Stop Calling My Baby A "Boob Man"
That's not funny. That's sexist.
At a play date in the park, a woman asked me if my son was still nursing. She wasn’t judging me or my son. She was just curious. She had a daughter the same age and was just making conversation. I didn’t mind. I told her “yes” and then explained how he hated the bottle. It was all normal mom chit chat, until the other mom smiled and said, “You know men and their boobs.”
I cringed and changed the subject.
This isn’t the first time someone has made a comment about my son and boobs and nursing. Usually when people find out that at 8 months he’s still nursing they like to smile and say, “He’s a boob man!” I’ve had cashiers at Target say it, old ladies at church, good friends, casual acquaintances and they all say this like it’s funny instead of maybe the creepiest thing I’ve ever heard in my life.
Calling babies “boob men” ascribes to them sexual preferences at a pre-sexual age. Add in the fact that the comment also takes nursing and converts it into a sexual act makes the comment more than a little gross. Our society has a weird relationship with breastfeeding. On one hand we laud breastfeeding and elevate the benefits. On the other hand, we demand that breastfeeding women cover up. Breastfeeding dolls are called “too sexual.” Talking about breastfeeding makes people uncomfortable because it falls in that valley that lies between what we as a society have decided is wholesome and what is sexual. But let me be clear. Nothing about breastfeeding is sexual. And if you are talking to me in the park, it’s creepy that you went there.
And if you think I’m over stating the case, think about the last time you’ve heard anyone make that comment about baby girls. Of course not. No one has ever said, “Oh, she’s a boob girl!” in reference to a baby girl nursing. Why would we? We don’t hyper-sexualize girls in that way (Of course we do, just not in reference to breastfeeding. “Diva” onesie anyone?).
Beyond the hetero-normative assumptions it makes about babies and the sexualizing of a non-sexual act, calling my baby a “boob man” is demeaning to my son. It hands him a world of assumptions about him and makes light of how society assumes he will objectify and treat a female body when he gets older. Assumptions that I, quite frankly, reject.
I know that the people who have called my baby a “boob man” aren’t really thinking about what they are saying. They are just saying something—a simple, off hand remark. I get that it’s supposed to be funny. I understand that it is one of those things you say when you don’t know what else to say. But I think this filler language is sadly evocative of the culture we are raising and breastfeeding our children in.
Let’s all agree to stop talking about boys and boobs like that.
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