Oh, ungod, I’m going to have to write about breastfeeding again and people are going to think I think about nothing else, and and – fuck it.
So Abortion Rights, an organisation I’ve supported for years, tweeted a link to this article by Jessica Valenti, arguing that a hospital is wrong to stop providing free formula milk, calling it “brilliant”. When I and others questioned this, the twitter account owner responded that if we wre pro-choice, it was inconsistent not to see breastfeeding advocacy as “shaming” and formula feeding as a “free choice”.
This is a load of crap. “Choice” is the most abused word in feminism, to my mind. Choice is never absolute – choice can only be free when there are no constraints on it, and every choice takes place in a cultural, educational, personal context. So to say “choice” is the answer is to say that women don’t choose to be scientists, and they should just get over it and get to their books. Or, perhaps more pertinently in the context, it’s like saying that a total lack of sex education desn’t matter, as long as women can choose abortion if they have an unwanted pregnancy. It doesn’t matter that they don’t know the alternatives, the health consequences of unprotected sex, if they feel pressured into penis-in-vagina sex in the first place, because we have framed the question over-simplistically, and we have answered the question with “choice”.
Fuck choice. I want liberation. I want my breasts not to be sexualised commodities to be sold back to me, but rather a part of my body which offer pleasure, function, decorativeness, health-giving properties… I want motherhood to be a valuable and valued contribution in the context of my family, community and society. I want breastmilk to be recognised for its health, bonding, economic and empowering properties. THEN you can ask me to choose.