I didn’t catch Bill Maher’s “comic” tirade against breastfeeding the first time around, but thank goodness for YouTube.
You know, you have to love guys who really don’t want to think of breasts as anything other than sexual body parts for their own ogling. And I appreciate that there are a million frat boy jokes to be made at the idea of “boobs being sucked on!”, but come on now.
While Maher falls back on some predictable quips (“They say it’s natural–so is masturbating, but I generally don’t do that at Applebees!”) it’s the jokes-that-aren’t-jokes that are truly insulting.
“Look there’s no principle at work here other than being too lazy to either plan ahead or cover up…t’s not fighting for a right, it’s fighting for the spotlight.”
I don’t have a kid, so I’ll defer to Kelly Mills at Babble:
There he totally hit the nail on the head, didn’t he? I mean, I had no desire to actually get out of the house or anything when I ate in restaurants; I just wanted a little attention. In fact, that’s why I chose to feed my baby with my exposed tits in the first place. I mean, yes, it’s recommended by every doctor ever and it’s good for the kid, but of course that was secondary to my desire to have total strangers jump in my face and say, “Good job on the procreation!” Why, I know that when I walked into restaurants people looked thrilled to see me and my infant, and I’d hoist her onto my shoulders, whip out my boobs, and say, “Gimme some sugar, folks!”
This totally reminds me of a post Amanda did a while back on a column giving advice to married women to not breastfeed in front of their husbands (lest they be turned off by lactating):
The erotic nature of a wifeâ€™s body is one of the principal elements of attraction in marriage. When a husband ceases to see his wife as a woman, and begins to see her as â€œthe mother of his children,â€? a negative trend has begun in his mind that can only subvert his erotic interest.
I have a feeling this is what’s at work with Maher and a lot of men who take issue with public breastfeeding. They resent that a woman’s public body–her exposed or partially exposed breast–could be there for someone other then them, for something other than sexual consumption. After all, if a woman is exposed in public it’s supposed to be because she’s flashing her tits for beads or taking money in a g-string–not for feeding babies. Because that’s unsexual, and therefore unacceptable.
UPDATE: By the way, we have a great piece from writer Sarah Thyre on this whole debacle after the jump. Check it out!
Donâ€™t Suck My Tits, Bill Maher; Just Ignore Them, Thank You
By Sarah Thyre
Iâ€™m a fan of Real Time with Bill Maher. To my knowledge, there arenâ€™t a lot of liberal-thinking, atheist talk show hosts on TV, so I stick with him. Friday night I watched the show and, as usual, enjoyed it. That is, up until Billâ€™s customary â€œNew Rulesâ€? ending rant. He went on an anti-breastfeeding screed, telling women they shouldnâ€™t be “too lazy to plan ahead” so they don’t have to breastfeed in public, that he’s not opposed to exposed tits in public as long as he’s paying for it, and tits and food â€œonly go together at Hooters.â€?
Well, it made me so mad I yelled this at the TV:
“FUCK YOU, YOU FUCKING CHILDLESS FUCKER!!!!”
Thereâ€™s a rather smarmy notion amongst the child-free: they think all us parents want them to pay attention to our children. No thank you, non-parents! Feel free to stop looking at me and my children! This attitude crosses party lines. That supposed bastion of liberalism, The New York Times, is one of the worst offenders: Bob Morris and Guy Trebay always writing about the tyranny of wailing infants on airplanes, etc. It all boils down to people being uncomfortable with neediness, and what’s more needy than a hungry baby? Well, guess what? That baby doesnâ€™t need YOU, it needs me. So mind your own fucking business while I feed my child, creeps.
What Maher said is like male politicians telling women they can’t have abortions. I was surprised, because Bill’s always saying America needs to be more European and get over its puritanical shit. Hey Bill: not being able to see a boob outside of a sexual context is so American. Not being able to ignore a boob is so puritanical.
In the interests of full disclosure, I should mention that last Spring during my book tour, I was pre-interviewed to be a guest on Real Time. The show’s segment producer called me and we chatted for at least a half hour. She was a really nice lady. We ended up talking about motherhood and children and she said, “Well, Bill really doesn’t care about any of this.” And I said, “Yeah, I know.” They didn’t book me on the show, perhaps because I didn’t have a surprise conservative stance on anything (the producer kept asking if I did). I was actually relieved. I pictured myself cramming, walled in by stacks of the Wall Street Journal, National Review, and The Economist. I couldnâ€™t pretend to be a policy wonk! Moreover, I didn’t want to be the dumb actor-type on the panel (you know who they are). I was happy to remain a viewer, to keep the show an enjoyable thing for myself. Sort the same reason I dropped out of a Mastersâ€™ program in Literary Theory: so I could stop deconstructing books, and simply read them.
I breastfed both of my babies when they were hungry, which could be every two hours, or every two minutes (so much for â€œplanning aheadâ€?). I did it in public, and neither of them was tolerant of a blanket over their head. Believe me, I tried covering up. I didnâ€™t think whipping out a bare boob was an act of
civil disobedience. I didnâ€™t enjoy people staring, or looking away red-faced, or muttering, or â€“ sorry, sensitive guys! â€“ being overly supportive. When my firstborn was three weeksâ€™ old, on the subway in New York, the man sitting next to us asked me, â€œTell me, are you breastfeeding him?â€? â€œYes,â€? I answered. The dude leaned in close and panted, â€œOh, how wonderful. Itâ€™s the best thing, you know.â€? I wasnâ€™t breastfeeding my son right that minute, and there was something unnerving about his interest. I immediately wondered if he was the same guy whoâ€™d been calling up women all over Manhattan, asking if they were pregnant. If they said yes, he then attempted to initiate phone sex. It was the first indicator that men were going to have something to say about yet another thing â€“ breastfeeding â€“ that really has nothing to do with them.
A few months later, on a transcontinental flight with my son in my lap, nursing off and on â€“ and not crying, by the way â€“ the flight attendant completely ignored me. We were in first class, where usually theyâ€™re tempting you with all sorts of amuse-bouches and aperitifs, practically force-feeding you a three-course meal, topping you off with cookies and an ice cream sundae. I wouldâ€™ve at least liked some
potable water, but in retrospect, perhaps I was lucky. Better to be ignored than be encouraged to dope my son with Benadryl, or have the flight attendant pulverizing some of his personal stash of Xanax and
sprinkling it on my nipples.
That flight brought me to Canada, where I lived for almost two months. I got spoiled there. The Canadian government protects a womanâ€™s right to breastfeed, and areas are provided in public places to do so. Imagine: Canadians, more enlightened than we? Hmmmmmmmâ€¦ gun control, anyone?
Like I said, Iâ€™m a fan. I watch Real Time religiously, if youâ€™ll pardon the expression. I know Bill abhors traditional marriage and thinks having kids is an exercise in egotism. But, craving a cultural voice that somewhat approximates my own, I still watch his show. Itâ€™s an uneasy alliance, sort of like relying on Ted Kennedy to lead the fight for womenâ€™s rights in the Senate.
I watch enough to know that Billâ€™s always railing against junk food and the obesity epidemic in this country. Would it change his mind about breastfeeding to know that itâ€™s a proven deterrent to obesity in both kids and adults? Them Canadians seemed pretty svelte to me.
Bill made a point of reminding mothers that making a baby isnâ€™t anything special, because itâ€™s â€œsomething a dog can do.â€? I watch enough Real Time to know Billâ€™s an animal rightsâ€™ activist, and on the board of PETA. Should animals stop nursing their young in public, too, lest their little canine and feline nips give the innocent beastiality practitioner an unwelcome stiffy?
I watch enough to know Bill enjoys himself a fine lady or two, or ten. What I think really gets Billâ€™s goat is the DE-sexualizing of the breast, for food purposes rather than titillation (I wonder if that word came from tit, or the other way around). Though he did equate breastfeeding with masturbatingâ€¦ Were that the case, I think youâ€™d see a lot more women doing it.
Though I suppose it can be to some, I donâ€™t think breastfeeding is particularly sexy. I accepted my husbandâ€™s saying so, even if I didnâ€™t believe him. Breastfeedingâ€™s a slavering, slurping, spraying thing. If I had my druthers, I wouldâ€™ve done it in only the most sumptuous and private surroundings, preferably modeled after the inside of Jeannieâ€™s bottle.
Iâ€™ve tolerated his snideness in the past, but this time, Bill stepped over the bottom line: breastfeeding sustains a baby, and a mother whoâ€™s nursing will stop at nothing to do it, nor should she. To suggest we do it for attention and praise is just astoundingly ignorant, and hints more at his own motives than ours.
Oh well. At least Iâ€™ve still got Howard Stern. Heâ€™s an atheist, supports gay rights, and is against the war in Iraq. Every once in a while, heâ€™ll invite a female guest to strip naked and ride the Sybian, a real-life Orgasmatron. Howardâ€™ll ogle her bouncing boobies, narrating for his radio audience the womanâ€™s
journey toward a climax so earth-shattering she can barely walk afterwards. He also happens to be an outspoken supporter of breastfeeding. Heâ€™s enlightened enough to know the difference.
Iâ€™m a fan.
Sarah Thyre is an actor and the author of Dark at the Roots: A Memoir. Her website is www.sarahthyre.com.