The Debate on Breastfeeding in Feminism

Monday, 11 July 2016: 09:45
Location: Hörsaal BIG 2 (Main Building)
Oral Presentation
Suzana IGNJATOVIC, Institute of Social Sciences, Serbia
Breastfeeding is a highly polemical issue in modern feminism. Breastfeeding epitomizes the 1960s equal treatment vs. special treatment debate in feminism, but also the ambivalence of contemporary “gender perspective”. The new model of gender equality promotes equality in private domain, share of responsibility, change of attitudes, values and life projects based on the new paradigm of gender mainstreaming. The new gender equality model emphasizes the role of a partner in breastfeeding, either as taking share in household labour, taking over the breadwinner role or providing emotional support.  But it turned out that women’s rights are not monolithic and mothers’ rights may be in conflict with gender equality principle as a “new generation’s vacuum cleaner” (Rosin) that alienates women and confines her to one-dimensional motherhood. The key question is whether breastfeeding has empowering or alienating effect on women. There are two opposite positions in feminism: one group of scholars (Hausman) see breastfeeding as a liberating practice (in line with “lactivists”), the other camp (for example, J. Wolf or Kukla) is criticizing breastfeeding promotion as a form of oppression. It seems that “pro breastfeeding choice” position has gained support among feminists after the scientific evidence for breastfeeding benefits started to be questioned recently.