I just gave birth to my third child, a girl, last Tuesday, so my days are a blur of breastfeeding and baby care-taking. This story of Selma Hayek breast-feeding a starving baby in Sierra Leone struck a personal and political chord. What's interesting is that Facebook just a few weeks ago banned all photos of women breast-feeding, which prompted thousands of women to send in shots of themselves breast-feeding their babies as a protest. (Surely the fact that the video of Hayek breastfeeding this infant is being downloaded by the thousands and is being shown on TV is partly due to the commercial beauty and sex appeal of Hayek; the women uploading their personal pics to Facebook are, let us say, not as 'airbrushed'.) Hayek mentions in the Time article that she wanted to combat the perception in Africa on the part of men that women who are breast-feeding cannot be sexual. It seems this cultural bias in Africa is not so far off from cultural perceptions here in the U.S. which prompted the Facebook ban--a perception that the female breast is per se sexual, and cannot have a function apart from its sexual one, the female breast as existing only for male sexual arousal. It's an ingrained notion, in all cultures, a partriarchal conceit, that women cannot be multi-functional, maternal and sexual at the same time, a bundle of amazing contradictions in the same body, in the same breast.
Yet I will not be posting any pictures of myself breastfeeding baby Maya to my Facebook page anytime soon.