I’ve been loosely following the Facebook explosions over the tree of life breastfeeding photos created using the PicsArt Studio app’s ‘blend’ tool and ‘magic’ filters. I’ve read lots of both ignorant and educated, random and intelligent, helpful and hurtful comments from folks on different sides of the issues raised. However, none has been quite as hateful, thoughtless, ignorant, shocking, disgusting, polarizing, deathly … you name it … as the one I came across on Amy Tuteur’s Facebook page yesterday (21 Dec 16).
The tree of life breastfeeding photos are like the confederate flag? Seriously? Are you kidding me? Is this for real … like for real, for real? My word, how far some folks seem willing to go to get unnecessary attention.
So, this is my reply to Amy Tuteur … one that won’t be buried in comments on her page or deleted.
We don’t know each other and we live oceans apart. I vaguely heard about you about 1.5 years ago or so during the Keep Britain Breastfeeding collaboration I participated in, to celebrate World Breastfeeding Week. What I heard, little as it was, was enough to help me decide that I couldn’t take your words seriously. Well, this morning, I came face to face with your words again, and I just can’t ignore it. How in the world can you compare the beautiful and magical tree of life breastfeeding photos to the ugly, hateful, and racist confederate flag?
Of all the symbols in the world to make your points, you chose a symbol like that? My word, what does that say about you. Is
the your world that short of symbols that display pride, promote solidarity, and attempts to normalise certain acts / values / ideas / beliefs?
According to you website, you seem to be a very educated and worldly-wise person, with a degree from Havard and past employment in prestigious world-renowned institutions. You’re a writer, an author, a digital influencer … you’ve supposedly learned lots from folks “from every walk of life, every ethnic group, and every culture” during your medical experiences.
So, why was the confederate flag your chosen comparative image?
I’m not American, and even I know that this despicable symbol is one any sensible person will stay clear of.
I mean, what’s there to tolerate about this flag? Hmmmmm …. let’s see:
- Denial of rights to some and horrific discrimination?
- Hatred of the other: African-Americans particularly and all non-whites in general
- Encouragement of the superiority of white people and champions of white privilege
- Advocacy for a wicked and institutional system of oppression, dehumanization, unethical profiteering, forced labour, and so much more against black people in America
We are talking here about a symbol that was brought about to support, protect, and promote all the above and more. This includes the discriminatory application of the ‘one-drop rule’ – a nasty racist ideology that lives on today. You don’t have to look very far to see it action; check out what President Obama is called – the first black president of America despite being 50% white in his DNA, and even more in his upbringing. Let’s also not forget that the system on which this flag is founded is the remote cause of the need for the US Black Breastfeeding Week.
This is a symbol under which countless atrocities has been committed and continue to be; including rape and random / intentionally killing of those considered undeserving of equal life and rights based on their ethnicity.
We are talking about a symbol that represents the ‘rape’ of Africa by the West and the plundering of its culture, people, identity, land, and so much more. Let’s not forget the resulting troubled legacy of all these, which especially continues to impact the descendants of those affected by it, in different ways.
I mean, this is a symbol of death and destruction, one that considers one life as valuable over another, simply based on that which isn’t even chosen by the person… a very ugly symbol that now hides behind the preservation of heritage.
Amy, surely you know all these; right?
Now, let’s look at the tree of life breastfeeding photos:
They are expressions of individual women about a very important aspect of their motherhood journey. They spread like wildfire within a minority community that feels the disgraceful and unethical marketing and profiteering squeeze of humongous companies. And of course, the constantly scrutinizing gaze and the often unacceptable and ignorant expectations of the media and society.
To some, they are a beautiful (unattractive to a few) representation of triumph over pain, blood, lumps, leaks, soreness, engorgement, thrush, blocked ducts, mastitis, abscess, blebs / milk blisters, sleeplessness, bottle and formula pressure, the discomforts of pumping, nursing aversion, ignorant comments, inadequate support, ‘extended’ breastfeeding expectations… and so much more.
To others, they are empowering images to publicly and finally share a beautiful and selfless act they’ve been uncomfortable with sharing for so long, due to the fear of being misjudged and accused of judgement.
To lots, they are about normalising breastfeeding, the biological norm – sharing images to increase awareness and acceptance.
To most, they are about all the above, and more perhaps.
The tree of life represents the anatomy of the breast and some of its key functions. They are about the very special bond, confidence, and empowerment that these women have known through breastfeeding.
They represent life, joy, triumph, hope, and so much. Their heritage lies in human and animal survival over millennia. Oh yes, it hasn’t / doesn’t always work in particular cases, but generally, humanity won’t be here today without breastfeeding. Even our best modern alternative is sourced from animal milk.
Now, unlike the hateful flag you used, the tree of life breastfeeding photos did not arise from a place of hate, enslavement, oppression, discrimination, subjugation, superiority, and similar.
They showed women supporting, applauding, celebrating, and helping each other. Folks who could make the pictures helped those who couldn’t.
Indeed, I get how some women might have found the pictures painful to look at. We are humans, ‘hope deferred makes the heart sick. Not achieving a desired outcome doesn’t feel good, and when it comes to breastfeeding, for a range of reasons, the pain definitely runs deep for some. Also, if for whatever reason you feel judged, never mind if your perception coincides with the reality or not, encountering your judgement triggers will make you feel judged anyway, even if it’s not intended.
I have not come across any comment on a tree of life breastfeeding photo with a judgemental intention. This coming from someone who has seen lots of them on both Facebook and Instagram, including within my tree of life breastfeeding photos banter and gallery Facebook group.
Now, I’ve come across comments reacting to accusations of judgement and perceived misuse of the tree of life symbol. But to compare this with the confederate flag is unjustifiable, insensitive, and frankly speaking a case of white privilege.
I know you’ve deleted the image but it doesn’t make up for the harm you’ve done. Do you know how many African Americans see that image and shudder? What sorts of memories do you think they provoke and inspire, Amy?
And your apology … your edited apology … is supposed to make up for your lack of good judgement, insensitivity, and utter disregard?
You really “did not realise that it would be so distressing”? Really, Amy?
What was your comment on your 19.53 post on Tuesday, (no evidence given) that claimed that the tree of life breastfeeding pictures are “not normalizing breastfeeding”, but rather “normalizing bullying”? Did you read the replies to it?
It seems to me that you knew what you were doing … perhaps you were trying to gain more notoriety, as if you don’t have enough of it. Your thoughtless lack of consideration for those deeply affected by the hateful white supremacist image you chose is incomparable with any painful effect – individual and collective – the tree of life breastfeeding photo will ever have on anyone.
I need get some sleep for my VBAC, I hope you sleep well tonight. It’s so wonderful that the world now knows about your tolerance of white supremacism and your disregard for African-Americans, and indeed everyone who stands against all the confederate flag represents.
With pity, irritation, and annoyance,
An Afro-British breastfeeding and babywearing mother who highly hopes for a VBAC and plans to tandem nurse her toddler and baby, and wishes all mothers well in their mothering endeavours.
Is her apology enough?
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