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TIME magazine in breastfeeding uproar

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Aisha Farooq
WVoN co-editor

The latest cover of TIME magazine, showing mother Jamie Lynne Grumet breastfeeding her three- year-old son created much controversy over the weekend.

Shot by photographer Martin Schoeller and published online, the image and adjoining tag line, ‘Are You Mom Enough?’, provoked both positive and negative response from mothers and non-mothers alike.

The magazine’s featured article, ‘The Man Who Remade Motherhood‘, was written by TIME staff writer Katie Pickert.

In it, Pickert analysed the apparent successes of Dr William Sears concept of ‘attachment parenting’ which he set out in his 1992 publication, The Baby Book.

Popular among new mothers, the book offered women the freedom to play a more intuitive role in bringing up their children. This included co-sleeping, a sling transport and an extended breastfeeding age.

However, rather than encourage useful debate among mothers about what was best for their children, the obvious shock techniques of illustrating an intimate mother and older son may have caused more harm than good.

While some critics accused the image of being overly sexualised and disrespectful, some experts in women and healthcare also questioned the proposed intent of the cover.

Jackie Krasas, Director of the Women’s Studies Program at Lehigh University, Philadelphia, commented on TIME’s cover choice.

“The cover is obvious in its attempts to sensationalize and sexualize and is clearly capitalizing on the mommy wars (phenomenon),” she said.

“The cover seems to be pitting attachment-parenting moms against those who don’t or can’t subscribe to this particular brand of intensive motherhood. It’s unhelpful to women.”

Guardian writer Victoria Bekiempis pointed out that the image also highlighted how strong the discomfort was among women when issues surrounding maternity and motherhood were openly publicised.

“The cover,” she insisted, “feels inappropriate not just because of its shock value; instead, the imagery fosters the attitude that breastfeeding is freakish per se, and it then links this notion to society’s complicated, contradictory prescriptions about mothers’ sexuality.”

Social media sites, including Twitter exploded last week with thoughts and opinions on the subject:

“@Time, no! You missed the mark! You’re supposed to be making it easier for breastfeeding moms. Your cover is exploitive & extreme,” tweeted celebrity mother Alyssa Milano.

In stark contrast, actress Mayim Bialik advocated her support of 26-year-old Grumet.

“I was shocked how amazing her story was. And breastfeeding an adopted baby is incredible. And she gave an educated and eloquent set of responses. I would not have done a photo shoot myself but I respect her and think she is a smart woman”, she posted on Facebook.

Pickert has since defended the cover and article, insisting, “I think to say this is part of the mommy wars is a bit of an oversimplification.

“I think the cover line that we have – ‘Are You Mom Enough?’ – is provocative, but I think it’s a question, you know, every parent asks themselves: how they’re doing in terms of parenting their child. It sort of gets to a debate that kind of exists within every parent.”

In an interview on ABC’s Nightline, Grumet stood by her decision to pose for the cover.

“Out of all families, I really feel like somebody has to start the dialogue and I feel like our family is confident enough to be the ones to do it,” she said.

  1. vicki wharton says:

    I breastfed my daughter til she was six months old and that was enough for me … but if this woman wants to breastfeed beyond that and her son wants to breastfeed too – can’t see that it is anyone else’s business but theirs. It’s a natural thing that gives emotional comfort and support to the child amongst other things – when he doesn’t want this kind of support and nurture, he will not participate. The sexualised aspect is purely in the eyes of the beholder, but if that’s the main thing people see breasts for, then that’s what they will see in this picture in the same way that paedophiles see all sorts of sexual signals in children’s behaviour that would not be there for non paedophiles.

  2. If she’s still breastfeeding her child, why shouldn’t there be a picture of it? That photo is ‘sexual’ only if you can’t see past ‘ooh, boobies!’ to the fact that breasts have a purpose, an actual biological purpose. And if you can’t (and let’s face it, most people can’t), then that’s your problem, not hers.

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