Time's Breast-Feeding Cover Adds Fuel to the Mommy Wars
When I saw the cover of the May 21 issue of Time, my instant reaction was "Eeew. That's just not right."
An odd reaction, for someone who has gone on the record in support of so-called "extended" nursing.
To parse my knee-jerk reaction, I started by reading what Martin Schoeller, the photographer who shot the now-famous (or should I say ubiquitous) cover, had to say. Schoeller's inspiration, he says, came from images of the Madonna and Child—with one significant twist: "When you think of breast-feeding, you think of mothers holding their children, which was impossible with some of these older kids," Schoeller is quoted as saying. "I liked the idea of having the kids standing up to underline the point that this was an uncommon situation."
I scoff at that statement. I am fully capable of holding my (long-weaned) 7-year-old in my arms, Madonna-style. Further, since the biblical age of weaning is generally considered to be around age 3 (although this is disputed, with some scholars saying as young as 2 and other saying as old as 12) the Madonna almost definitely nursed the Child when he was walking and talking. Lastly, all it takes is a quick perusal of UNICEF's statistics on global breast-feeding to see that nursing a child who is capable of standing is far from "uncommon."
But to get back to my initial reaction: My response stemmed more from the intentionally provocative nature of the picture, than from the subject matter itself. The blond-haired, skinny-jeaned Jamie Lynne Grumet (who comes across as intelligent and well-spoken in interviews) poses with her top down, nursing her tall, camo-clad son, whose sneakers look as big as mine. It's provocative, to be sure. In the words of "Mr. Magazine" Samir Husni, as quoted in the Los Angeles Times, "This is an example of print well done. It's a stroke of genius." Husni suggested the tagline might as well have read, "Who Says Print Is Dead?"
And that's what, I finally decided, bothered me most about the cover. Time is throwing fuel on a fire that, in my opinion, shouldn't exist in the first place.
War sells copy. The Mommy Wars, the War on Women, the War on Terror, the War against Eastasia (or was it Eurasia?). The cover of Time is only the latest round it what feels like, as a seven-year veteran of the Mommy Wars, a very long and protracted fight. All it takes is one article on any side of any parenting subject going viral, and everyone marches to the frontlines again, armed with massively hyperlinked research supporting their side. I'm reminded of the scene in VeggieTales' Dave and the Giant Pickle when the Israelite army first sets eyes on the Philistines: "As was the custom in their day, the armies lined up and yelled at each other. 'Hey, Israelites! You are pigs! And soon we will put apples in your mouths and stick you in our toaster ovens!'" It doesn't take much imagination to envision the Mommy Wars as so many French Peas screaming at each other.