It’s been a depressing series of decades for those who find deep and abiding satisfaction in bullying others. You can no longer shame people for being divorced or for having a child without being married. You can’t look down on people of different races, sexes or religions. You can’t shame people for being gay and at the rate things are going, it won’t be long before it will be frowned upon to shame people for being overweight.
But, in this world of ever decreasing shaming opportunities, there are still some tried and true options available. You can still shame another women for being a bad mother. In fact, not only are the old options available (“I can’t believe your 14 month old is not walking”; or “My Johnny is always picked first for sports teams”; not to mention the ever popular “I’m so sorry that your child is going to a state college and not the elite college my child is attending.”), there are some outstanding new options. These include shaming women about the births of their children, and shaming them if they did not meet an your preferred length of breastfeeding, or (heaven forfend!) never breastfed at all.
The new methods for bullying/shaming mothers are just as satisfying as the old ones, but they have one important advantage. With the old methods, it was regrettably clear that the only person benefiting from shaming was the person doing the shaming. With the new methods, you can actually pretend that you are shaming another mother, not merely for her benefit, not merely for her child’s benefit, but for the benefit of society. It’s a win-win: all the fun of bullying another mother plus a dollop of self-righteous concern for public health.
Another benefit of the new shaming methods is the opportunity for creativity. So many of the old methods were restricted by the need to tell the truth whereas lying is not merely permitted in the new methods, it is positively encouraged. There’s no need to stick to the actual risks of cesareans or pitocin when so many attractive lies exist: they cause autism, they destroy gut bacteria, they change the very genes of the baby! So not merely is another mother a total loser for having a C-section, she can be shamed for actively harming her baby.
The same creativity applies to the benefits of breastfeeding: it prevents every disease known to man; it cures every disease known to man; there is no problem that exists that cannot be solved by squirting breast milk at it! When a mother is unwary enough to acknowledge in your presence that she doesn’t breastfeed, you can accuse of harming her child, AND being a selfish slob who puts her convenience ahead of her child’s brain functioning. It’s hard to imagine more satisfying bullying then that.
But it isn’t enough merely to bully women one on one; bullying can be institutionalized. Baby Friendly Hospitals represent breast shaming on steroids. Locking up formula in hospitals is oh so painful for mothers and so satisfying for shamers. If only they could require prescriptions for formula, breast bullies’ lives would be complete. And best of all, they are doing the shaming for the public good!
That’s why any attempt to inject sanity into debates about childbirth or breastfeeding must be resisted vociferously. How dare any expert point out that C-sections are often better for babies than vaginal birth? How dare any expert claim that you can raise an intelligent child without breastfeeding? Isn’t any form of shaming sacred anymore?
Being a bully is fun! Being a birth or breast bully is better than fun; it is a public service. They may have taken away the shame of illegitimacy. They may have made gay jokes socially unacceptable. It’s only a matter of time before fat shaming is frowned upon. But when it comes to birth and breast bullying, the sky is still the limit!