Thursday, July 27, 2006

BabyTalk Magazine Cover Controversy

Okay, this settles it - women really are each other's own worst enemies. It seems that BabyTalk magazine featured, on its August cover, a photo of a breastfeeding infant. All you can see is the smiling baby's face and the sideview of a boob. It's tissue, people, and less titillating (pardon the pun) than the amount of t&a you see on your average beach. For now, you can see the "offending" cover on the magazine's homepage. Go look. Then come back.

Done? Wondering what the big deal is? According to this article, "the magazine has received more than 700 letters — more than for any article in years." Also, "in a poll of more than 4,000 readers, a quarter of responses to the cover were negative, calling the photo — a baby and part of a woman's breast, in profile — inappropriate."

Among the gems of comments the magazine received, according to the piece (keep in mind this was a special issue on breastfeeding, in a magazine for new mothers):
  • "I was SHOCKED to see a giant breast on the cover of your magazine"
  • "I immediately turned the magazine face down"
  • "Gross"
  • "'I shredded it,' said Gayle Ash, of Belton, Texas, in a telephone interview. 'A breast is a breast — it's a sexual thing. He [her 13-year old son] didn't need to see that.'"
  • "I don't want my son or husband to accidentally see a breast they didn't want to see."
  • "'Men are very visual. When they see a woman's breast, they see a breast — regardless of what it's being used for."
  • "'Gross, I am sick of seeing a baby attached to a boob,' wrote Lauren, a mother of a 4-month-old."

    Lessons learned:
  • Don't you dare be gross!
  • Men's reactions and desires are the arbiters of what women should do, even if it concerns feeding a baby.
  • 13-year-old boys and grown men cannot possibly be expected to control themselves.
  • Men should only see boobs they want to see!
  • Mothers cannot possibly be expected to explain that boobs are not just for fondling.
  • If you have to choose between giving your baby the best possible nutrition, and writing angry letters to a magazine, you should totally go with the letters. For serious.

    From the magazine's editor:
    "Babytalk editor Susan Kane says the mixed response to the cover clearly echoes the larger debate over breast-feeding in public. 'There's a huge Puritanical streak in Americans,' she says, 'and there's a squeamishness about seeing a body part — even part of a body part. It's not like women are whipping them out with tassels on them!' she adds. 'Mostly, they are trying to be discreet.'"

    Puritanical women of America, you have to get a grip. Now. Breasts are for feeding babies. Even yours.

    If you support BabyTalk's cover choice, you may email them at

  • Commenter Rob has a good take on the controversy as well.
  • The MSNBC website also has the story. They have an associated discussion board, "Breast-feeding in public - human nature or indecent exposure?" Unfortunately, I can't access it at the moment because it doesn't work in Safari, and I don't feel like updating Explorer.
  • Lindsey at Theology&Geometry is also on the case. Says Lindsey, "Because, um, you should really get a frigging life if your time spent on Batsh*t Boob Patrol means that some exhausted nursing mother, carrying around a diaper bag and stroller and a fragile little mound of soul and some pretty heavy emotional weight, has to shuffle her way into a damp stinky restroom to feed her baby just so you don't have to think about your dirty boys having naughty thoughts about boobies that aren't yours." Woman doesn't mince words; go read the rest.
  • The Lactivist manages to respond without using the word "titillating," which neither Lindsey nor I could resist.
  • The Spakespeare's Sister blog got a good discussion going in the comments.

    Technorati Tags: ;
    MeSH Tags: Breast Feeding

    Blogger Rob said...

    People need to grow up.

    Rob of UnSpace

    6:11 PM  
    Blogger Rachel said...

    Indeed, Rob. I really liked your take on the topic, btw.

    6:31 PM  
    Blogger Dr. Charles said...

    good lord. i see nothing offensive about that. its almost like these "puritans" are protecting the sexualization of breasts in their complaints.

    6:13 PM  
    Blogger SinCabeza said...

    They maybe dont know what the breast for.
    Please dont go to Italy, there are too many statues with naked elements and DONT look on Madonna (not a singer) because you will see a breast !!!

    Very Nice Cover! Happy baby face, nice breast.

    That 700 peoples better have to look the great stupidiest american movie "American Pie 1-2". Thats would be better.

    10:46 AM  
    Blogger SinCabeza said...

    Lets kill that 700 stupid brains

    4:05 AM  
    Blogger Tony said...

    1) We talked about this on our weekly radio show yesterday. I agree...and advanced a theory about it. (Podcast will be available tonight through first hour is when it took place).

    2) I agree...people need to grow up.

    3) I think the picture was very cute!!

    4) (and if this is too much of a plug I apologize) Our radio show has a new discussion board. This topic was added this morning and is awaiting participation. Rather than giving the URL for it I will instead say that my posting on this issue has a link to the board. is the blog.

    Great presentation of the article, btw!!

    8:51 AM  
    Blogger theogeo said...

    Thanks for the link, Rachel! As usual, I remain stunned at the idiocy of some people.

    10:59 PM  
    Blogger nursingmother said...

    I was ecstatic to see a breastfeeding baby on the front page. I am the mother of 6 month old twins and an advocate of breastfeeding. God gave you breasts for the purpose of nursing not for men to stare at. This is the most natural thing left in today's society. When you decide to have children you should decide to do what is best for your child. So if you don't like it then don't look.

    7:30 AM  
    Blogger Rob said...

    Interesting: I've yet to see one negative post or comment on breastfeeding and/or the magazine picture on the blogosphere.

    Is it that bloggers and their readers are smarter, or that out of any sufficiently large group you can find a few loonies?

    8:27 AM  
    Blogger Kateri said...


    Bloggers clearly don't account for much of BabyTalk's readership. It's easy to forget that there's a whole world of ignorance out there beyond the information junkies in the blogosphere.

    11:53 AM  
    Blogger Rachel said...

    Kateri - that's a very good point. I'm just surprised that I haven't seen a single blog piece that was negative regarding the cover. It's hard for me to believe that where there is that much disgust and outrage, there isn't a blog.

    12:04 PM  
    Blogger outspokenkim said...

    My husband and I both agree the mag cover was beautiful and natural.That is why God gave us breast.To nurture our young just like a cat or a dog.What,s the big deal?If every mother could nurse we would no longer have a need for formula!I nursed my 3 year old son until he was 2 and I am now nursing my 5 month old daughter.Get over it!

    10:01 PM  
    Blogger Rachel said...

    Kim - I think it's a lovely picture as well, and was surprised by how viscerally disgusted some women are by the sight of breastfeeding.

    5:55 AM  
    Blogger HRM Meg said...

    I love this cover, it's just beautiful.

    My question is: How do those puritanical freaks even know it's a boob? Seems they probably only whip theirs out in the dark lest the light of day (or nightlight) ever grace their sinful, shameful woman parts. God forbid we use our bodies in the way they were designed. Next: Giving birth with your pants on...

    12:14 PM  
    Blogger ladycascadia said...

    You know, it just blows my mind that here we are in 2006 and some people still have such ridiculous attitudes! Why is ok for women to expose their breast in skin magazines or in R-rated movies, but not expose them for the decidedly unsexy purpose of feeding and nurturing an infant?

    1:26 PM  
    Blogger Micki said...

    GOOD! Boobs are for babies!! Put the focus of our country where it belongs, namely on the children of our country instead of on the male sex drive.

    1:36 PM  
    Blogger dlenore said...

    The negative reactions to the photo of the breast and the baby reflect a society (found only in the US) that is obsessed with sex and pornography, that does not honor motherhood, and that has no idea of what is healthy for a child.

    I suppose these people think that women who want to nurse their babies should be confined to their homes, and that feeding a human baby cows milk or soy, both of which can seriously and permanently compromise a child's immune system, is preferable to nursing.

    Once I was discreetly nursing my son in a museum and a man told me I ought to go to the restroom. Would he like to eat in a public restroom? Or have his newborn baby sit in one and be exposed to whatever was floating around for an extended period of time?

    2:21 PM  
    Blogger CATRAIL said...


    8:01 PM  
    Blogger CATRAIL said...


    8:07 PM  
    Blogger Tammie said...

    I'm a new mother of 3-month-old Sophie ( and was thrilled to see the photo of a nursing baby. Here in Portland, OR, the Fred Meyer food chain was forced to reverse its policy on nursing in public after a mother was told to go to the restroom to nurse. I am originally from Louisville, KY,and am so pleased to be raising my daughter here instead, since I am sure the same oppressive bullshit exists back there. But no matter where we live, the more people who advocate for public nursing, the better. That's how we change things, right? Right on!

    12:36 AM  
    Blogger cassie2006006 said...

    in the UK, we have images like this all the time on NHS leaflets, magazines...

    so nothing shocking about a baby breast-feeding.

    it just shows how much influence the formula manufacturers have on your nation, even though doctors recommend breastfeeding till at least 2 years (Unicef)!

    1:57 AM  
    Blogger gilles said...

    this morning, billions of people all around the world are laughing... Should we laugh ? or be desappointed to see the future some are trying to prepare for us ?
    Gilles (France)

    2:55 AM  
    Blogger MapleMama said...

    Although I linked to your great article above and provided some thoughts of my own, I had to respond one of the quotes above.

    "I don't want my son or husband to accidentally see a breast they didn't want to see."

    Frankly - I would LOVE for my son or husband to see this magazine cover. Unlike so many other images of breasts (clothed or not) in our media - this cover actually depicts a breast doing precisely what is designed to do - feed a child. Bravo BabyTalk!

    7:59 AM  
    Blogger Kelly-Jane Cotter said...

    Your blog entry was so well put, Rachel.

    Plus, you handled this topic with humor, which is the best weapon against Puritans.

    I'm going to refer to your blog in my own: Asbury Park Press Mommy, available on, if you care to check it out.

    -- Kelly-Jane Cotter

    9:40 AM  
    Blogger Jen said...

    In the article, "Why Don't Women Breastfeed Longer," it says: "72% (of Americans polled) said that it's inappropriate to show a women breastfeeding on TV programs."

    I wonder how many of those people are opposed to blatant sex on the screen or homosexual promotions in movies like “Broke Back Mountain?”

    Where have the ethics and morals gone in our country?

    10:14 AM  
    Blogger DallasDeckard said...

    You know, the really sad thing is that THIS IS HOW SEXUALIZATION occurs! Our nation is almost the sole provider of so-called "deviant porn". I don't want to get explicit, but stuff with pregnant women and so forth. WHY do you think men want this stuff? Probably because they were disciplined for looking at a woman breastfeeding. Ok, maybe that's convenient to say that, to support my theory, but it IS true that our REACTIONS to situations dictate our children’s reactions. If a child sees a naked breast, and you respond, "Yes, that is a woman's breast, it is used to feed baby". Then the kid goes, "Hmmm, ok, sounds right. Are we going to the park?" However, if you FREAK out and cover their eyes, or "shred the magazine" then you create a thought in their mind that the naked breast is a BAD thing, and you run the risk of sexualizing the situation or creating a sexual taboo in their mind.

    A good example is when a kid falls down and goes bonk. If you keep very calm and smile, nine times out of ten they will just brush it off and continue playing. But if you FREAK out and grab them and get histrionic chances are they'll start crying and they'll LEARN that ANY little bump or bruise is terrible and they are afraid to go outside. Now, am I saying you don't comfort them when they cry, NO. I'm just saying that they look to us to determine how to act, most of the time, and if we remain calm, they remain calm, if we freak, they freak. The same is true about the human body. Now, that doesn't mean that we allow them to view sexually explicit material, absolutely not, but when they see a nursing mother, or they see a work of art, or maybe just an artistic photo of a nude woman (I'm not saying we MAKE them look, I'm saying if it happens on accident) then we just remain calm and just say, "Yes, that is a woman, God made us to be beautiful" and then drop it, they will almost ALWAYS shrug their shoulders and move on.

    WE create sexualized responses to normal and innocent images. We need to STOP doing that. If we just relax and stop freaking about innocent stuff, then we will raise normal, healthy, adjusted human beings and women can be treated as fellow humans, instead of sex objects. It is our DUTY as parents to do this.

    4:20 AM  
    Anonymous Alicia, Mother of 3 said...

    I think that people are very immature to be upset over that cover! Anyone that would find a picture of a breastfeeding Mom as "sexual" have issues of their own that they need to deal with. I have no problem with Mom's that decide to bottle feed and the public doesn't give them a hard time for feeding in public (or for their picture to be taken and published) so why in the world do we put down the Mom's who feel that breastfeeding is the best choice for their baby? All I can say to the people that the picture offended is GROW UP!!!!

    1:12 PM  

    Post a Comment

    Links to this post:

    Create a Link

    << Home