The BoobGeek gaslights women who complain about lactivists


Lactivists have woken up to the fact that their ugly behavior — placing the process of breastfeeding above the wellbeing of mothers and babies — has been noticed.

Whether it’s grossly exaggerating the benefits of breastfeeding, promoting the humiliation of women who formula feed through the cruelly named “Baby Friendly” Hospital Initiative, or engaging in acts notable for their ignorance and viciousness like telling women who have had mastectomies that they ought to try to breastfeed, lactivists apparently believe they cannot promote breastfeeding by sticking to truth and kindness.

[pullquote align=”right” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]As practiced by The BoobGeek, gaslighting means responding to stories of hurt and harm with a wall of denial.[/pullquote]

Now you might think that having become aware of the fact that many women view lactivists in general, and lactation consultants in particular, as disingenuous, dishonest and cruel might cause them to reassess their approach. It hasn’t. Instead it has given rise to a new lactivist technique: gaslighting. Tipper Gallagher, IBCLC, known as The BoobGeek, is an expert in this form of psychological abuse.

What is gaslighting?

According to Wikipedia:

Gaslighting … is a form of psychological abuse in which a victim is manipulated into doubting their own memory, perception, and sanity. Instances may range from the denial by an abuser that previous abusive incidents ever occurred, up to the staging of bizarre events by the abuser with the intention of disorienting the victim.

The term comes from the play Gas Light:

… The plot concerns a husband who attempts to convince his wife and others that she is insane by manipulating small elements of their environment, and subsequently insisting that she is mistaken, remembering things incorrectly, or delusional when she points out these changes.

As practiced by The BoobGeek and her colleagues, gaslighting means responding to stories of hurt and harm with a wall of denial.

For example, yesterday Gallagher wrote on her Facebook page:

Let me be blunt. The people who say that lactivists, breastfeeding advocates, and lactation professionals care only about breastfeeding (rather than individual parents and babies) and believe that breastfeeding is perfect, easy, magical, and foolproof are lying to you.

I don’t know if it was in response to my piece The irrational worship of breastmilk, but it was posted approximately 2 hours later. In my piece I tore apart a lactivist article, 15 Magical Benefits of Breastfeeding. I concluded:

There’s absolutely nothing magical about breastfeeding, and the endless efforts of lactivists to insist that there is tells us more about their need for self-justification than about breastfeeding itself.

If the BoobGeek’s Facebook post was in response, it represents gaslighting at its finest. Though I was discussing an article that claimed from the title onward that breastfeeding is magical, Gallagher has the temerity to insist that lactivists don’t claim that breastfeeding is magical. Who are you going to believe, Tipper Gallagher or your lying eyes?

It seems that gaslighting is something of a specialty for The BoobGeek.

Last fall she produced this gaslighting confection, How to write an anti-breastfeeding article. It appears to have been written in response to Courtney Jung’s NYTimes Op-Ed Over-selling Breastfeeding. Apparently, in the world of lactivists anyone who doesn’t offer full throated support of their methods is “anti-breastfeeding.”

Gallagher starts with this delicious bit of psychological projection:

Congratulations on your decision to write your first anti-breastfeeding article! Although this is no doubt a column, opinion piece, or blog post, we will use the word “article” to describe the outcome for simplicity’s sake, and not to imply any degree of journalistic integrity. We can’t, after all, get people riled up about breastfeeding if we are moderate or accurate.

Gallagher proceeds to engage in one logical fallacy after another including the fallacy of the lonely fact:

…[P]lease avoid telling stories where you met an IBCLC who was helpful and mindful of your goals and limitations, your baby-friendly hospital provided formula supplementation and did not make you sign a scary waiver, you had a difficult start but going to some La Leche League meetings got you on the right track with no judgment whatsoever, or your lactation consultant taught you how to use a bottle or counseled you through weaning when it was necessary or desired. No one wants to hear this.

Gallagher apparently believes that if even one lactivist was kind or helpful, it proves that all lactivists are kind and helpful.

The argument from authority:

All of those silly breastfeeding advocates like the World Health Organization, United Nations Children’s Fund, American Academy of Pediatrics, Centers for Disease Control, Agency for Health Care Research and Quality (AHRQ), et al. use really awful studies to talk about how great breastfeeding is.”

Two wrongs make a right:

Remember, though, that no formula company has ever undermined breastfeeding by providing free samples of their products. There is no proof that advertising affects us in any way.

Gallagher also denies the role of privilege in overselling of breastfeeding:

You also will increase your cred to do a shout-out to those less fortunate. Remember, it is upper-middle-class people like you who are protecting those in poverty from the predatory lactation industry. Breastfeeding absolutely doesn’t matter when it comes to outcomes for black babies, or those babies born in poverty, no matter what experts have to say on the issue.

Gallagher ends with the logical fallacy beloved of lactivists that anyone who decries the exaggeration of benefits believes that there are no benefits:

Assure the reader that since he/she was fed formula and is fine, breastfeeding doesn’t matter at all, on any level …

Gallagher engages in zero introspection. She never questions her personal beliefs and motivations, while misrepresenting and dismissing out of hand the personal beliefs and motivations of anyone else. If you are hurt or angry because of the overselling of breastfeeding benefits, the cruel nature of programs to promote breastfeeding, or the inappropriate behavior of lactation consultants don’t tell it to The BoobGeek.

She’ll just say you misunderstood … the classic gaslighting response.