Dear Pink: Thank You for Breaking the (Breastfeeding) Mom Mold
September 27, 2012
On the September 14th episode of the U.K.'s "The Alan Carr Chatty Man Show", Pink -- the singer, and mom to15-month-old daughter Willow -- defended her right to breastfeed in public. In fact, she said she'll fight anyone who stands in her way. (Here, watch the clip: it's wildly entertaining thanks to its weird British host and Pink's awesome attitude.)
I'm fascinated by this clip, and proud of Pink for putting herself out there. Not your average flowey-haired, touchy-feeley crunchy mom, Pink dons a mohawk and stiletto heels, and isn't afraid to drop an F-bomb when she wants to. Clearly every bit the loving, caring, attentive mom, she's also no less the badass of her pre-mama persona for it. In fact, her badass side is a boon to her in her role as a mom; she's unapologetic in her choices, and she doesn't feel the need to explain them as part of a movement or a philosophy or membership in some new club. Instead, she owns them, and holds her own as a multi-faceted, mature adult who can make decisions, and be many things, simply by being herself.
Asked if she still breastfeeds Willow, who Carr noted is "getting old now," Pink responded, "I do." Then later, Carr asked: "Are you one of those militant breast feeder women, like in the middle of Starbucks, you get it out and are like 'yeah what you looking at?'"
And Pink responded: "I do, I do on purpose. I think breastfeeding is healthy and natural, and it's a comfort to my baby, so I can give a shit what somebody else thinks. The first time we went out to a restaurant, there was a guy who walked by, I had a cover on… and this guy walks by and was like 'Uughhh' -- he was just disgusted. I was like 'You didn't get enough hugs when you were little.' Carey said, 'You are starting fights in restaurants?,' and I said 'I will... I will fight, hold my baby.'"
Pink's anecdote is important because it echoes the experience of so many breastfeeding moms. While Beyonce's decision to breastfeed -- discreetly, nonchalantly, and without explanation -- in public was important because it normalized the act in our overwhelmingly breastfeeding-unfriendly culture, Pink's response to the nasty comment she received likewise puts 'militant' into perspective. She was also in a restaurant, attempting to breastfeed discreetly while minding her own business, when a passerby vocalized his disgust. I love her response to him: "You didn't get enough hugs as a child." (RIGHT? Who are these men who find breastfeeding repulsive ? So sad!) And when Carey Hart, her husband, asked "You're starting fights in restaurants?" -- this, by the way, is a scene I believe my own husband could probably relate to -- Pink decided that yes, she would indeed, literally fight to defend her right to breastfeed her child.
Her response is very 'her', and it's funny, but it also makes tangible a position many women find themselves in -- having to essentially fight (if not literally) for a very basic, and frankly logical, right: to feed one's baby, to still be a person in the world, eating in restaurants and living life instead of being constrained to one's home in the name of motherhood. Being a breastfeeding mom also requires, in our culture, women to cozy up to a 'not giving a shit' attitude toward others' reactions, which will undoubtedly run the gamut from thumbs-up-supportive to, as Pink experienced, disgust. (SO many people, women included, jump into debates around public breastfeeding with the basic contention that breastfeeding moms should 'be considerate' of other people's comfort levels, which sounds nice but isn't always realistic, given how uncomfortable some people are with perfectly reasonable levels of discretion.) I think it's safe to say not giving a shit doesn't come as easily to most new moms as it does to Pink; women, in particular, are raised with the mandate to be 'nice' and to make sure everyone feels everything's okay. But then we become moms, and it becomes obvious that if you want to breastfeed (or, actually, do a lot of things) and you want to leave your home, you're going to have to be as confident in your choices as Pink is in hers. If some people interpret that as militant, that's on them. Pink's going public with her own experience provides an example that other moms, naturally confident or not, can be encouraged by, and follow.
What's especially great about Pink's straight-forward responses and relaxed, easy smile, too, is that she's changing the public face of the confident, breastfeeding mom while very much claiming it as her own. Instead of adopting a new persona as a woman who's discarded her identity in the name of Natural Parenting to a T -- remember those moms profiled in the now-famous TIME mag article on William Sears and some of his more ardent followers? -- she acknowledges and has adapted to the huge changes motherhood brings about, but maintains her sense of self. (She jokes that she's scaled back her partying to between the hours of nine and ten pm, since her baby invariably wakes up at five in the morning... We've all been there, right?). And she's making some natural parenting decisions because they make sense to her. Despite being a big star, she's far more relatable, in my opinion, than the hardcore Attachment Parenting mom set, and certainly than most Hollywood moms. But because she's a star, she's showing moms the world over that they don't have to choose between extremes, adopt entirely new identities, or lose their identities altogether in order to parent well. She's broken the trend of formerly-wild celebs emerging 'reformed' as a result of motherhood, a la Nicole Richie, Snooki, etc.. Instead, Pink is proudly part of a young, informed, hip generation of moms who don't feel inclined to apologize for breastfeeding -- check out this gorgeous pic she Tweeted of herself nursing Willow -- and similarly don't bat a lash in discussing their nipple piercings. (Pink told Carr she had to remove hers to breastfeed because they were "like sprinklers"… I've been there, too, Pink! Here's to modern motherhood.)
What do you think? Is Pink breastfeeding's new superhero? Do you relate to what she said? Do you love her? I do.