Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Jennifer Block responds to Hannah Rosin

In The Backlash to Breast is Best: Why exactly is breastfeeding under attack?, Jennifer Block responds to Hannah Rosin's article "The Case Against Breastfeeding." Towards the end, Block argues that the problem isn't breastfeeding--it's the tremendous obstacles American women face in initiating and sustaining a breastfeeding and mothering relationship.

We tell women that breast is best, we tell them to breastfeed exclusively for the first six months, we even tell them it will raise their kid's IQ (and we should give that a rest), and then we send them home with formula samples, or with a baby whose throat is too sore to suckle, or a mom whose milk is delayed because of surgery, and we don't teach technique, and we are offended when a woman breastfeeds in public, so we make her feel housebound, and we don't give a mother and her partner paid leave, and we send her to go back to a workplace without on-site childcare, and so her only alternative to formula is to plug her nipples into a machine, and if she's lucky she gets periodic breaks and a "non-bathroom lactation room" in which to pump, and if she's not she gets a toilet, and so on and so forth....

It's not simply the milk that's inimitable; it's the mothering. (Indeed, "We actually don't know if feeding infants human milk has the same benefits as breastfeeding," says Labbok.) And mothering is something that our culture does not value enough to support. It is this dissonance between physiology and culture that has women so frustrated, and feminists like Rosin grasping at the bottle as a proxy for equality....

Why did American feminism evolve in such a way that we think of biology as destiny, and that destiny as a prison? Why are we so willing to surrender the parts and processes that makes us female rather than demanding that society support them? We've broken down doors and cracked glass ceilings, when what we need to do is redesign the building.


  1. What an excellent response! I love the idea of redesigning the building, and creating a society that is more tolerant of motherhood in general. After all, there's more to it than just bringing a baby into the world.

    A friend of mine was recently laid off from her job, but was thrilled about it. She had to travel 80% of the time, and never got to see her kids. I was actually watching her youngest all day, five days a week. I didn't mind, and actually fell in love with her daughter, but it was breaking my friend's heart. I never told her that her daughter had started calling me "mama" because I knew that would be like a knife in her breast. She told me that all she wanted to do was what she was naturally programmed to do - mother her kids. The day she lost her job was probably the best day of her life, and I'm thrilled that now she gets to be home with her kids and watch them grow.

    I'm not trying to bash our society, but there are so many difficulties for moms built into it. What can we do to realistically change that?

  2. Hell yes, Jennifer! That last paragraph is what I rant about all the time - feminism is not making women the same as men, it's about making what women do just as important as what men do!

  3. I love her response! Her book "Pushed" changed my life forever. I actually recent wrote a post about how breastfeeding openly would change us as a society in my post "shape of a mother."

    Happy Earth Day!


  4. Perfection!

    Yes yes and yes.

  5. I absolutely LOVED Jennifer Block's response!! I had the honor of hearing Jennifer speak at the pacific northwest REACHE conference this past Friday. She is amazing and very sweet! We need more voices like hers.

  6. my friend sara has made a few similar posts in regards to hannah rosin.

    check out her blog.


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