breasts seem to be everybody’s territory

“fifteen year old heroin addicts can usually keep their babies alive until they reach school age I don’t see why you should be so worried you won’t.”

That was the excellent mothering advice given by a mid-wife to a well educated and overly anxious friend who was trying to be the perfect new Mum.

Being a Mum has suddenly become so wrought with the burden of having to make the right decisions on everything or risk completely screwing up your off-spring for life. Our baby boomer Mums weren’t worried. As long as we didn’t get the cold duck in the baby bottle we were winning and everything else was filed under ‘character building’. While Piri Weepu took a hiding over the ‘breast is best’ debate last week I was mystified as to why breasts and their uses are such a politically divisive issue in New Zealand.

In Hispanic culture the bollocks take a much more leading role, at least in the language. When a bloke gets tired of being pushed around he will tell you that he is going to do ‘what his bollocks sing’, not as in the more boring Anglo phrase; ‘what he likes.’ If Latin blokes are getting testy they will require that you cease ‘inflaming’ their testicles and if things get really bad and they are on the point of losing it they will inform you that their balls have reached the floor with the weight of annoying behaviour that they are having to bear.

One treads carefully around the status of the Latin cojones. Breasts on the other hand are fair game for anyone to have an opinion on.

I’m still suffering post traumatic stress disorder having survived a breast feeding class in an antenatal group nearly a decade ago. I attended most of the classes on my own. The mad Latin had made it clear that he was not going to draw pictures of girly bits nor would he look at any birth videos but he would be more than happy to smoke cigars outside the delivery suite as was appropriate to his age gender and culture. The other members of the class – all with partners dutifully attending seemed to think I was making up a fictitious foreign partner and just nodded knowingly when I said he wouldn’t be coming each night. So, stupidly, I bullied him into it. Unfortunately that was the exact night that all the men had to take a doll and pretend to breast feed it throughout the meeting. The patronising tutor who spoke as if we all had been starved of oxygen at birth reiterated that it was vital that the men took this seriously and as of this moment the doll could be considered to be a real live breathing baby. At which point, not understanding anything she’d just said, the mad Latin threw the ‘baby’ in a slam dunk head first into the rubbish bin where its little legs continued to wobble accusingly in the ensuing and increasingly awkward silence. A silence punctuated by the Latin letting me know that his bollocks were now dragging on the floor and he would rather cut his willy off than pretend to breast feed an ugly plastic doll. He had a point. The tutor insisted I translate and so I told her that he was feeling culturally unsafe. As, no doubt, was she by this stage. We retreated disgracefully but I noted that while Latin males have clear boundaries around the state of their bollocks, breasts in Anglo culture seem to be everybody’s territory for staking out their political agendas, bar the woman who actually owns them.

Most people know that if and where a woman can breast feed it’s the best and cheapest option. Mostly where women choose not to they do so for a good reason. Where that is not the case they usually have a lot more to worry about than the chattering classes suggest. Like being a single working Mum on the minimum wage not wanting to fall into the benefit trap. Just as one example.

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March 5, 2012 at 8:01 PM Georgia Saxon said...

Hear, hear. Enough already of all this claptrap around Piri Weepu. I found the furore around the story incredible. Let the poor man give his baby a bottle of milk. His wife is no doubt delighted to have him helping out and is enjoying a well-earned glass of wine instead of being a martyr to all the critical do-gooders out there. Breast is best but bottle is just as good when you need it.

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