Breastfeeding: French for Slavery – Kveller
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Breastfeeding: French for Slavery

The lovely First Lady of France, Carla Bruni, has recently given birth to a baby girl, Giulia. Her husband, French President Nicolas Sarkozy, has recently given birth to a virtual shitstorm by describing breastfeeding as “slavery.”

Quoi, Monsieur President?  Well, when chatting with some young mothers at a family benefits agency in France, Sarkozy made the following remarks, saying that his wife is breastfeeding:

“Carla is feeding the baby. I think it’s much better for protecting against allergies and illnesses. But the woman, it’s both a joy and a kind of slavery. However it does free men of blame because we don’t have the problem of bottle-feeding. You don’t have to get up at night, although out of solidarity, I do open one eye… But you know, she is worried about not having enough milk.”

This is only the most recent of the French President’s diplomatic gaffes, as Sarkozy seems to have lost any filter between what he thinks and what he says. We’re talking about the same guy who recently complained about Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to President Obama – calling him a “liar” and saying he “can’t stand him” — over a didn’t-know-it-was-on microphone. Nice.

Oddly, his recent parenting faux pas may get him in more trouble than slandering a fellow world leader – but his faux pas is, if nothing else, honest.

Mysteriously, Sarkozy seems never to have heard of a breastpump, which would enable him to actually participate in feeding his baby, or alternatively supplementing with formula to the same end. Quel dommage. As we all know, I’m married to Wonder Husband, so I have not had the problem (this time around, anyway) of a husband who thinks opening one eye is a gesture of solidarity with the all-night screechfest that can accompany the birth of a newborn. I feel certain that there are women around the world – perhaps Carla Bruni included – who want to rip Sarkozy’s one open eye out and put it on a stick as an example to lazy-ass husbands everywhere (although in fairness, this particular malefactor is also the leader of a country, which I suppose is a highly time-consuming job demanding non-laziness).

The fact of the matter is, however, Sarkozy is right in some ways. Breastfeeding is both a joy and a kind of slavery – though a colleague correctly pointed out that it’s more like indentured servitude. And I’m assuming, by the way, that Sarkozy means “slavery” in terms of “beholden to someone else’s desires above your own” as opposed to “conscripted nonconsensually, or sold, into a horrible, human-right-defying situation of inequality.”

If we’re using the former definition, I’m going to take it a step further and say that it’s not just breastfeeding: in fact, all parenting is slavery. Being a good, or even great, parent means putting someone else’s needs and desires above your own.

At the end of the day, though, obviously, it’s not quite slavery. Because somehow, the way love mysteriously works is that that little someone else’s desires actually become your own.

But it’s hard to see that, of course, if you only have one eye open.

For more insight on breastfeeding, check out this Jewish look at breastfeeding, one dad’s take on the matter, and why Mayim Bialik still breastfeeds her 3-year-old.

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