Dear AAP, Fuck Normative Standards!

Breastfeeding is the “normative standard.”

So says the American Academy of Pediatrics in a new paper entitled Breastfeeding and The Uses of Human Milk.

You know what else is the “normative standard”?

Right-handedness.

Heterosexuality.

Genotype determining gender.

Here’s what I say: fuck normative standards!

Why does the AAP give moral authority to nature when it comes to breastfeeding but deny that same moral authority when handedness, sexuality and gender identity are involved?

Why does the AAP pathologize women who don’t breastfeed, encouraging moral condemnation, but would be horrified by anyone who pathologized women who are left-handed, gay, or trans?

If the AAP believes handedness, sexuality and gender identity are perfectly acceptable NON-normative choices for those who wish to control their own bodies, why isn’t formula use equally acceptable for the same reason?

Philosophy professor Alison Suen gets to the heart of the matter when she discusses the dangers — for women in particular — of ceding moral authority to nature:

When nature becomes a “moral authority,” can it still make good on its initial promise to liberate women, allowing them to reclaim control over pregnancy and childbirth? Or does it liberate women from the tyranny of the medical establishment only to subject them to the new puissance of “nature”?

More to the point, giving moral authority to nature or subjugates women (and men) to misogynistic, homophobic, transphobic beliefs on how women ought to behave. Giving moral authority to nature would justify efforts to “support” left handed women into becoming (or pretending to become) right handed. It would justify efforts to “support” gay women into becoming (or pretending to become) straight. It would justify laws that limit access gender identity affirming care and protections.

But the greatest danger is this:

…[A]n appeal to nature that accords nature a moral authority does not necessarily promote diversity or tolerance, especially when such an appeal merely replaces one practice with another as the proper, normative practice. In other words, even if the language of nature may empower some, it is done at the expense of others…

When a biology is portrayed as a normative standard, those who ignore or reject that standard are almost invariably oppressed. For example, the most malignant expressions of homophobia are often justified by insisting, correctly, that heterosexuality is a normative standard.

Therefore, when the AAP represents breastfeeding as the normative standard, they are pathologizing women who cannot breastfeed or — heaven forefend! — prefer formula feeding.

Just as the biological norm does not and cannot justify homophobia or transphobia, it does not and cannot justify pressuring women to breastfeed.

The practice of medicine should NEVER be based on normative standards but rather on individual needs and desires.

The American Academy of Pediatrics is wrong — profoundly morally wrong — in promoting breastfeeding as the normative standard.

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