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As industrialization takes hold, women are less and less free to suckle their infants on demand. As Western notions of glamour and the role of wife as sex object take over, the effects of prolonged lactation on the breast are found to be unacceptable. As Western marketing pushes the idea of super babes fed on superhuman formula, breastfeeding falls into disuse. As husbands learn from the West that a husband takes precedence over his children in enjoying access to his wife’s body, the practice of postpartum abstinence is seen as primitive. Germaine Greer, Sex and Destiny: The Politics of Human Fertility, 1984 This collected volume results from presentations at the fifth Breastfeeding and Feminism Symposium held March 20, 2010, at the Weatherspoon Art Gallery on the campus of University of North Carolina at Greensboro (UNCG), cohosted by the University’s Center for Women’s Health and Wellness and the Carolina Global Breastfeeding Institute at UNC Chapel Hill. Since 2005 this symposium has brought together academic scholars, practitioners, activists, and policy makers from the United States and abroad who are interested in considering feminist perspectives to address breastfeeding as a health priority for women and children. Since 2005 the six Breastfeeding and Feminism Symposia have stimulated a growth in public discourse and scholarship on the sociocultural, economic, and political constraints on women’s infant feeding choices. In addition , the symposia have focused attention on how public health approaches to breastfeeding must go beyond promoting health to include serious consideration of the realities of women’s lives, which are complicated by structural inequities that feminists investigate through gender, race, and class analysis. Although arguments about motherhood, work, and gender differences have been central to feminist thought, historically feminists have had little to say xi Preface and Acknowledgments about breastfeeding. Throughout the 1970s and 1980s, contemporary feminist scholarship was concerned with understanding how women might achieve social, economic, and political equality with men. Strategies generally thought essential to that end included increasing women’s employment and decreasing the primacy of the mothering role. Consequently, while feminist policy initiatives did attempt to address how pregnancy and childbirth should be handled by workplaces and employers, continuing breastfeeding after women returned to work was not considered an issue of commensurate importance. Public health and policy interest in breastfeeding has exceeded feminist thought and action. In 1998 Representative Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) introduced into the U.S. Congress the New Mothers’ Breastfeeding Promotion and Protection Bill (HR 3531). This bill would have amended the Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978 to include breastfeeding as a protected behavior under civil rights law, as well as the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 to make mothers eligible for a one-hour unpaid nursing break. It also offered tax credits to encourage employers to provide lactation rooms and equipment and outlined the need to develop minimum standards for breast pumps. Although this legislation did not pass, it is noteworthy that the National Organization for Women, historically an ardent supporter of gender-neutral strategies, supported this legislation, signaling a significant change in their philosophy. The ideas outlined by Representative Maloney’s 1998 bill have just now come to fruition as part of the Obama administration’s 2010 Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. One consequence of the relative absence of a public feminist voice in support of breastfeeding mothers is that much of the policy and programmatic development has occurred independent of a feminist perspective, being shaped instead by medical, capitalist, and maternalist interests and values. Partly as a result of feminism’s own lack of interest in breastfeeding, we now have a situation in which the public health call for women to breastfeed exclusively for six months, in conjunction with recommendations to continue breastfeeding for at least a year or longer, has not been accompanied by systematic attempts to reduce the constraints to breastfeeding imposed by the complicated realities of women’s lives. Ironically, there is now a surge of feminist voices that are antibreastfeeding. This surge is based on the perceived public pressure to breastfeed, thought to induce women to breastfeed as a way of entrapping them in the maternal role. This may also be a response to the fact that breastfeeding initiation, exclusivity, and duration are slowly but surely on the rise, threatening the perception of formula-feeding as normative and “normal.” While seeking social change in specific arenas, this group of feminists clings to the earlier xii Preface and Acknowledgments conceptualizations of formula use...


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