I hung out today with an old friend and her new baby, whom she has chosen to nurse. A few blocks from my friend’s house, there is a billboard that shouts, “Babies were made to be breastfed.” I’d noticed it a few months ago, and it made my blood boil. It still does.
My friend moved to the US from the Middle East nine years ago. She is now married. Her husband is white. She says she had her first moment of judgement here, in the US, a few days ago.
RANDA: You’ve never felt moral judgement here?
FRIEND: No. You can sleep with anyone you want here. Do almost anything you want. As a woman. Come on, you know how everyone makes you their business back home.
RANDA: Yeah. I know.
FRIEND: I was sitting around the living room with [my mother-in-law, brother-in-law], and a few others. I said, “I’m only breastfeeding for three months.” Everybody was quiet. Dead silent. They were staring at me like I’d just said…
RANDA: That you wanted to fry up your baby’s head and eat it?
RANDA: Are you sure you weren’t projecting?
FRIEND: Wait! They each told me breastfeeding for a year was best for the baby. That babies who are breastfed turn out smarter– a good way to snag an academic!
FRIEND: But I told [my brother-in-law], “I’ve read way too much Foucault not to know about the nature of punishment and discipline.”
RANDA: You actually said that?
I slap her five.
FRIEND: Breastfeeding is a way to discipline women. Keep them tied to their babies and like, keep their bodies under control.
RANDA: Yeah. I only did it for four months.
FRIEND: I hate the way this state sponsors breastfeeding so agressively, it’s totally state-sponsored discipline.
RANDA: Are you talking about the billboard?
FRIEND: The billboard? Habibti?
FRIEND: There’s not just one.