made clearer in today’s newspapers…
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Back to Emily…
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“There were about 20 other nursing mothers there, with infants ranging in age from 5 weeks to 2.5 years, so the chaos which then ensued with photographers from the Times, Telegraph and Daily Express trying to get a good photo of us all breastfeeding at the same time…well, you can imagine, I’m sure. They tried to put the posters from the National Breastfeeding Awareness Week either side, but we all said no to that as we all agreed they were awful! After the group photos, the photographers moved in to get some individual shots of the more photogenic mothers and infants. I was told later that the photographer from the Express asked a mother to “show more flesh” and actually moved his hand to pull her top down! I didn’t actually witness this, but when I was doing a shot with another mother, we were told to “Show as much flesh as possible” and to get closer, so our babies’ heads were touching. This is a mother I had never met before (although – to be completely fair – the photographer may not have been aware of that)!”
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You can imagine my disquiet on hearing that mothers were being extolled to show more breast for the cameras, especially given the problems with the posters! (Interesting that the mothers didn’t want to be photographed with them). And let me be really clear about this – I’m not upset that the photographers were acting like this. That’s to be expected (I am upset that this is to be expected). But I was a bit shocked that these mothers had been invited up like this, at a moment’s notice, and then left to the tender mercies of the press without support. In fact, I was furious that Emily had had to stand there and fend off the demands for her to show more flesh as she breastfed! Where were the organisers?
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“After the photos were done, we trooped upstairs to have a look at the Make Breastfeeding Normal exhibition. In the first conference hall, there were about 7 stands, including The Royal Colleges of Midwives and Nursing (separately), Medela and Avent. I made a beeline for the Avent stall and, knowing them to be code-breakers and feeling my blood pressure rising I asked the lady who was on the stall, “What are Avent doing here? Don’t you break the International Code of Marketing for Formula?” She said, “We don’t, Avent promotes breastfeeding.” I said, “No you don’t. You promote the sale of your product, like all multinational corporations.” She said, “No we don’t.” I said, “Yes, you do.” She said, “Avent promotes breastfeeding for new mothers.” At that point I walked away as a) I felt like screaming at her and b) my son (who was in my arms as we were not allowed to take buggies upstairs) was getting decidedly wriggly. I didn’t bother to look at the rest of the exhibition.”
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Ah, that’s where they were – with the exhibitors. Exhibitors who have been allowed into a support breastfeeding exhibition.. even though they break code? How fascinating that Avent were able to stand there so adamantly and state they didn’t break code? Is IBFAN wrong then?
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Now, this is shocking, totally shocking. A nationally sponsored event to promote breastfeeding, and stalls are being openly run by companies who are breaking code? Could someone explain this to me? How can any organiser/s have so much contempt for the efforts of the breastfeeding support community?
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“At one end of the room a delicious lunch – poached salmon, steamed green beans, delicately cooked new potatoes, Hollandaise sauce, chilled mineral water – was laid out. I wandered up to it, along with another mother who had been on the photocall with me and took a plate. The staff who was there serving said, “I’m sorry – this is for people who are with the conference only.” I said, “We are with the conference – we’ve just been doing the photos, downstairs.” He said, “I know, your lunch is downstairs.”
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We duly plodded our way downstairs to be greeted with one plate of sandwiches and a small bowl of fruit. And nothing to drink. I asked one of the conference centre staff if we could please have some water and she said, “No – you have to go down to the toilets, there’s drinking water in there.”
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How could a conference centre which was putting on an exhibition for and about nursing mothers not have water on demand for people who were participating? Especially in the baking heat!? And to tell a nursing mother to go down to the toilets – well, it’s like a red rag to a bull, really”
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How indeed Emily? How could organisers call in breastfeeding mothers, leave them to the hands of the press as they mingled with code violators, and then dispatch you to the toilets for tap water?
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“When we had eaten our meagre lunch, I decided to let Zac have a little run around on the grass directly opposite the conference centre, Dean’s Yard, before we began the long, hot Tube journey home. He had been in his buggy for a long time and I felt it was only fair. I carried the buggy down the flight of steps outside the centre (I mean – who holds a conference about nursing mothers without making sure there’s adequate buggy access?) and let him out on the grass. He immediately ran off, ecstatic, and I followed behind with the buggy.
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From behind me I heard, “Excuse me! Excuse me!” I turned around and one of the organisers was behind me. “I’m sorry – but this area is private property – it belongs to the school, so you can’t be on here.”
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I managed to strap my wailing child back into the buggy and began the journey home. It was a perfect end to a perfect day.”

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I’ll bet it was!
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Now, let me be totally upfront about this. About why I’ve appended Emily’s account of her day supporting National Breastfeeding Week. About why I’ve highlighted the organisations that appear to have been behind it, and their role in the posters; it’s to say one thing:
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You better start to do better than this.
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You simply can’t run events to support breastfeeding, but have stands and stalls run by code breakers. You can’t invite mothers and their children and not support them. You have to take care of them, nurture them, give them space for the children to play and feel safe and make sure they feel treasured. You have to talk to, listen to, and attend to, the mothers who are actually doing the breastfeeding. Again, get in touch with Little Angels if this is gobbledygook to you.
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Now, I’m not for a moment suggesting you all, many and various, involved in this launch, aren’t working your butt off to promote breastfeeding. I’m not taking lightly the work and committment that went into organising yesterday’s event. I’m not even suggesting you’re all not trying your best. I’m not even blaming you for these hideous posters: people are allowed to make mistakes. We can forgive getting it wrong. We can forgive being so over worked you missed the points about taking care of the mothers and babies. We can forgive that you spent so much time and effort and energy in asking art students how to promote breastfeeding, rather than asking young Mums. It was probably a really good idea at the time.
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What we cannot forgive, forget or overlook, is working with companies that break code. No wonder code is so ignored when code breakers can turn up and market their wares at events such as this. And then sit down to a lovely cosy lunch with everyone! And I bet they all told you what a fab job you were doing, and what a great event it was?
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You don’t promote breastfeeding by getting into bed with code breakers.
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Unacceptable. Completely. Utterly. Totally.
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As is sending breastfeeding Mums into the toilets for tap water.

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26 responses

13 05 2008
Bri

OMFG… that is horrendous and disgusting and I am gobsmacked at the audacity of those people (the poster people and the conference people). I actually feel ill after reading that.

13 05 2008
Helen

i agree, this is completely distasteful and completely un-feminine.for images of real women who are proud and beautiful whilst breastfeeding go to http://www.beastar.org.uk.

13 05 2008
Em

“A cleavage that has had every trick in the photographer’s book played upon it. Veins have been airbrushed out, cleavage shadowed and deepened, her skin texture evened out by make up and photoshop. She is the epitome of the glamour model.”I love the way they’re all white as well… o_O

13 05 2008
Yolanda

breastfeeding mothers volunteered their time and at very short notice, and at their own inconvenience and no doubt expense to show their support for an event in which they truly believe.they were then treated like street urchins who were not allowed upstairs. Instead they had to make do with the crumbs from the buffet table and told to fetch their own drinking water from a loo tap.what an utterly shambolic and disgraceful set of circumstance for the organisers who are supposed to be showing their support for these very women.I expect that all those upstairs were reimbursed for at least their travel expenses.I won’t even start on Avent, a WHO Code breaker, as an exhibitor. I wonder how many pieces of silver their stand was worth.

13 05 2008
Morgan

I think the mothers were remibursed for travel. I’m sure they won’t have been for taking a day off work, which Emily did. I’ll ask her to clarify.I’m also trying to track down who the other exhibitors were, to see how many code breakers were there.

13 05 2008
Em

I was reimbursed for neither travel expenses, or the day I took off work (although I wasn’t expecting that, to be fair)I did receive a text today inviting me for a thank you breakfast at a cafe in Central London, but it’s at 8am, and I know at least two of the other mothers live in Surrey (one in Guildford, one in Sutton, so if you’re reading this **waves**) and I very much doubt they’ll be abel to make it!

13 05 2008
Morgan

You’re joking! You didn’t get your travel paid? Seriously? OMG!!You paid your own way? And then got treated like that?*mouth gapes open*Who invited you, btw? What organisation?

13 05 2008
Morgan

Emily’s invite came from the Breasfteeding Manifesto, stating that the photoshoot, and conference, was organised by the Royal College of Midwives on behalf of the DoH:”Volunteers NeededYou may be aware that it’s Breastfeeding Awareness Week next week. The Department of Health has sponsored the Royal College of Midwives (RCM) to hold a conference in London tomorrow, Monday 12th May. I have just been informed that the RCM is looking for 10 mums who are breastfeeding to come to Church House in Westminster for a photo shoot opportunity (possibly with Boris Johnson) to launch the Best Beginnings and Department of Health Breastfeeding DVD which is going to every pregnant woman in UK. It will also kick off the national breastfeeding awareness week in style! If you would like to volunteer with your baby please contact Francesca Entwistle from NHS London urgently on 07815047413.I understand that most of you do not live in London and if you do it is extremely short notice but if only a few of you volunteer it would made huge difference.”

13 05 2008
em

Yeah – Boris was a big no-show (not that I’m fussed tbh – you can imagine the headlines can’t you: “Boob with boobs!” 🙂

13 05 2008
Ailbhe

I’ve never read this blog before but it’s on my list now. Thank you for posting such articulate thoughtful stuff.

14 05 2008
Yolanda

don’t know whether to laugh or weep wrt em’s last post. is your baby going to be invited to this breakfast? will they pay for o/n accomodation in central london so that you have time to look your best for an 8am breakfast? most importantly will they reimburse you for travel and time off work in order for them to save some of the face they have already lost? These are the sort of things that any other professional invited to a breakfast in London would expect. Maybe if we mothers start to expect more for our time and effort they would show us more value from the start.clearly this breakfast offer is a little afterthought. once again, these circumstances point out what breastfeeding is really worth in this culture which values consumerism above most everything else. nothing.unlike designer bodies on designer posters and designer babymilk, it’s true value goes unheralded. Human milk which, after all, everyone can have for free can’t be worthy much in comparison.

14 05 2008
an interested party

Several years ago there was a dpt of health series of materials for NBAW featuring various designer label things, but not a baby in sight, let alone a mother with a breast, interesting to compare these with them. There have been some very …interesting posters. The Breastfeeding Manifesto is a coalition of lots of different organisations. Best beginnings holds the secretariat for the coalition. The request for mothers came as an email update for the Breastfeeding manifesto, presumablyI am horrified to hear how the breatfeeding mums were treated. Salmon for Avent [and Medela, another code breaker] reps but not for Emily. [pause for reflection] . Ardo medical who supply Egnell Ameda pumps [not code breakers] had found out about the event too late, 3 weeks before is a bit short notice for a small company. In an odd twisted sort of way, sending the mums into the loo to drink is a sort of equality, usually it’s just the babies. The cf was organised for the Dpt of Health and hosted by the RCM. I’ve been to the Church House Cf centre for an event totally unrelated to breastfeeding. There is a buggy friendly way in and out,which is the only way in and out in the evening; what a shame that the mothers were not given maps or helped to find this exit, by helpful people or even signs.Shame on the department of health. There were no reductions for Breastfeeding counsellors to attend the event either

14 05 2008
RM

Oh bloody hell Morgan that’s depressing in SO SO SO many different ways I don’t know where to start. I didn’t know Medela was a code breaker (in comments) … I did know about Avent though.And those posters oh oh god they are just horrid … your article manages to explain the problems with them so well.

14 05 2008
Morgan

It’s getting more and more depressing. I’m getting emails saying there have been ads for formula companies in the RCM magazine (something I’d heard before) but I’ve not seen them, or seen actual stuff about it, so I’m now looking…BUT, one thing which is very definite, and this is truly truly shocking… The RCM are holding the International Conference of Midwives in Glasgow in June this year. And their “golden sponsor” is Martek. Now, Martek are the people who harvest soil bacteria and put it into baby formula, to claim that doing the brain building etc of breastmilk! And they’ve been doing it for 14 years, so it’s not ‘new’ info.http://commercial.martek.com/infantnutrition/How can a professional midwife organisation, in the UK, do all this, and not see the conflict? Never mind that the UK has signed The Code? So they are in bed with code breakers? I’m going to put some more work into this, and then approach RCM. I’m just staggered! People who make raw ingredients for formula – to claim it does what breastmilk does! – sponsoring midwife conferences in the UK? It’s a sick joke!!!http://www.internationalmidwives.org/Activities/ICMTriennialCongress/tabid/326/language/en-GB/Default.aspxI bet they don’t tell anyone where they get their DHA from… tellign them harvesting soil bacteria might not do them any favours in the “look at all the wholesome goodness”… pitch.If we hadn’t just come back from Scotland from our holiday (and are thus complete broke) I’d go up there next month and start a demo!!!

14 05 2008
Anna

While I do not like the poster with the hands, for the reasons you mention, I do just need to say that the model is indeed a very petite mother, who also happens to be deaf. At the Get Britain Breastfeeding launch the story was told of her Italian mother giving birth to a premature baby, at home, and insisting on keeping him with her and using “kangeroo care” (before it had this name) and against all odds he survived. The “model” wanted to do the posters with her son because of her breastfeeding mum and because she loved breastfeeding her own son so much. I guess the head was not shown for personal reasons and maybe because the poster is meant to represent all mums. She is not a glamour model she is a lovely, ordinary, mum who cares about breastfeeding. The poster competition was the brain child of a young doctor who was breastfed and feels strongly about promoting breastfeeding. The idea of using the art school students was to actually help to spread awareness of the benefits of breastfeeding. Most of the students knew nothing about it before they started but they did by the end. The reasons for their choice of artwork was given under each poster. Some of the other posters were really brilliant and for the age group they were targetted at just right. Hopefully those students will take their new knowledge into their adult lives.I was also at the NBAW conference and I agree about the code breakers. I was in a session at lunchtime and when I went to look for the mums being photographed it all appeared to be over. The lunch was not that brilliant by the way. I am vegetarian and had rice and beans, and a small bowl of fruit, I saw no mineral water or potatoes and everyone had to sit on the floor as there were not chairs.I am obviously sorry to hear of the way Emily and others were treated. I wonder if they asked to see Francesca as I am sure she would have helped.The conference was organised at very short notice by RCOM and I do feel it’s a shame that all the positive parts of the day have been overshadowed by this.I stress I have no personal involvement in organising either of these events. I was attending on behalf of a lay organisation for whom I work completely voluntarily. I was also invited to the breakfast but not only live too far away but we could not afford for me to go to London again.I really just wanted to put right the misconception that this was a glamour model, she was an ordinary mum. I am sure that both the people involved in the poster competition and the conference have good intent and care deeply about promoting breastfeeding and would be very disheartened to know people were unhappy. Not trying defend or excuse anything, just to offer some information.(I love the Be a Star campaign too.)Thank you for reading.

14 05 2008
Morgan

Hi Anna,If you look at what I said, I did not claim it was a glamour model. I said quite clearly that was shot and constructed using the techniques of glamour photography and was in the territory of the glamour model. Quite a different thing.And, as for the lack of head shot… the point, again is… it’s not what you intend that’s important in media products, it’s the effect you have. Also, I did spend a great deal of time discussing the fact that I was aware that those involved in the entire day, were clearly supportive of breastfeeding and had worked hard. Pathway to hell paved with good intentions, type of thing, however.But it was the accepting code-breakers that was totally unforgiveable.

15 05 2008
Anna

Well I am sorry if I misunderstood but the impression I got, having read your article carefully several times, was that you did not think she was a genuine mother, and I just wanted to make it clear that she was and say a bit about her.I just felt really sad reading the things you said and even if it was not intended it felt like an attack on both of these events, which is a shame because they were meant to be positive. It’s hard enough to get volunteers nowadays to give up their time and energy to support other breastfeeding mothers (as you will know of course) and it sometimes feels like those that do try just end up getting criticised.It was not a free event by the way, we had to pay to be there, which perhaps was why they tried to limit the lunch to paying attendees. Again, not excusing just giving a possible reason. I also meant to say that there were water coolers, that was where I got my water, from one situated in the exhibitors room.Anyway, I think that the choice of exhibitors is one area we can agree on. best wishes, Anna

15 05 2008
Morgan

Hi Anna,The difference in how we read my words, has to do with the fact that I am analysing a media product, for media effect. I am not discussing the body of the women who posed for these photos. I am discussing the represented image within the poster, once it’s out in public. If an actor was wearing an alien costume, and I criticised the colour shape and inconography of the costume, I would not be referring to the actor underneath. As the physical body that took part in this poster is actually breastfeeding a baby, it’s pretty clear that she is, as herself, a mother. However, it’s not her we see. We see how she has been represented. When we look at media products, we see how a notion, or concept, of a person … that has been constructed to represent something other than the actor/person underneath. The body that is represented in these images, is not that of a mother. It’s been represented as a media styled glamour model. It has been styled to look as such, by the lighting, positioning, make up and camera work. It very much mimics a trend in bra adverts. It does so, to reach out to people who respond well to such glamourised fashion images, in an effort to say “You too can be part of this world, and breasfteed.” I have no objection to that intent – it’s the self same intent of the Be A Star campaign. My objection is in the execution – the buying into the hyper sexualisation of the body etc. I feel that is completely unacceptable, as it continues the exploitaiton of the female form.Volunteer and charity causes, working in the mass media to promote what they beleive in, is a difficult business. What is patently obvious to the ‘insider’ when they look at the end product, is not always what happens when it hits the streets. There is dissonence, and the target audience view what’s there in front of them, not what was intended. I understand what was intended here – I feel it is very negative because it will actually create negative reaction about breasfteeding in public from those it is trying to reach. By using the common currency of the stereotype, as opposed to challenging it, it reinforces all the wrong things.Compare how I celebrated that the Be A Star campaigns didn’t use the cleavage at all, to how these posters fall into the trap of not only using, but doing so with all the tricks of the trade to make you see the breasts first, the message second.Some people will love these ads as they can resonate with the intended message. Those are not, however, the people that the ads are trying to reach. Most of us just flinch. Notice that it was reported that the mothers at the event didn’t want to be photographed with them.In terms of attack. We cannot improve, if we we do not take on board constructive criticism and move on. The UK has some of the lowest breastfeeding rates in the world! We’ve spent millions and millions of pounds, and countless millions of volunteer hours, trying to raise them. we cannot afford not to be critical when we get it wrong. We have to celebrate the good bits, highlight the not so good bits, and work out how to do it better next time.And do note, it was how the volunteers were treated that has caused most outrage! 🙂

16 05 2008
Anna

Don’t want to take up anymore of your time on this. Just to say that in my original post I was just trying to offer some extra background information to the situation which I thought might be helpful.They posters do look better in “real life” than in pictures and I can see why it was thought they might appeal to the target age group even though I can see why others would not like them.As I said before many of the other posters were also really good.regards, Anna

16 05 2008
a different Helen

these posters were done by young people and I don’t think they have the same attitude to showing their bodies as us oldies do. Most walk around showing more square inches of bare flesh than I do at the swimming pool. They haven’t had to battle discrimination and intolerable attitudes from men the same as we have. They look for example at the playboy bunny symbol so differently to the way we do because we know how the ‘playmates’ were thought of. I thought of this earlier in the week when looking at shoes alongside a young muslim woman who picked up a nice pair but put it down quickly when she say the bunny symbol, we chatted a bit and we both agreed no way would we wear anything like that, but the young lasses have a totally different take on it – girl power is it perhaps. I know my teenaged daughter would think I was being daft if I tried to stop her wearing playboy stuff if she wanted toNo poster is gong to touch everyone as it is intended. I have memories of sitting in a meeting looking at the latest NBAW poster and someone criticising it for ‘being too middle class’ It was a mum, Dad and toddler in a plainish room, the message that year was showing how important fathers were in supporting the choice to breastfeed, I never did work out how tey could have made it more ‘working class’ without being patronising. [This same person actually also criticised the then logo used for being too middle class- I nver did work out how an outline drawing of a mum and babe could be any class OK, maybe you could put a tiara on her head, but that’s about everything. If anyone can enlighten me I’d love to learn how]I think showing people like Nell McAndrew on TV breastfeeding a toddler is going to really appeal to young mumsA generation before us a celeb who did a lot for promoting breastfeeding was Princess Grace. She represented to Americans Glamour, an ordinary American girl who’d beome a film star, and tehn married a Prince. She inspired that generation, but probably wouldn’t inspire this generation of young mothersanother Helen [ you can age me from the name!]

16 05 2008
Morgan

Hi Helen,Just to make it clear that no one at all has expressed any reservations about it being because they show flesh per se. I know of breastfeeding support posters than I like and admire that picture completely naked breasts. And whilst I understand your comments, and appreciate you taking the time to post them, the vast majority of those that feel they will not do their job, are the generation they are aimed at. Emily, for instance, who refused to be photograpehd with them, is in the target audience. And happens to be breasfteeding to boot. 🙂 Of course some people will like them. The issue is should Government money be spent on producing and promoting a campaign that uphold the sexualisation of the female breasts as the primary function of the breast?This actually strikes to the core of the problem about promoting breastfeeding in this country, which is why so many young women are so annoyed about them. 🙂

16 05 2008
a different Helen

No government money has been spent on them. The logo is part of the designthe NHS posters are herehttp://www.breastfeeding.nhs.uk/en/materialforclients/index.asp

16 05 2008
Morgan

So not a scrap of DoH money was spent on putting them on display at the conference? And no Government money will be spent on printing them off and putting them in maternity units and health centres? How does that work? (Genuinely confused) The article states they are part of the Government brestfeeding programme this summer, and will be ‘rolled out’ in appropriate places?

17 05 2008
a different helen

sorry, premature postingas far as I know the exhibition will tour, during the year. It was staffed by volunteers so imagine that will be the case wherever

17 05 2008
Morgan

Well, the article is slightly disengenous then (I’m shocked!). That is much more reassuirng. As I said, people are allowed to make mistakes, and if the contact and reaction to this campaign stays with the people making it, that’s a good thing. They’ll be able to listen, respond and develop. Heaven knows, billions are spent of commercial advertising, as opposed to marketing and promotion, and many commercial campaigns flop outright too! My fear about it having a negative effect, was in terms of them appearing wholsesale down the clinic and at the bus stop. Just stuck in space, without mediation.

17 05 2008
Anonymous

Not saying that there WON’T be an y central gov money involved at any stage but how I read it is that it will be BB doing it [and the DVD]as they have done so farGove had spent their pennies on the ones I gave a link to. Gov loves however to let volunteers do things like this doesn’t it. A DVD producded by volunteers? Yes, we’ll hand it outthis is what hs been said’The winning poster will be co-branded with Best Beginnings and the NHS logo and will be distributed free in hospitals, community centres and GP practices throughout the UK. The poster will promote a DVD made by Best Beginnings and sponsored by the Department of Health, NHS Health Scotland and Welsh Health Promotion Agency. The DVD, “Breastfeeding: the ultimate gift”, has been made to inspire and enable women to breastfeed and will be distributed free to every pregnant woman in the UK from July 2008′

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