An Australian Senator named Larissa Waters has become the first politician to breastfeed in her nation’s parliament. ‘It’s frankly ridiculous, really, that feeding one’s baby is international news,’ she said yesterday.
Many men now engage in vigorous bouts of one-upmanship through ‘extreme ironing’ – a sport whereby they take ironing boards to remote locations and steam items of clothing. So Waters (pictured) might one day be celebrated as the pioneer of a new craze for competitive breastfeeding whereby nursing mothers seek to outdo one another by breastfeeding their babies in ever more outlandish locations such as tractor cockpits, salt mines and…the Australian national legislature.
But for now, Waters is content with striking a blow against the patriarchy for all woman kind. ‘I had hoped to not only be able to feed my baby but to send a message to young women that they belong in the parliament,’ she explained.
Women, whether young or not, undoubtedly belong in parliament. Babies, alas, do not. They spend their time alternately guzzling, screaming or wetting themselves, adding nothing to parliamentary debate however much politicians all over the world mimic them, unwittingly or otherwise.
In 2017, of course women should be allowed to breastfeed their hungry babies wherever their hungry babies demand to be fed. But mothers are already allowed to feed their babies in the Australian Senate. And just because a thing can be done – in principle – doesn’t mean it should be lauded as some sort of triumph.
Waters seems to be confusing our ability to reproduce, and our desire to show off our beautiful babies to the world after we have done so. If a father took his infant to parliament on purpose to bottle feed it, we would all wonder what he was at.
But many modern feminists – who have not read their Germaine Greer -confuse motherhood with feminism and state things such as ‘childbirth turns you from a girl into a woman’ – reinstating shibboleths Second Wave feminists such as Simone de Beauvoir spent decades trying to tear apart.
If, as a journalist, I were to interview somebody for an article and mid-way through started breastfeeding a baby I had brought along for that purpose, it would be inappropriate and highly unprofessional. It would also be indicative that I, as a woman, needed some sort of special dispensation rather than equal treatment.
‘You wouldn’t start feeding your child if you worked on a supermarket check-out,’ the then-Speaker of the UK House of Commons Betty Boothroyd stated when the issue of breastfeeding was raised in 2001. Who can argue with that?