by Danelle Frisbie
I stand in solidarity with Emma Kwasnica, Ina May Gaskin, Karen Speed, and countless others striving to normalize breastfeeding and abolish nipplephobia from North American culture. It seems that New York City artist, Daniel Edwards, may be doing the same with his latest work, "Landmark for Breastfeeding" which was unveiled for the first time in Norman, OK today.
Edwards (who has created celeb statues before) sculpted Angelina Jolie tandem nursing two babies. Its mission? To reduce the negative stigma of breastfeeding in public. Edwards hopes his Hollywood creation will inspire people to accept public nursing as the natural, normal way to feed a human baby. He had been planning to create a breastfeeding sculpture for quite some time, and after Jolie's twins, Vivienne and Knox, arrived, he felt inspired to do so. Edwards chose to unveil the statue in OK because Brad Pitt, Angelina's husband, is from Shawnee, OK.
Sandy Wilson of Phantom-Financial, the company that backed the project, agrees wholeheartedly with Edwards mission, “We believe the statue sends a beautiful message by promoting the acceptance of public breastfeeding. Mothers should be encouraged to nurture their babies anywhere.”
Mothers gathered at the Mainsite Art Gallery in Norman today to nurse their children in front of a crowd of curious onlookers who were there to see what all the fuss was about. Beth Leinau, nursing her 2-year-old, told press, "I've even done it in grocery stores, play grounds, church. Just whenever it's needed." I wish I could have been there in person.
Media reports state that after this exhibit, Edwards would like his work to end up as a park statue - in a public place to be an encouragement to mothers.
I may live in a bubble of lactivists, but I am slightly shocked that there has been such negative outcry against the statue being in a public venue. Really? Are we THIS offended by an art piece that depicts the normal feeding of human babies?
This poll on a local television news station's page currently shows over 1/2 of readers to be against the statue's placement in a park. [Side Note: I'd encourage you to drop by the page and change these stats!]
About 15 years ago one of my professional mentors, a professor of human sexuality and family studies himself, conducted a study on Iowan's perceptions of breastfeeding. Without plans to birth my own children any time soon, and yet to embark on my journey into lactivism, I did not fully appreciate what his results showed -- that the vast majority viewed nursing in public to be pornographic. Yikes! Pornographic? What is wrong with us? What other mammal (defined as such by our babies' need to consume mother's milk) would deny their young the very survival component that makes them mammal in the first place?! And this good ol' Iowan study was long before Facebook's boys came onto the scene in a mad frenzy of nursing censorship.
A 2003 study (1) looked at the perceptions of women who breastfeed and found a significant correlation between how an individual scores on scales of sexism, and his or her perception of breastfeeding. Not shocking, but there no doubt exists an underlying illness in North American culture when both overt sexism and nipplephobia run rampant at the same time, and seem to feed off each other as well.
Cory Allen, who was project coordinator for Edwards work might just agree with me. He told disgruntled objectors, "People have a problem separating nudity and sexuality, and it's just a human form, so I don't see any problem with it."
We will have to watch and see where Edwards' statue lands. And then all meet up to nurse around her. ;)
1) Forbes G., Adams-Curtis L., Hamm N., & White K. (2003). Perceptions of the Woman Who Breastfeeds: The Role of Erotophobia, Sexism, and Attitudinal Variables. Sex Roles: A Journal of Research, 49(7-8).