“Jane the Virgin” is easily one of the best shows on television. The cast is spectacular, and the storylines are as deliciously over-the-top as you’d expect a telenovela to be while still being poignant and emotionally satisfying. Perhaps the part I like best, though, is how accurately they depict the experience of new motherhood.
From the moment Jane discovered she was pregnant, the show has tapped into so many real moments on the journey to having a baby. Some of them have been big moments, like the fear and anxiety of waiting for test results after initial screenings indicate a potential problem; others have been smaller, like the nurse coming in to take newborn Mateo for his hearing check the day after his birth. Parents of young children can often find themselves nodding along with the accuracy of even the tiniest details.
It is clear in every episode that the “Jane” writers have either all lived through this phase of life or have dutifully done their research. Which is why the one inaccurate piece of the portrayal stands out to such a large degree: Jane nurses with a cover every time she feeds her baby, no matter where she is. Of course this has nothing to do with the producers at “Jane the Virgin.” The Federal Communications Commission has rules about breasts on television, and the CW is not allowed to show them. End of story.
I don’t know what conversations went on behind the scenes before this decision was made. They could have chosen not to show Jane feeding her baby at all, but presumably that felt entirely too unrealistic. So, they were left with having to figure out a way to include this very significant piece of new mommy life without breaking the rules of broadcast television. This blatant disconnect between the very real depiction of motherhood in all other aspects of the show and the ridiculousness of a woman sitting in her own glider in the comfort of her own home wearing a cover to feed her week-old baby shows just how problematic our treatment of breastfeeding is.
This show is the perfect opportunity to normalize breastfeeding for their audience. Instead, the message being sent is that A) covering up while breastfeeding is part of the routine and B) there is something inappropriate about seeing a woman breastfeed. It makes it look as though it is comfortable and even preferable to use a cover when nursing while also suggesting that there is some reason why the cover is necessary. Rather than moving us forward, this depiction actually sets us back.
To be clear, my issue lies with the rules of the FCC and not with the brilliant crew behind “Jane the Virgin.” Why don’t we have different rules about depicting breastfeeding on television? When will we reach a point where we acknowledge that a woman’s breasts are not inherently sexual? Their existence—first and foremost—is necessary for sustaining life. Conflating breastfeeding with sexual explicitness on television is perpetuating an idea that we desperately need to be shutting down.