Rachel McAdams was recently hailed as “powerful” for appearing in a photo decked out in diamonds, Versace…and a breast pump.
Photographer Claire Rothstein, who took the picture and shared it with the world, said, “Breastfeeding is the most normal thing in the world and I can’t for the life of me imagine why or how it is ever frowned upon or scared of…if (the photo) changes even one person’s perception of something so natural, so normal, so amazing then that’s great.”
I totally agree with that sentiment. As a working mother who has — and who hopefully will soon again — pumped at work in between meetings and classes and people knocking on my door, all while holding a sandwich in one hand and fighting a flange in the other, I can absolutely get onboard with being front and center with the realities of feeding a young baby.
There are, however, two things I’m really chafing against. One: A beautiful, wealthy movie star being photographed for a magazine with her pump does not “normalize” breastfeeding. It glamorizes her unique and completely not-normal circumstances. I’m absolutely positive that McAdams has far more support toward feeding her baby than the vast majority of working mothers do.
Because here’s the thing: It’s not the idea of breastfeeding that needs to be normalized; what needs to be normalized are bosses who understand how important it is for many of us to pump on company time. I 100 percent do not care whether anyone thinks my expelling breast milk is beautiful or normal or whatever — what I do care about is that I continue to have the ability to do so without being constantly interrupted, or worse, feeling like a slacker for stepping away from a meeting while mouthing “I have to pump” at a colleague, and knowing that many of the people I work with don’t understand why it can’t just wait.
And many women aren’t even lucky enough to be in my situation. Sure, it’s federal law that breastfeeding mothers have the time and space to pump, but we’ve all heard stories of women who were intimidated out of doing so at majority-male workplaces, or who were forced to choose between continuing to pump and having a job.
The second thing that irks me (and honestly, this goes for so many things in our society right now but I’ll have to focus on this one for the time being): Why is it that wealthy white women are the ones who get to “change people’s perceptions,” anyway? My mother, who expelled breastmilk for me BY HAND in the days before pumps were common, affordable, or covered by many insurance plans, certainly didn’t have an issue with your perceptions. Lower-income women who couldn’t afford formula weren’t afraid of your perceptions when they breastfed out of necessity, long before it was fashionable for white women of means to do so. It’s always like this, isn’t it? Women have been doing what’s necessary for their families since the beginning of time, then suddenly this healthy, common sense, normal thing (whatever it may be) becomes trendy, and middle- and upper-class white women are considered “brave” for taking it on?
I’m obviously a supporter of breastfeeding. I’ve breastfed in synagogues, in nice restaurants, at weddings, on lunch breaks, and basically anywhere I went with my son during his first year of life. If your child needs to eat, your child needs to eat. I don’t think I was brave or powerful for doing so, however, and I certainly don’t think Rachel McAdams is either. I think we’re all just taking care of business, and anyone who has an issue with it is the one who isn’t “normal.”
But you know what else isn’t normal? Wearing Versace while pumping during a photo shoot. Is it a great image? Sure. But let’s stop confusing “fabulous” with “powerful.”
Header image via Instagram