The photo of lactating military moms doesn’t normalize breastfeeding; it demeans the soldiers’ achievements

military breastfeeding

Lactivist are waxing rhapsodic about a photo of military moms breastfeeding.

The picture was conceived by photographer Tara Ruby, a former member of the Air Force who was on active duty between 1997 and 2001…

In a Facebook post displaying the picture, Ruby said her aim for the photo was to normalize breastfeeding in the military.

“To my knowledge a group photo to show support of active-duty military mommies nursing their little’s has never been done,” she said on Facebook.

How do breastfeeding stunts like these normalize breastfeeding? They don’t. They demean women and make it even harder than it already it to gain respect for their real achievements.

[pullquote align=”right” color=”#5d5a31″]Would a group photo of male soldiers whipping out penises and urinating in public normalize urination?[/pullquote]

For most of human existence, women’s worth was restricted to three body parts, breasts, uteri and vaginas. Their intellects, talents and character were ignored. Only men were deemed to have the intellectual capacity to make scientific discoveries, the talent to paint great art and the character to lead nations. It has only been in the past 100 years and only in privileged parts of the globe that women have been “allowed” to find intellectual and professional fulfillment.

Unfortunately, the dominant mothering ideology, natural parenting, encompassing natural childbirth, breastfeeding and attachment parenting, rests on reducing women once again to these same three body parts, breasts, uteri and vaginas. In the world of natural parenting, women are judged, and judge each other, by whether their children exited the uterus through the vagina, whether they feed their children at the breast, and whether they maintain constant physical proximity to those children. In other words, their intellects, talents and character are rendered invisible.

I am old enough to have experienced the undiluted sexism that pervaded medicine when I began my training. Women were routinely subjected to male surgeons who pressed their bodies against them during surgery, judged them by their appearance, and demeaned them as not being “real” doctors capable of the same achievements and talents as men. It was a constant struggle for female doctors in training to gain and maintain respect for their intelligence, surgical skills and ability to innovate.

The sexists among doctors would have liked nothing better than to reduce women doctors to a group photo of lactating breasts, so as to deprive them of the admiration and respect for their achievements that was their due.

No doubt it’s worse in the military where women are still limited in their ability to protect their country by serving in combat and are still subject to rampant sexism and sexual violence. They are forced to claw for the respect that is their due.

A photo of female soldiers that reduces them to lactating breasts undermines their ability to demand and gain respect for their military achievements. It’s the equivalent of a wet camo T-shirt contest that purports to normalize breasts. It no more normalizes breastfeeding than a group photo of male army soldiers whipping out penises and urinating in public normalizes urination.

The biggest problem that women face today is that they don’t receive the same pay, recognition and respect for the same work. In an age where women’s breasts are still groped in the workplace, the idea that this problem is somehow eclipsed by the “need” to normalize breastfeeding with a public display of lactating breasts is deeply sexist and retrograde. Many of us have spent far too long being judged by body parts to let women once again be judged by their breasts.

155 Responses to “The photo of lactating military moms doesn’t normalize breastfeeding; it demeans the soldiers’ achievements”

  1. BeckyLB
    September 20, 2015 at 5:18 am #

    As a former Soldier who was actually in charge of a breastfeeding lady troop, I almost feel qualified to cover this!

    It was really dirt simple, I just let her use my office any time she needed to do her thing. Got in touch with the CO, explained it quickly, and he authorized purchase of a minifridge so she could keep the milk cold,which also endeared this gal to the rest of the squad….having a fridge in your work area was just plain awesome, Texas heat is brutal, and having a cold gatorade is a joy not many civilians will understand.

    She never brought the kiddo to work (outside family days), because it’s pretty common sense, you don’t bring kids to a work area.

    It just seems like a whole lot of manufactured outrage from the lactivists regarding something we’ve been handling in the military for a long time.

    Ohh, and as for those uniforms, yeah. That’s breaking a few rules there. I don’t know what the Air Force regs are, but in the Army, you’re only permitted to wear the uniform when on-post, on-duty, or in transit to or from your duty post to home. The only exception is a brief stop to pick up essentials, gas up your vehicle, stuff like that.

  2. Jennifer Love
    September 18, 2015 at 5:21 pm #

    While I agree with the point that holding up breastfeeding mothers in this way is more than a little demeaning to all the non-breastfeeding parents out there, I disagree strongly that showing a group of breastfeeding soldiers somehow demeans THEM and reduces them to their body parts. There’s something inherently wrong with acting like men’s bodies are the standard and that women should just hush about the reality of menstruation, childbearing, and breastfeeding. Being open about the fact that women are both competent professionals AND have functional female bodies is an important part of promoting equality.

    • Hilary
      September 18, 2015 at 5:41 pm #

      Thank you! I agree 100%.

    • fiftyfifty1
      September 20, 2015 at 11:30 am #

      I’m looking forward to the photo of male troops with giant boners tenting up their uniforms!

      While I agree with the idea that holding up men with giant boners in this way is more than a little demeaning to all the non-giant-boner or no-boner-at-all men out there, I disagree strongly that showing a group of erect soldiers somehow demeans THEM and reduces them to their body parts. Being open about the fact that men are both competent professionals AND have functional male bodies is an important part of promoting equality.

      • Sarah
        September 20, 2015 at 12:43 pm #

        I suspect such photos would prove very popular…

        • fiftyfifty1
          September 20, 2015 at 12:56 pm #

          Popular indeed, but sadly it’ll never happen.

          We are so used to judging women on the use and function of their female parts, that it seems normal, even positive. But men don’t submit to being publicly assessed in this way.

  3. J.B.
    September 18, 2015 at 3:47 pm #

    I don’t really care about the image or the in uniform question, although I agree that the way it has been passed around really glorifies breastfeeding. I am uncomfortable with the language in the post because: I get that rampant misogyny used to be open, now it’s more undercover. That doesn’t mean it has gone away or that there are no consequences to being a wimmin who has a baby. I chose to pump and to work it into my schedule. I was somewhat conflicted but chose to do so. Fortunately noone batted an eye. Often though a lactating woman has her commitment questioned. And is grumbled about, sidelined, and maybe decides to wean. Would it really kill us as a society to accommodate that? And to give all employees flexibility for what they need as humans? Not just women, or parents, but human beings who have a life outside work and need a paycheck.

  4. Jenny_from_da_Bloc
    September 18, 2015 at 2:23 pm #

    Just another stunt to try and prove that these mothers are superior to mothers who can’t or are not able to breastfeed. To me, pictures like this are for shock value and demean the position of these women who most likely worked very hard to be in their current position and rank. These women are more than lactating mothers. They serve our country and whether or not they breastfeed means nothing and it will mean nothing tomorrow, yesterday and 20 years from now.

  5. ladyloki
    September 17, 2015 at 4:07 pm #

    OK…my husband is military and I’m former military. We are not allowed to endorse any position while in uniform, nor allowed to be out of uniform regs while being photographed. They have their blouses open and are endorsing breastfeeding. That is so out of regs I’m surprised they all aren’t on extra work detail currently.

    • ArmyChick
      September 17, 2015 at 6:34 pm #

      They’d cry persecution!

    • mythsayer
      September 17, 2015 at 6:41 pm #

      My husband is a Marine and I had the same thought when I read the original article on CNN. I was waiting for it to show up here.

    • Roadstergal
      September 17, 2015 at 6:46 pm #

      Are they even military women? The caption just says the campaign was the brainchild of a former military member.

      • ArmyChick
        September 17, 2015 at 7:52 pm #

        Then maybe they shouldn’t be wearing their uniforms. I don’t wear mine anymore….

        • Cobalt
          September 17, 2015 at 9:02 pm #

          I thought that was a rule? Basically, if you don’t have orders to wear it, you shouldn’t be wearing it?

    • Glittercrush
      September 17, 2015 at 8:05 pm #

      I was thinking the same thing. Part of me wants to see if there is a command to report this to.

    • Kelly
      September 18, 2015 at 12:24 pm #

      I heard they got in trouble for it.

  6. demodocus
    September 17, 2015 at 4:00 pm #

    Well, at least they aren’t half nude and looking at the camera with a come-hither expression.

  7. SarahSD
    September 17, 2015 at 3:43 pm #

    I don’t read the photo as reducing these women to lactating breasts or that it diminishes their achievements. I think it says they can and should be able to breastfeed and do their job, whenever circumstances allow it. Not that they have to, or that you have to, not that it’s better. Just that it is possible to do both, if you want to. I really don’t have a problem with the image itself. I can understand some of your critique in terms of the uptake and spread of the image, who is sharing it and to what ends. But I don’t think that the fact that lactivists, who glorify breastfeeding and are biological essentialists, are sharing this image negates the point it is trying to make, that women in the military should be able to breastfeed if they want to.

    • militarystrong
      September 17, 2015 at 3:49 pm #

      *sigh* Again, you are wrong. This is the MILITARY. This is not a job, this is you choosing to sign your life over the the US Government knowing that you will not get to live a normal life, then bitching that you don’t get to live a normal life. You want to be military and have kids, fine. But the second those kids get in the way of you being mission ready something has gone very wrong. If breastfeeding keeps you from being mission ready – and it does – you should not be allowed to do it. Don’t like that? Leave the military.

      You cannot put private sector and military in the same sentence. They are not the same thing. One is a job you can quit if you don’t like it. The other is a contract that you have to uphold or possibly end up in the brig.

      • SarahSD
        September 17, 2015 at 3:55 pm #

        I’m glad to have you reply since you obviously have inside insight into what it is like for women in the military, which I have no idea about. Do you think having kids, especially babies/small children, is compatible with military service? Doesn’t pregnancy also get in the way of being mission-ready?

        • militarystrong
          September 17, 2015 at 4:03 pm #

          And again, that’s why I waited to have kids until I was at my land billet. I have to do one underway, then one land billet. For me at that unit, my mission was making sure supplies were being ordered and delivered and suppliers were being paid. That was a job on a computer and one I could do while pregnant. If I was in a MOS that was only underway, we would have never had kids or I would have gotten out of the military first.

          But women decide that while on a boat, or about ready to deploy are great times to get pregnant (and thus to get out of going away). It’s ridiculous.

          • SarahSD
            September 17, 2015 at 4:13 pm #

            How long do these billets last? Would it not be reasonable to also plan to breastfeed during one of these times, or to extend it somewhat so that this would be possible, at least for a while? Presumably the women in the photo are not deployed somewhere far from their families, which is why I said “as circumstances allow”. I get that the military and the private sector are different, but is it unreasonable to push for any form of accommodation for reproduction and childrearing?

          • Roadstergal
            September 17, 2015 at 5:49 pm #

            “I get that the military and the private sector are different, but is it unreasonable to push for any form of accommodation for reproduction and childrearing?”

            That’s a funny thing. I think one of the issues is that the military has become such a big, standing institution. It’s not a volunteer service of able-bodied defenders for a particular war or defense. In that way, it _is_ more like a traditional ‘job,’ and it’s even a career, now… to an extent that I don’t necessarily think it should be. But that’s a discussion that’s getting awfully far afield from ‘look at us brave combat BFing women!’ meme.

          • SarahSD
            September 17, 2015 at 6:46 pm #

            I’m not sure it’s so far afield. At least in terms of my original comment, which was that I read the image itself to be saying that women in the military should be able to breastfeed if they want to, and that some of them do. Not that breastfeeding is the best/only/superior (though I think that is implied in the way the image is being shared). We seem to disagree about the interpretation of the image, but by my reading, it seems like it could – and maybe should – lead to these very discussions around accommodation for reproduction and childrearing, that, for the current way the military seems to be set up, could benefit parents in the military regardless of feeding method or biological sex.

            Edited to add – I re-read your comment and I think I see that you mean that the discussion of how much the military has become like a career and whether that’s okay or not is what is far afield. Sorry to be a sloppy reader.

          • Roadstergal
            September 17, 2015 at 7:13 pm #

            Where my brain is going is getting pretty far afield. The military is our biggest public works project, as it were, and I feel there should be non-military government-funded public service options for youth to get career skills – which is how the military was sold to us when I was in high school.

          • mythsayer
            September 17, 2015 at 6:52 pm #

            If it’s navy, usually 3 years each.

          • SarahSD
            September 17, 2015 at 6:57 pm #


          • Ellen Mary
            September 17, 2015 at 5:22 pm #

            Women don’t always *decide* to get pregnant. Please tell me the BC method with 100% efficacy. Spoiler? There isn’t one. Women of age for military service, especially enlisted are in their most fertile years AND are more often sexually assaulted than civilians. The idea that they *decide* to become pregnant & that pregnancy is 100% preventable is shockingly both inaccurate & sexist. Would you suggest that a military woman who finds herself pregnant be obligated to terminate to support the mission?

          • moto_librarian
            September 17, 2015 at 5:26 pm #

            No one is suggesting that a woman should be forced to terminate her pregnancy. You’re the one who constantly pushes your pro-life agenda on these discussions. It’s a bit rich to see you advocating for a woman’s bodily autonomy and rights.

          • Ellen Mary
            September 17, 2015 at 5:39 pm #

            You are wrong about me: I support a woman’s right to end her pregnancy, I don’t support PP’s right to euphemize the embryo/fetus out of existence. Like I support birth autonomy, I don’t support MANA’s right to weasel around HomeBirth/HBAC safety.

            Termination is the only currently available method to 100% guarantee no pregnancy in a soldier/worker. Condoms would go a long way, if combined with BC but no one is accusing male soldiers of compromising the mission when they don’t use them.

          • LibrarianSarah
            September 17, 2015 at 5:40 pm #

            That’s like saying you support a women’s right to formula feed but you don’t support Nestle’s right to make formula.

          • Ellen Mary
            September 17, 2015 at 5:46 pm #

            No it is like I am saying I support a woman’s right to FF but I don’t support Nestle claiming that formula cures colic or makes babies sleep through the night.

            You don’t actually have to support every formula company or every healthcar franchise to support FF or ABO. Thx for bringing up Nestle, like PP there is a dark history in their past.

          • LibrarianSarah
            September 17, 2015 at 5:53 pm #

            Without abortion providers there is no right to abortions. Just if there were no formula companies there is no right to formula feed.

            Your point of view is more “I don’t like Nestle so I think the government should force hospitals to lock up formula and make it as difficult as possible to formula feed as possible in order to encourage breastfeeding. But breastfeeding is my reproductive right!”

          • Ellen Mary
            September 17, 2015 at 6:08 pm #

            You don’t get to tell me my POV. I’ve never supported locked formula & I support many types of formula heartily. I don’t support advertising sample goodie bags for every mother. My POV is that the end does not justify the means. Not everything PP does is okay because they provide ABO (like the euphemisms & 1/2 truths like ‘we provide mammograms’), Nestle doesn’t get a free pass because they make formula. The idea that women ‘decide’ to get pregnant when a man has to not wear a condom for that to happen in blindingly sexist.

          • fiftyfifty1
            September 17, 2015 at 6:24 pm #

            “We provide mammograms” is neither a euphemism nor a 1/2 truth. It’s a fact. And a lot of my patients get their mammograms through PP.

          • Nick Sanders
            September 18, 2015 at 2:13 pm #

            Last I heard, abortions represent about 3% of the services provided by PP.

          • Roadstergal
            September 18, 2015 at 4:07 pm #

            And the rest of the 97% includes a lot of work that helps prevent them.

          • October 19, 2015 at 9:59 pm #

            And present. They have no business pumping millions of gallons of water from a drought stricken state and the CEO saying he’d pump more if he could. #BooNestle

          • Ellen Mary
            September 17, 2015 at 5:50 pm #

            PP is in fact suggesting that women, specifically, decide to get pregnant. But you can’t always make that decision, you can only decide whether or not to carry to term.

          • mythsayer
            September 17, 2015 at 6:50 pm #

            You really think that several women getting pregnant RIGHT BEFORE a deployment is accidental? Yeah…in the sense that they “accidentally” weren’t on top of their pills. Do MOST do this? No. But in a given year you’ll see a similar percentage in a command get pregnant…. And then you’ll get a rise in the overall annual percentage once the unit gets orders. 20% a year for 4 years…then suddenly it’s 25% on deployment year with most of those clustered in a few months immediately before training and leaving. I’m making the percentages up…but the analogy works. This happens. On purpose. Every year. And the true accidents exist, too.

          • fiftyfifty1
            September 17, 2015 at 5:55 pm #

            ” Please tell me the BC method with 100% efficacy.”

            There ain’t one. But there are some with 99+%, and that would go a long way toward lowering the rate of pregnancy of women in active duty.

            But the bigger issue, as militarystrong seems to be describing it, is that women in the military have no incentive to choose these highly effective LARC type methods. It sounds like the incentive is actually to get pregnant and breastfeed, from what she says.

          • mythsayer
            September 17, 2015 at 6:45 pm #

            There are still LOTS of women who do get pregnant on purpose right before a deployment. Very rarely birth control failures…. The “failure” rate doesn’t rise sharply before deployments coincidentally but they expect command to believe it does.

          • Kelly
            September 18, 2015 at 12:26 pm #

            I am sure it does not help the few women who honestly have a birth control failure at that time. Many women messing it up for the few.

          • Cartman36
            September 17, 2015 at 6:59 pm #

            You are missing the point of what militarystrong is saying. As a fellow veteran sailor I also know women personally that got pregnant at a certain time to avoid a deployment or to avoid having to meet weight standards. I don’t think its common but it certainly happens. Of course, lots of female sailors get pregnant without that being a reason. I left the military to avoid having to get underway (thats a deployment on a boat usually for an extended amount of time) after I had children.

          • fiftyfifty1
            September 17, 2015 at 7:08 pm #

            “You are missing the point of what militarystrong is saying. ”

            Oh, Mary Ellen didn’t actually miss the point, she never does. She raises strawman arguments on purpose when she realizes that her argument is precarious.

          • fiftyfifty1
            September 17, 2015 at 5:49 pm #

            If the military really wanted to they could make it mandatory for all personnel to do a certain amount of deployed time. If a woman or man was expecting a baby or had an infant under 1, this time could be delayed, but it would have to be made up later. It seems to me that this would immediately fix the supposed problem of women getting pregnant last minute “on purpose” to avoid deployment, while giving ALL personnel, whether male or female the flexibility to have more home time during those early high-needs months.

            But the military has apparently decided against this common sense solution. I wonder why? Maybe trouble getting enough people to sign on?

      • the wingless one
        September 17, 2015 at 5:29 pm #

        Thank you for your service and also the “reality check” of the difference between the military and the private sector. People seem to always forget that there is a HUGE difference between the two.

        • fiftyfifty1
          September 17, 2015 at 8:12 pm #

          Although we are getting very mixed messages here. I am hearing active and former military people and spouses saying it’s totally different and others saying get over it, it’s just a job.

          • Roadstergal
            September 18, 2015 at 4:06 pm #

            It doesn’t seem mixed to me? What I’m getting from the service members commenting is that the job itself is more demanding in certain ways than your average ‘job,’ and the servicemember and family are compensated accordingly – so the spouse of a service member gets some rather nice bennies, and in return, it behooves an ethical service member (although is not required) to make breeding and feeding decisions that take the service into account?

  8. Liz Leyden
    September 17, 2015 at 3:26 pm #

    The latest defense bill requires the Ary (not sue about other branches) to establish a breastfeeding policy for female soldiers, including breaks and private spaces for pumping.

  9. Liz Leyden
    September 17, 2015 at 2:37 pm #

    What struck me is the fact that the soldiers’ faces are hidden. It’s probably not intentional, and I know the military is all about unit cohesion, but it made me wonder.

  10. Beatrix S.L
    September 17, 2015 at 1:54 pm #

    Agreed 110% Dr Amy. I hated that photo.

  11. militarystrong
    September 17, 2015 at 1:39 pm #

    And it’s nonsense like this that gets me looked down on as a woman in the military. It’s why I can’t get certain assignments because I *might* not be able to focus on the task at hand because I’m thinking of babies.These women forgot that they signed away any chance at a normal private life at the door when they signed that contract. The one that says you have a spouse and kids, haha, say good-bye and get on a boat or plane and be away for a year.

    The military isn’t a career, it’s a commitment. Breastfeeding does not always work with that commitment. If you don’t understand that, get out. It’s easy for women to get discharged with a newborn. While I fully support breastfeeding, the fact is that you can raise an infant without it. The mission come first, not the family. If these women haven’t realized it by now they need to get out, because they don’t have their head on right.

    And before I get flamed – yes, I am married with two children. I had both children when I was four years at a paper-pushing billet that I knew I could work without special provisions made while pregnant. I was up doing light PT two weeks after birth and back at full capacity by three months. While I hate to leave my family behind, as long as I am active duty they will always be second in the eyes of the military. We’ve all learned to deal with that, because the steady paycheck, health insurance and getting paid to travel is worth it.

    And my greatest achievement is getting through boot camp. Seriously, giving birth was nothing like boot camp. Birth I was relatively sure I was going to live afterward. Boot camp…there were some days I was sure that I wasn’t going to make it.

    • amanda
      September 17, 2015 at 1:53 pm #

      This is quite a US-centric perspective and rather unfair to boot. That was your experience of birth – not all women are sure they are going to make it, and not all do. I can definitely walk at least a week after bootcamp. I couldn’t walk a week after birth.

      • militarystrong
        September 17, 2015 at 2:52 pm #

        Did I say that was everyone’s experience? No, I didn’t. Stop putting words in my mouth, OK? But the fact is that most women can give birth. Most women *can’t* make it through boot camp.

        • ArmyChick
          September 17, 2015 at 2:58 pm #


        • demodocus
          September 18, 2015 at 2:43 pm #

          They’d assume my husband was lost if he walked into the recruiters’ office. (He’s blind) I know I couldn’t, even if they overlooked the hearing impairment, the flat-feet, and the exercise induced asthma. Let’s just say I feared gym class for its injury potential like most kids feared the calculus exam.
          As a side note, this is why it irritates me when I hear someone say people ought to have served in the military before they could be elected, or even vote. Don’t folks with disabilities have enough problems without many of us getting legally disenfranchised, too? (That’s rhetorical, not aimed at you, militarystrong)

      • Liberty
        September 17, 2015 at 8:37 pm #

        Hmmm, are we talking about the US military?? But you don’t understand why it’s a US-Centric discussion?

    • Amy Tuteur, MD
      September 17, 2015 at 2:55 pm #


    • Ellen Mary
      September 17, 2015 at 3:18 pm #

      The ‘commitment’ has historically been & is still propped up by military spouses doing invisible labor on the Homefront.

      • mythsayer
        September 17, 2015 at 6:58 pm #

        Are you or have you ever been a military spouse?

        The whole spouse commitment thing… I think it’s a joke. It’s no different than supporting a police or firefighter spouse or really even one who simply has, you know, a job. We knew what we were getting into and I’m sick of military spouses pretending they have this hard job. What I do doesn’t really “help” my husband in his JOB. His job puts pressure on ME but my accepting that pressure doesn’t benefit his actual job… The whole military spouses have the hardest job…ugh…I hate it.

        • ArmyChick
          September 17, 2015 at 7:57 pm #

          THANK YOU!!!!!! I am so sick of military spouses nailing themselves to a cross. I served in the Army while married to a Marine! I got out and he stayed in. It was no big deal. It is a job. They get BAH, “free” healthcare, get to shop at the PX and the Commissary, have access to MWR, “free” fitness center, you name it. I wish my job would pay for my housing! But no. Let’s pretend life in the Military is oh so hard! Especially when you have benefits that people in the private sector can only dream of.

          I have absolutely no sympathy for Military wives. Especially the ones who think they have the hardest job in the world and want everyone to feel sorry for them. Neither do my friends who also served. As a matter of fact, the majority of them get under my skin.

          • fiftyfifty1
            September 17, 2015 at 8:25 pm #

            “I have absolutely no sympathy for Military wives. ”

            Really? Even the ones who get yanked up from location to location, or the ones who have spouses deployed in dangerous situations while they struggle to care for kids alone (often far from their own families or maybe with special needs kids)? Or those who have spouses come home with war injuries, physical or mental? Sounds tough to me….

          • ArmyChick
            September 17, 2015 at 9:10 pm #

            Because they know what they’re getting into. Military life is not a secret. Everyone knows about PCSing, deployments. They know what they’re signing up for. It’s not a big surprise.

          • Cobalt
            September 17, 2015 at 9:13 pm #

            I think this is yet another area where experiences and challenges cover far too broad a range to make blanket assumptions.

            Life is full of surprises, and even things you plan for can be very much not what you expected. There are false martyrs, certainly, but honest ones, too.

          • ArmyChick
            September 17, 2015 at 9:17 pm #

            If one cannot handle the Military lifestyle, don’t marry into it. Period. Nobody is holding a gun to their heads. Or wait until the other person ETS to get hitched. But of course people won’t do that. They want the benefits. They want “free” housing. They want the cushy life. That is an incentive to get married to a service member. It’s just how it is.

          • Cobalt
            September 17, 2015 at 9:24 pm #

            It’s not so simple off paper. Sometimes the reason you’re going in, or back in, is because you already have a family to support and its your best chance of keeping them all fed. Sometimes the baby IS the surprise. Life’s messy, and only gets messier when your spouse gets redeployed or extended after already fulfilling the expected commitment, or the promise of a good job once you’re out falls flat.

            Some people abuse the benefits or cash in on the martyrdom. Some people really are struggling when they planned not to.

          • J.B.
            September 18, 2015 at 3:22 pm #

            This is really close to victim blaming. Two people get married, having no idea what married life is like. Not all marriages make it. Some have extra stressors. That doesn’t mean you can comprehend or prepare for everything before getting married. In an extreme case what if a spouse suffered ptsd and became abusive?

          • fiftyfifty1
            September 17, 2015 at 9:25 pm #

            So I’m hearing 2 very different messages from you. One that says you have no sympathy for complaints because they knew what they were getting into when they married someone in the military. Your contradictory message is that military life is actually “no big deal” just a “job” like many others and has cushy benefits that “people in the private sector can only dream of”.

            I’m hearing similar contradictory messages from other military posters: That military and civilian life can absolutely NOT be compared, that the military is signing your life away. But others that say it’s no big deal and maybe even easy street compared to civilian life.

            So which is it?

          • Mel
            September 17, 2015 at 9:51 pm #

            I don’t know that you can fully forsee what military life is like, especially if you didn’t grow up in a military family or community.

            I married into a farm family and honestly thought I knew what I getting into. I didn’t.

        • fiftyfifty1
          September 17, 2015 at 8:21 pm #

          “What I do doesn’t really “help” my husband in his JOB. His job puts pressure on ME but my accepting that pressure doesn’t benefit his actual job”

          I understand that you don’t want to make yourself out to be a martyr. But doesn’t “accepting that pressure” actually benefit him and his job? I mean what if you decided to divorce him and then insisted that he take the kids 50/50? Could he still do his job? Sure, maybe when he is on certain less demanding assignments, but when deployed?

      • Cobalt
        September 17, 2015 at 9:08 pm #

        Or you don’t get married until you’re out of the service. You can live alone just fine on base.

        Many do get married though, because the pay and benefits increases with a spouse and again with kids, especially as you go up in rank.

        • ArmyChick
          September 17, 2015 at 9:12 pm #

          Of course. A guy I served with got married so he could live off post and collect BAH. His “wife” lived in WA, he was in Colorado. They only married for the money. He told me she just wanted Tricare and that he paid her car insurance. That’s why they agreed on getting married. It’s sickening.

          • Cobalt
            September 17, 2015 at 9:15 pm #

            He should have gone for someone in a higher allowance area, like New York City. That was $4k a month, last I heard.

          • ArmyChick
            September 17, 2015 at 9:19 pm #

            Apparently they went to high school together. So that’s how it started. He got BAH for Colorado though, not WA. When I got out I moved to CO and my husband stayed in California. The BAH was for his duty station. Over $1600 if I remember correctly.

          • RMY
            September 18, 2015 at 11:55 am #

            That’s not uncommon. During my undergrads I had a classmate who was looking for a wife just for that reason.

          • demodocus
            September 18, 2015 at 2:11 pm #

            My sister and her husband stay married so she can have his benefits and so the state will help more with their little guy. ‘Course, with Stage III ovarian cancer, even his CO doesn’t object. They’re basically flatmates at this point.

    • Joy
      September 17, 2015 at 5:52 pm #

      I was given an ELS due to injuries from firefighting. I still debate which was worse. My five days in the post labour ward on the NHS, or my time in the 319th waiting to go home.

    • Who?
      September 17, 2015 at 6:50 pm #

      Thanks for saying all this. It drives me crazy that women are ‘tarred with the same brush’ so easily.

      One young man does something irresponsible, everyone shakes their head and notes that boys will be boys. One young woman does something irresponsible, and everyone shakes their heads and says ‘well that’s why women are a bad choice for this role: we knew it!’.

    • Liberty
      September 17, 2015 at 8:35 pm #

      Thank you for your service!! And for your clear thinking and advocacy of personal responsibility and commitment.

  12. AirPlant
    September 17, 2015 at 1:27 pm #

    For some reason I was under the impression that the military was actively unfriendly towards nursing mothers. Like I had heard that pumping was not allowed, nursing was discouraged for active duty women, and weaning was even enforced on occasion if the commanding officer did not approve. I am not sure where I had gotten that idea but I had interpreted the photo as a statement that mothers in the military were still mothers and mothers who want to breastfeed should be allowed to.
    WIth that interpretation I found the photo to be a good thing, like a statement that nursing military mothers were a thing and they had the right to humane conditions for themselves and their chidren. If what people are saying is true though, and active duty mothers have the same accomodations that other working mothers have then the photo is kind of pointless. If they are being treated with humanity and dignity and their choices are being respected what is the big deal about how these particular women choose to feed their babies?

    • militarystrong
      September 17, 2015 at 1:43 pm #

      Per all the units I have been at, they get special provisions. I had to be back to my proper weight by six months PP since I was formula feeding. Breastfeeding women get a year (and here I thought breastfeeding meant one LOST weight). They also get cushier assignments, get to come in later and go home earlier, off any duty rosters and continue to get the same pay for doing less while the rest of us have to pick up the slack which means I can’t go home to MY kids.

      • militarystrong
        September 17, 2015 at 2:55 pm #

        Oh yeah, who else got screwed? The guys who couldn’t go home to help their wives take care of their own newborns. A guy I worked with, his wife had complications during birth and his newborn was in the NICU, but he had to come to work because of three breastfeeding women(with full-term, healthy babies not teetering between life and death) who were getting out of work. We did everything we could to get him to the hospital, even if it meant 16 hour days for us.

        And yes, his son lived. He’s now a three year old that most Olympians can’t keep up with, but it was touch and go for two months.

        • fiftyfifty1
          September 17, 2015 at 3:34 pm #

          “Oh yeah, who else got screwed? ”

          That’s an important question to ask. Who gets screwed in the workplace when we humans reproduce? There are are lot of coworkers who can potentially get screwed when a baby is being gestated or a young child cared for.

          On the other hand, this question too often becomes a finger pointing “which woman is to blame”. The question pits mothers against each other and makes all of us seem “less than”.

          Think about it, somehow it’s never the dad who is to blame when a baby is born, even though the baby is half his “fault” and should be half his responsibility. No, when extra work gets put onto coworkers, it’s always the mother who is seen as responsible.

          Really, the blame should fall on the employer (including the military) for failing to plan. The fact is that our society has changed. We are no longer in the 1950s where a man was an “ideal worker” who had a stay-at-home wife and no home duties. Now women work too, and men are expected more and more to do household and childcare work. If an employer hires workers expecting them all to have stay-at-home spouses, that employer is delusional. It’s not the fault of other women when a work group (whether it’s a military unit or a hospital residency program) is short staffed because of maternity leaves or other reproductive accommodations. It’s the fault of the employer for bad planning.

          Employees (both men and women) have babies. That’s a fact employers. Plan for it!

          • GuestWho
            September 17, 2015 at 4:41 pm #

            You said it better than I can. Women are treated like maternity leave and pumping breaks are completely unneeded, completely our fault, and completely insumountable. I had a coworker applying for maternity leave concurrent with my male coworker having an accident that required 6 weeks FMLA to recover from. He called in two hours after his start time and was out for six weeks. He got the time fully paid with no questions. She gave six months notice, wrapped her projects up with a bow and was in constant contact for the entirity of her leave and she was scolded, pressured to come back at two weeks, and fully unpaid. As a country we need to get our heads together because this is just bullshit.

          • Ellen Mary
            September 17, 2015 at 5:26 pm #

            Yasssss! The 1950s career man was an optical illusion that was actually a package deal with an invisible laborer at home. Women can’t live up to it because neither can men! It was never real. It is like the Southern Gentleman farmer: wholly dependent on the subjugation of another’s labor.

          • fiftyfifty1
            September 17, 2015 at 6:37 pm #

            No, it’s different than slavery. Plantation owners used slaves to do their farm work in place of doing it themselves, then took credit for it. The 1950’s man didn’t expect his wife to do his employment duties, he just expected her to take care of his share of home and reproductive duties so that he could concentrate all his efforts onto employment duties. That’s an important distinction.

          • Who?
            September 17, 2015 at 6:41 pm #

            And it still goes on-the ‘middle class contract’ calls for the lower paid partner to stay home and care for the kids, house etc while the other climbs the career slope.

            Each acknowledges the other’s effort, respects the work they do to contribute to a nice life for everyone, and reaps the rewards.

            In the current times, there are very few couples who can achieve this due to high housing costs, but it does go on and for those who like it seems quite successful.

          • Angharad
            September 17, 2015 at 6:27 pm #

            Yes!! My work has a big staffing problem. When anyone takes vacation days, the rest of the team gets screwed. That’s not the fault of the employees for taking their vacation days. It’s the fault of management for not staffing the department at an appropriate level so people can be reasonably accommodated as human beings as well as employees. Similarly, it’s not the fault of the mothers who want to breastfeed that their coworkers end up with too much to do.

          • Liberty
            September 17, 2015 at 8:40 pm #

            It’s a parent’s responsibility to plan for children, not anyone else’s. I’m tired of seeing people demand others provide extra money/time/flexibility for people who decide to have kids. You’re responsible for making sure it works for your family and you still have to fulfill your job, which you agreed to do. The rest of us should not have to do more work because you want to leave early.

          • fiftyfifty1
            September 17, 2015 at 9:39 pm #

            “I’m tired of seeing people demand others provide extra money/time/flexibility for people who decide to have kids. ”

            Your argument would be a reasonable one if you substituted “dogs” for the word kids. But raising a child is not like raising a poodle. Pets benefit only the owners, while children are citizens who eventually benefit the entire society if raised right. When societies adopt a policy of “not my kid, not my responsibility” and leave all the burden of child rearing on the parents, they end up with low birthrates that can badly damage their societies.

            Children are a resource not a hobby.The children that we are dressing and feeding and bathing today, will be the workers that dress and feed and bathe YOU when you are old.

          • Megan
            September 18, 2015 at 7:44 am #

            Thank you for this! I get so tired of that argument. Just who do people think are going to pay for their social security and Medicare?

          • The Bofa on the Sofa
            September 18, 2015 at 2:37 pm #

            It used to take a village to raise a child. Now, apparently, you can’t be bothered to assist.

      • David
        September 17, 2015 at 10:16 pm #

        Per AR 40_
        -501 pp soldiers get 6 months to be back to regulation weight regardless of feeding method. If your unit is doing this to you but not others you should file an IG complaint.

  13. Stephanie
    September 17, 2015 at 1:24 pm #

    I feel bad for the fact that those women felt they had to ‘prove’ their motherhood. I can only imagine what it would take to be put in that situation. I imagine a number of women in the military feel they need to set their femininity aside to fit into the boys club. Add to that the significant risk of sexual assault, and the reality that they might have to leave their families for weeks, months and potentially more to do their jobs.
    Then they have the attachment, NCB, antivaxx parents yelling across the internet as loudly as they can that the only true mother will be with her child 24/7, cloth diaper, extended breastfeed and give birth vaginally without pain meds.
    I can understand how they would want to show people they can be both a mom (by the definitions set out by those above) and a soldier. It makes me sad that the mommy wars are so strong that these brave women feel the need to prove their motherhood to others.

    • militarystrong
      September 17, 2015 at 1:46 pm #

      No, this was a publicity stunt. The reason most military women breastfeed is because it gets them the cushy work. This was nothing but trying to continue the gravy train. I had a lot of military women ask me why I wasn’t going to breastfeed, I reminded them because I joined up to defend this country, not mooch off of it.

      • ArmyChick
        September 17, 2015 at 2:56 pm #

        Exactly. Reminds me of the women who get pregnant to get out of deploying.

        • militarystrong
          September 17, 2015 at 3:51 pm #

          Or to not go afloat in my service. And…why did you join the military in the first place you waste of taxpayer dollars? The good women in the service I know wait until they are at billets that would be conducive with pregnancy before trying, or they had their birth control fail.

        • mythsayer
          September 17, 2015 at 7:02 pm #

          EllenMary doesn’t think it happens…. She is sooooo wrong.

  14. Ellen Mary
    September 17, 2015 at 1:20 pm #

    You are so off base here. Really it reaches a crescendo when it gets to penises & urination but before that wet camo contest is pretty bad.

    In the last era women were told they had to choose: motherhood OR professional achievement & we could only have professional achievement if we gave up most everything else, even if we wanted it. But we want both & we can MF have both. I didn’t get both but I have nothing but respect for active duty mothers *shattering* that false dichotomy & nothing but revulsion for the attempt to resurrect it. Don’t make us give up lactation or maternity leave to succeed professionally. If we want it & it can be reasonably accommodated, we deserve a that opportunity.

    I came here looking for a post obliterating MANA’s publication today & instead I get an attempt to drag us back to the 1980s. Motherhood is an achievement, BF is real work.

    • kathlynsmommy
      September 17, 2015 at 1:24 pm #

      well said.

      • Ellen Mary
        September 17, 2015 at 1:29 pm #

        I am actually willing to leave the 2000s: they should have included FF mothers, pumping mothers, involved fathers, transpeople, etc. However, BF is especially difficult when your career involves travel, delpoyment, or long, unpredictable hours & making it work despite that is pretty incredible. Someday maybe we will be able to stop formula shaming *without* diminishing BF associated labor.

        • Cobalt
          September 17, 2015 at 1:35 pm #

          If breastfeeding is especially difficult in their particular situation, why are mothers driven to do it?

          If there are safe, effective, accessible options that better meet the family’s needs, why are they being refused in favor of the choice that creates more hardships?

          If the actual benefits are well below the real costs, and better cost/benefit options are readily available, why do women feel the pressure to go with the more expensive choice?

          • Ellen Mary
            September 17, 2015 at 3:29 pm #

            It doesn’t matter if it is truly THEIR choice if it fails your economic analysis. It is their body, also the AAP currently favors it, so right or wrong, these mothers are caring for their babies in a way the experts recommend. Why should they be shamed for that? Formula will never go back to being semi-obligatory. Aren’t y’all advocating for true feeding choice? We were no more liberated when we were encouraged to FF & shamed for BF.

          • moto_librarian
            September 17, 2015 at 5:25 pm #

            I find it so very amusing to hear you of all people making the argument that since it is a woman’s body, it is her choice.

          • Ellen Mary
            September 17, 2015 at 5:42 pm #

            I find it just as amusing that you drop that rhetoric as soon as BF comes up.

          • moto_librarian
            September 17, 2015 at 6:32 pm #

            I support a woman’s right to breastfeed. I don’t support non evidence-based campaigns that do nothing to remedy the obstacles faced by women in the real world.

          • Cobalt
            September 17, 2015 at 6:18 pm #

            Are you really saying that women are freely choosing a method that does a poorer job of meeting their needs when better options are readily available? You are denying the artificially inflated costs incurred by making the “wrong” choice?

            And I’m using “cost” and “expensive” as total resource, not just financial terms. Money is not the only resource used or sacrificed, there is also time, physical effort, and mental and emotional stress, for each member of the family and as a whole.

        • Cobalt
          September 17, 2015 at 1:50 pm #

          “Someday maybe we will be able to stop formula shaming *without* diminishing BF associated labor.”

          We can do this today, by stopping the exceptionalization of any particular kind of child rearing labor.

          Raising children comes with inherent challenges. They must be kept fed, warm, clean and dry, educated academically, emotionally, socially, and culturally, given protection and freedom, always loved unconditionally and sometimes survived stoically.

          It’s a lot of work and over a long time. There will be millions of choices to make and hours of labor to put in. Hours spent breastfeeding are not more special than hours spent formula feeding, or helping with homework, or changing diapers, or providing lunches, or taking walks in the park.

          • Ellen Mary
            September 17, 2015 at 3:26 pm #

            And no one would be scandalized by a photo of any of the above. You know part of why people are scandalized is sexual prudish hypocrisy & that deserves to be demolished.

          • Roadstergal
            September 17, 2015 at 3:40 pm #

            You’re confusing ‘irritated and frustrated’ with ‘scandalized.’ They’re prioritizing a certain method of parenting over another. That’s not scandalous, it’s simply not right.

          • GuestWho
            September 17, 2015 at 3:51 pm #

            I would like particular celebration of the hours that I spent walking on a sprained ankle in order to bring my kids to the zoo. I mean, it hurt like hell, required an unforeseen amount of emotional fortitude and was all inteded for the betterment of my sweet offspring, I think I should get at least a little bit of internet props, right?

    • Cobalt
      September 17, 2015 at 1:31 pm #

      “Motherhood is an achievement, BF is real work.”

      There is so much wrong with this I don’t know where to start.

      Motherhood is a relationship that is usually (but certainly not necessarily) biologically sourced and comes with responsibilities and logistical challenges and emotional and tax status rewards. It is no more an “achievement” than ovulation or grocery shopping.

      It is a relationship, not a contest or a prize to be won.

      Breastfeeding is no more “real work” than giving a child a bath, running the washing machine, or driving a child to school on time. It is a way of meeting the needs of a child you are responsible for caring for, but it does not have any special status over formula feeding, teach the child to shower, running to the cleaners, or using the school bus.

      It is a method, not a job.

      • Ellen Mary
        September 17, 2015 at 3:24 pm #

        You know you are putting it below formula feeding. Breastfeeding is actually a reproductive right, just as much, 100% as much as not breastfeeding is. And all mothering activities are 100% real actual work & real actual achievements: they are done or they are outsourced, but labor input is required in each case (and executive labor in terms of decision making, caregiver choosing, etc.)

        • militarystrong
          September 17, 2015 at 3:44 pm #

          You don’t have reproductive rights in the military. You do know that they used to discharge women the second they found out they were pregnant, right?

          • fiftyfifty1
            September 17, 2015 at 3:54 pm #

            Did they also discharge the men who impregnated them?

            If not, I wonder why not.

          • militarystrong
            September 17, 2015 at 3:59 pm #

            Because pregnant women are not available for worldwide deployment. That’s why they discharge people who end up disabled while serving as well. When you’re pregnant, you’re no good except as a paperpusher.

            Stop making this into a sexist issue when it is not. It is simply fact that pregnant women and women breastfeeding cannot be sent overseas into combat zones, cannot go underway, cannot fly and pretty much can’t do the job they signed up for.

          • fiftyfifty1
            September 17, 2015 at 4:30 pm #

            “It is simply fact that pregnant women and women breastfeeding cannot be sent overseas into combat zones, cannot go underway, cannot fly and pretty much can’t do the job they signed up for”

            Well, that’s not strictly true. Pregnant women in their first and even second trimesters have won Olympic medals. Women have even run marathons at 9 months pregnant. I was a medical resident during my pregnancy and worked 80 hour weeks and I can assure you I did all sorts of things besides “push papers” (although the fact remains that soldiers can’t fight if the right papers aren’t pushed, no? So why look down on non-combat roles?). And there is certainly nothing medical that prevents breastfeeding moms from up and leaving for the front lines tomorrow. Give ’em a progesterone shot and a supportive bra.

            No, the barrier for pregnant and breastfeeding moms to be sent into action is a management decision based on societal objections. I guess military leadership has decided that having women in the military is worth making accommodations, accommodations for what is fundamentally societal squeamishness. It is possible to imagine a society that was equally squeamish about sending an expecting or new father into combat. But in our society we still see mothers as being responsible for children in a way that we don’t for fathers.

            The problem, as I see it, is not that accommodations are made. The problem is that those accommodations are being unfairly prioritized for breastfeeding families over formula feeding ones. And for moms over dads. This sets up soldiers to do a lot of finger pointing and blaming of women. It pits women against each other and makes us all look bad.

            I think we need to fundamentally change how we look at reproduction. Reproduction is a basic human function. It should not be seen as a woman’s “fault” and a stain on her reputation as a soldier if it is not viewed equally so for the man doing the impregnating. It takes 2 to tango.

          • Cobalt
            September 17, 2015 at 9:31 pm #

            Some women can compete athletically at the highest levels when pregnant, but that’s not a fair standard to hold women to. Compelling a woman to put her fetus is harm’s way is not a quandary the government wants to be in. And “harm’s way” has a very individual definition: “safe” could be anywhere from bed rest to the Olympics, and there are no guarantees.

            Better to have a simple rule that can protect them all, and avoid all the lawsuits.

          • fiftyfifty1
            September 17, 2015 at 10:03 pm #

            Oh I agree completely.

            I was responding to militarystrong who was claiming that women who reproduced while in the military “can’t do the job they signed up for”, could do nothing more than “paper pushing” and should be compared to disabled people who are discharged, but that none of this was a “sexist issue”.

            The reality is that pregnant and lactating women are not necessarily disabled, but that the military has *intentionally* created the rules that say that pregnant women don’t have to deploy. Because it’s a complicated issue that takes into account both biology and societal values.

            Militarystrong may not be happy about it, but women who join the military and then get pregnant or breastfeed are not breaking any rules at all. They are 100% doing the “job they signed up for”. It was written into the rules when they signed up.

          • SarahSD
            September 17, 2015 at 9:57 pm #


          • Ellen Mary
            September 17, 2015 at 4:52 pm #

            Women in the military do have reproductive rights, even if the military won’t admit it: they are inalienable.

          • fiftyfifty1
            September 17, 2015 at 4:58 pm #

            Nothing is inalienable. “Rights” are just what we as a society have agreed to grant for now. As militarystrong said, they used to discharge women for getting pregnant. Now they don’t. Maybe they will again in the future.

            They’ve never discharged men for reproducing that I know of. Doesn’t mean they couldn’t.

          • Roadstergal
            September 17, 2015 at 5:27 pm #

            They have the right to reproduce, but they don’t necessarily have the right to stay in the army while doing it.

        • Cobalt
          September 17, 2015 at 6:27 pm #

          I’m not putting any method on any pedestal. Why you think that means breastfeeding is being treated unfairly says a lot about you prioritizing a particular method over whether or not it actually gets the job done or what it costs for it to do so.

          The labor of child care is not a career in the same way that the labor of self care is not a career. It’s your duty to see it done by whatever method you choose.

    • Roadstergal
      September 17, 2015 at 1:39 pm #

      This picture is so massively exclusionary, I don’t even know where to start with it. BF mothers are a special class, more worthy of celebration than FF moms, actively parenting dads, adoptive parents, etc. They’re special, and the rules don’t apply to them.

      Do FF moms, pumping moms, actively parenting dads, and adoptive parents in the military not face hardship and exclusion? Are they not worthy of promotion and celebration? Or is this all about ‘there’s no excuse for not BF – look at these women, you lazy excuse for a mother?’

      • militarystrong
        September 17, 2015 at 3:43 pm #

        Nope, I got squat as a formula feeding mom. No time off to go home and feed my children, even though they were a five minute walk from where I worked. But the breastfeeding moms could go to the CDC which was a 15 minute *drive*.

        • Ellen Mary
          September 17, 2015 at 5:34 pm #

          You should have had the exact same accommodations, I am sorry you didn’t. 🙁

    • militarystrong
      September 17, 2015 at 1:49 pm #

      You are the one off base here. When one joins the military – male or female – you are signing away a normal life. The saying goes that if the military wanted you to have a family, they would have put one in your seabag. It’s not just women not being able to breastfeed, it’s men missing their child’s first Christmas and birthday as well. If these women can’t seem to figure this out, they need to ask to be discharged, because they are not military ready.

      • Ellen Mary
        September 17, 2015 at 3:20 pm #

        Military men traditionally have families *because* of massive amounts of invisible female labor. We wouldn’t have this discussion of women had access to an invisible, unpaid support system.

        • militarystrong
          September 17, 2015 at 3:41 pm #

          You obviously know NOTHING about military families. The male civilian spouses work just as hard as the female ones. My husband has his buddies who are also male spouses that they discuss childrearing and doctors appointments. He cleans the house, tends the children, cooks dinner and makes sure the bills get paid. When I’m gone for a year, who do you think does that? Fairies?

          • Ellen Mary
            September 17, 2015 at 4:51 pm #

            I did not specify the gender of the spouse. It is still invisible, unpaid labor that creates the illusion of the military member not ‘needing’ a family life. It would not be reasonable to ask that all military members give up all vestiges of family life, that is why they don’t actually, they just rely on a non-enlisted spouse to handle those aspects quite often.

          • militarystrong
            September 17, 2015 at 5:01 pm #

            You really don’t understand the military at all. If they could make it so only single people with no children could be in the military, they would. But they’d not have enough people to be active duty if they did that.

          • fiftyfifty1
            September 17, 2015 at 5:31 pm #

            “You really don’t understand the military at all. If they could make it so only single people with no children could be in the military, they would. But they’d not have enough people to be active duty if they did that.”

            I’m sure every employer would like to be able to only hire workers who pledged to remain single and childless. But historically employers have not required this because they wouldn’t be able to hire enough workers. Because being able to have a family is a highly prized goal for the majority of humans.

            Employers used to require the next best thing: Only men. Now these men had no limits placed on their reproduction (because as mentioned above, they would never put up with that), but they were expected to have stay-at-home wives. And these men were able to get stay-at-home wives because either women were denied employment altogether or if they were hired, they were fired the moment they got pregnant. But then, society changed, and now employers are no longer able to get enough workers hiring only men, and the men they do hire are increasingly being expected to shoulder some household and reproductive duties.

            So employers have had to face a new set of realities. They need to hire both men and women employees and they need to expect that the vast majority of workers in their 20s and 30s will reproduce at some point.

            It’s ok to expect employers, even the military, to change with the times. Do you really want to go back to the military of the early 20th century?

          • Ellen Mary
            September 17, 2015 at 5:32 pm #

            Right, not at all. And I was born into the military & married my husband when he was on an aircraft carrier. My mother proudly displayed ‘Navy Wife: Toughest Job in the Navy’ on my wall when I was a little girl. (She was also a BSN).

        • fiftyfifty1
          September 17, 2015 at 3:50 pm #

          I agree with you Ellen Mary. In all branches of society (not just the military), men would not have been able to achieve what they have if it weren’t for the fact that all their home and reproductive responsibilities were fulfilled by women.

          That said, how does a photo of breastfeeding soldiers help the cause? The message it sends is that even if you hold a “man’s job” you will still be judged the way women always have–by your ability to do “women’s work”.

          The bottom line is that I am sick to death of all these mommy war photos that purport to “normalize” when really what they do is serve to keep women in their place. What we need more of is pictures of DADS changing diapers.

    • LibrarianSarah
      September 17, 2015 at 2:49 pm #

      Parenthood is not an achievement. Parenthood is not a job. Parenthood is a relationship. That doesn’t mean it is easy or that it doesn’t take work. All relationships take work. It takes work to be a spouse, significant other, friend, co-worker, sibling, aunt/uncle, son/daughter etc. but that doesn’t make any of those achievements or jobs.

      • Ellen Mary
        September 17, 2015 at 3:31 pm #

        No it is an achievement, it is a job, it is even a career.

        • Erin
          September 17, 2015 at 4:29 pm #

          I think perhaps being a “good” parent is an achievement but even then it’s so hard to quantify. However having had a Mother myself who repeatedly told me she wished I was a cot death statistic, locked me in bathrooms as a toddler and now as an adult is “ashamed” of the fact that my son was delivered by c-section because apparently that is a huge embarrassment to her friends, I can not accept that simply by acquiring a child you have achieved something.
          Also my father was career Royal Air Force, I spent my childhood being dragged around Europe and I barely saw my Father. He managed to miss every single one of my birthday parties, my graduation and indeed looking at my childhood photos most of my childhood because he was focused on his job. I do however have a large collection of post cards from various places because half the time we weren’t even on the same continent. I just don’t see how what he did for a living is compatible with being a hands on parent.

        • LibrarianSarah
          September 17, 2015 at 4:30 pm #

          You saying it is a career doesn’t make it one. Being a parent is no more a career than being a spouse, a daughter/son or any other type of relationship. You don’t get a performance review, you can’t be fired, you can’t quit, you don’t get paid for it, you don’t get health benefits, you can’t retire it is not a career. It is a relationship between two people. Calling it a “career” cheapens it.

          • Ellen Mary
            September 17, 2015 at 5:29 pm #

            You can be fired, not from biological parenthood but from IRL parenthood. Parents also get performance reviews (from the school, the state), they are more eligible for health assistance & other assistance than their childless peers. You can quit & you do retire from day to day responsibilities at some point excluding those for whom their child L&D requires ongoing care into adulthood.

          • LibrarianSarah
            September 17, 2015 at 5:47 pm #

            Your spouse can leave you that doesn’t make being married a career, your kids grades are not performance reviews, disabled people are eligible for health assistance and other types of assistance that doesn’t make being disabled a career. There are a lot of restriction on your ability to “quit” parenting that are not in place in a career. You may not have to do the same day to day care but you never “retire” from parenting.

            Words have meanings and A does not equal not A. Parenthood is a relationship a difficult and important relationship but a relationship still.

          • Ellen Mary
            September 17, 2015 at 6:11 pm #

            Grades are not performance reviews, performance reviews are performance reviews & both schools & social workers conduct them.

          • fiftyfifty1
            September 17, 2015 at 6:21 pm #

            “performance reviews are performance reviews & both schools & social workers conduct them”

            What are you taking about?!

          • demodocus
            September 18, 2015 at 2:52 pm #

            Teachers do not conduct performance reviews on parents. We may have opinions on your parenting skills or lack thereof but unless you are actually abusing or neglecting your child, we aren’t going to try to get you “fired”. Social workers only do if someone thinks your kid is being abused.

          • fiftyfifty1
            September 17, 2015 at 6:17 pm #

            “You can be fired, not from biological parenthood but from IRL parenthood. ”

            Give me a break. You have to commit a felony for this to happen, and not just any felony, a felony that harms your child directly. And then you have to get caught doing it.

            “Parents also get performance reviews (from the school, the state)”

            Bullshit. Your child’s report card and test scores are not your performance review Ellen Mary. Get over yourself.

            “they are more eligible for health assistance & other assistance than their childless peers.”

            Sure, sign me up for the “career” that will induce the state to “pay” me just enough to live in dangerous public housing and keep me on MA.

            “You can quit”

            No actually you can’t. If you abandon a child to fend for itself it is a crime. If you abandon the child to the child’s other parent, you are still legally mandated to provide for that child’s needs through child support payments.

            “you do retire from day to day responsibilities at some point”

            Sure, but changing responsibilities are part of any relationship and a part of life in general. I used to have to cut the grass at my old home. Now I live in a place where the grass gets cut and it’s not my responsibility anymore. Does this mean I should be telling people I’m a retired professional gardener? Please.

      • Ellen Mary
        September 17, 2015 at 6:23 pm #

        Caregiving for any dependent person is a job, whether that is a spouse or parent, sibling or child & our refusal to call it a job or honor it as real work is a major cause of caregiver burnout/stress/despair.

        • Cobalt
          September 17, 2015 at 6:33 pm #

          False glorification is not an honor, it’s disrespectful.

          We can honestly acknowledge the difficulties without aggrandizement. Yes, it can be very difficult, tedious, isolating, exhausting, and expensive. So can self care.

          It’s not a job, though. It’s a familial duty.

        • Who?
          September 17, 2015 at 6:37 pm #

          There’s a difference between a ‘job’ and ‘work’.

          A job is something you go to, that starts and ends at particular times, and that you get paid for.

          ‘Work’ is effort put towards achieving an outcome.

          Raising your own children is work, no question.

          Being paid to care for others’ children is a job.

  15. Amy M
    September 17, 2015 at 12:17 pm #

    I know it is petty, but the “little’s” bothers me some. Should be no apostrophe there.

    Anyway, I think the picture is stupid, for the reasons Dr. Amy outlines above, but also for a few others.
    1)Breastfeeding is normal. No one thinks its abnormal. Sure, there might be some uptight people concerned about seeing a glimpse of naked breast, but even they don’t think its abnormal to breastfeed.

    2)I’ve never been in the military, but I’ve been under the impression that women in the military, just like men, are working during the day (I guess some have night shifts). When they are officially working, I imagine that they don’t have access to their babies any more than any other working parent? If that is the case, it wouldn’t actually be normal to see military women breastfeeding whenever/wherever, unless those women weren’t on shift.

    Wasting time, effort and resources trying to normalize something that is already normal seems silly. I think it only helps reduce women to the functions of their reproductive organs further because the women leading the charge are reducing THEMSELVES to that, by only being vocal about breastfeeding (or natural birth, etc). They make themselves look like empty headed ninnies. Then they hold themselves up as speaking for all women, yet not all women want to be associated with people who only think about the functions of women’s reproductive organs.

    • anh
      September 17, 2015 at 1:11 pm #

      Most military families send their babies to the military run Child Development Center and if they are lucky get to work on the same base as the CDC. The CDCs I’ve sent my daughter to (I’m civilian but lucky to send my daughter to military facilities) all had comfy nursing rooms for moms who wanted to jet over and nurse their babies. Also, since military isn’t salaried, ie paid by the hour, I’ve had the experience of leaders excusing women to go nurse or pump without having to make up for their time (whereas if I left for 30 min to nurse I’d have to make up that time). Although my experience only applies to military working office jobs.

  16. ArmyChick
    September 17, 2015 at 11:32 am #

    Raising your right hand, taking the oath, making through basic training and AIT were some of my REAL achievements.

    Working full-time while finishing college and raising a four year old? Achievements.

    I have accomplished so much in life. Lactating is not part of that.

  17. Cartman36
    September 17, 2015 at 10:56 am #

    I really don’t understand why the photographer or the woman that took it thing this will “normalize” breastfeeding in the military. I am a veteran and there was a policy (at least when I was in) that require units to provide a private space with refrigerator to nursing mothers.

    Also, when you are in uniform, you wear it properly at all times. Breastfeeding photo ops are not an excuse to be photographed with your uniform blouse open.

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