If you’re an American who has traveled outside your own country, you’ve probably noticed that other cultures aren’t quite as hung up about sex and nudity as we are. For example, in many other countries, you’ll see bared breasts on the covers of magazines prominently displayed all over street newsstands. When I was stationed in Germany, I was befriended by a couple of English girls who took me sunbathing at a local river where nearly all the women — 18 to 80 — were topless. I’ve always been fine with that sort of thing; but I found it especially freeing that it wasn’t just young people with perfect bodies hanging out at a secluded beach; it was people of all ages, shapes and sizes. On any of the European beaches I’ve had the good fortune to visit, I’ve seen women sunbathing topless or nude, comfortable with themselves and each other. Why are we Americans so afraid of a naked body (in public, at least)?
Recently, we *suffered* two instances of publicized nudity that highlighted just how fucked up we really are in this country. Kim Kardashian posed nude for Paper magazine, and Vivian addressed what we should really be up in arms over, which is of course what almost no one seems to be noticing — but that’s a whole separate conversation. What people are talking about is that Kardashian is a mother who bared her body for all the world to see. The horror.
A couple weeks ago, actress Alyssa Milano posted a picture of herself breastfeeding her daughter (it was the second such photo within a short period of time), and she received a lot of the usual criticism, followed by plenty of supportive comments from fellow mothers.
Milano then tweeted her thoughts about the criticism, comparing her responses with Kardashian’s:
Here are some of the comments on Milano’s photos:
It’s great that Milano was complimentary toward Kardashian’s ass, but the thing is, I don’t think most people really were okay with the Paper shoot (again, for the wrong reason). I’ve seen plenty of derogatory comments spewed across the internet, and I can’t even believe I’m defending Kim Kardashian (who I usually just ignore), but you know what — I am. (Again, let me be specific, I support her choice to appear naked in a magazine, not the context of that particular photo shoot.) Criticizing her for being naked in public because she’s a mother — are you kidding me? Having a baby pretty much guarantees you’ll be naked in front of people you don’t know, your “private” parts will be inspected by a wealth of strangers, literally spread open, you’ll have devices and gloved hands stuck inside you — and that’s assuming you aren’t one of the many women who choose to home-birth (naked), or have water deliveries (again, naked), or mothers in third world countries who might just lie down in the mud — naked — and give birth. For mothers, of all people, nudity is the most natural thing in the world.
Let’s talk about breastfeeding. Before there were hospitals, or magazines, or Kardashians, there was breastfeeding. And guess what, breastfeeding is still happening all around you every day, and it will continue to happen the rest of your days. When my children were babies and they were hungry, I fed them wherever we were. I didn’t put a cloth over myself to hide any more than I would blanket myself while eating a Five Guys burger. I didn’t secret my baby off to a specially designated naked-breast zone so those around me wouldn’t be offended. And I know some of what Alyssa Milano and many other breastfeeding mothers know: People Don’t Want to See That Shit. I got stared down in the malls, in my car, in the bookstore, by incredulous in-laws (who had never seen a breastfeeding baby up close), and embarrassed extended family members, and you know what, I looked right back at those people with not an ounce of shame in my eye. That doesn’t make me (or Alyssa Milano) attention seekers, that makes us people who realize there is nothing wrong with a mother breastfeeding in public. Hey, people: Get over it. I wouldn’t tell anyone else she *should* breastfeed, or get involved in the never-ending battles over what’s best for a baby — that’s a wholly individual choice. But for the mothers who do choose to breastfeed in public, or share their pictures — just like people share photos of themselves taking a delicious bite of food, or drinking a great cocktail, glass of wine or beer — I’m going to champion them all the way to their PUBLICLY BARED NIPPLES. Alyssa Milano and all the others who do so are helping to normalize something that’s been normal since the beginning of the human race. Breastfeeding and nudity, neither are outrage-worthy.
We can call Kim Kardashian an attention seeker, and we may have feelings about how she came to fame, but I for one am not going to criticize her for being an adult who chooses to bare her own body in a magazine. (Hell, if my body looked like hers, I might do the same.) I am not offended by her nudity any more than I’m offended by photos of mothers feeding their babies; nor should you be. Instead of constantly criticizing women for making choices about baring their own bodies, how about taking some time to think about, and answer the question: What are you so afraid of?