The morning routine in Sister Namibia usually is punctuated by the perusal of the daily papers, just to see whether there is anything note worthy in the news. Very often there is nothing of particular interest, which is followed by the remark “no news is no news.” But sometimes, we have to really wonder what is going on in the minds of our fellow country men and women. Today was one such day.
While it seems that the debate over women’s supposed culpability in rape, because they dare to be wearing miniskirts, is still very acute, we were surprised to find the following ‘jewel.” For somewhat obscured amongst readers sms responses on the miniskirt debate, and apparently adding to this debate, this “insight.” “Die vrouens wat die helfte van hulle klere in die openbaar uittrek om te borsvoed, behoort hulle te skaam! Kan hulle asb. ŉ badkamer gebruik of ŉ ander plan maak. Hulle is regtig ŉ groot verleentheid vir ons ander vrouens!“
For the non-Afrikaans readers: “ Those women who half undress in public to breastfeed should be ashamed of themselves! Could they not use a bathroom or make another plan? They are a big embarrassment to us fellow women.”
What is going on here? Where are we living? When did we become so coy or “decent” that we are ashamed to see another woman doing what? Feeding her baby! Now everybody knows the state of hygiene of most public toilets – it therefore is completely preposterous to suggest feeding a child in this environment. In addition, it raises another question: Where is the breastfeeding mother supposed to be sitting? On the pot? Honestly?
Also the suggestion to “make another plan” seems ludicrous to me. It used to be that whenever a couple was making out in public, people used to tell them to get a room. This was for a sexual act. Has breastfeeding become a sexual act? For surely the writer is suggesting that the breastfeeder is engaged in some or the other twisted and perverted activity – and that IN PUBLIC! Is breastfeeding your child not a public health instead of a social issue? What is there to be ashamed of or that needs privacy? Where should the breastfeeding mother go? Home? Sitting in a smoulderingly hot car? Hide behind the shop/ restaurant/ sports arena? What about the bottle-feeders? Would they be considered as immoral offenders of the public’s sensibilities in the same way that breastfeeders are?
Like in the miniskirt discussion, it seems to me that the only indecency that exists is in the heads of those who believe it is their “duty” to uphold morality and decency because why? Because everyone else is morally so decrepit that it needs extraordinary measures (threat of arrest in the case of miniskirt wearers and in the case of public breastfeeders, the old click of the moralistic tongue and banishing to the least suitable regions in public life – the old smelly outhouse.)