Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Even more humor in breastfeeding

To add to my unauthorized breastfeeding-humor post, I just want to share Mikko's newest nursing trick. My nips are sensitive, and I'd always batted his hands away from touching before, fearing the worst (trust me, he's terror on eye sockets and windpipes and he's drawn blood more than once -- more than twenty times), but one night I was too sleepy and let my defenses down. He reached out one chubby little hand and centered it exactly over the nipple. Then he drew it toward his mouth and -- pop! -- in it went, and the hand came back out, neat as you please. It takes longer to write it than to see it in action, and within seconds he was sucking away.

It cracked me up. What an inelegant yet efficient way to get what he wanted into his mouth. What beautiful, insane baby logic. Adults would put their hands on the sides of what they wanted to bring to their mouth: We don't grab the tines of the fork with our palm; we use the handle. We don't wrap our fingers around the lip of the cup where our lips would go; we wrap our hand around the side. But, no, Mikko does what every baby does -- goes right for the prize. I want that, so that's what I'll grab, thank you very much.

I also wanted, per Sam's suggestion, to update my post on the video of Citizens Against Breastfeeding. Sam said I didn't emphasize enough how ludicrous Alan Abel's hoaxes are, so that his campaign against breastfeeding can be seen in the light of his other inanities.

This Slate article does a good job of describing Abel's history of hoaxes, from requiring pants for indecently naked farm animals ("A nude horse is a rude horse") to euthanasia cruises offering suicides at sea by tilting the despondent into the briny deep.

The point of Abel's work is that the American public, and particularly the American media, is gullible, and will accept any viewpoint as valid, even one that's bizarre and offputting. Even Walter Cronkite fell for Abel's shtick and covered his campaign to hide animal privates.

"SINA [The Society for Indecency to Naked Animals] worked because it seemed plausible to a substantial number of Americans.... As it happened, some Americans actually did agree with Abel. ...[I]ndependent SINA chapters formed across the country, a SINA float turned up in a parade in the Midwest, and one lady even sent in a check for 40 grand so that SINA could continue God's work. (Abel appreciated the gesture, but says he never cashed the check.)

"With SINA, Abel had found his vocation. He came to regard his hoaxes as performance art, a form of moral commentary, and a way to inject a bit of fun into what he saw as an irritatingly self-serious national scene."

Abel has a knack for picking hot-button topics.

"He's latched on to issues that tend to make people hysterical -- pornography, euthanasia, child welfare, Richard Nixon -- because they're also the issues that make people hopelessly gullible."

Breastfeeding included, of course.

"Abel's keen sense of the zeitgeist remains undiminished today, making hoaxes like his recent crusade against breast-feeding eerily believable. 'I've interviewed hundreds, maybe thousands of breast-feeding mothers,' he tells a couple of radio hosts in the film, 'who after two hours of interrogation have admitted that they had erotic feelings with their babies, which is incestuous. It's a violation of their baby's civil rights, just as we feel circumcision probably is, too.'"

What's scary about this is both that Abel so easily gets airtime to spout his mock-credible claims -- but, even more, that there are plenty of people listening to him and nodding along, agreeing with what he says and passing it along as fact, like email forwards about a Nieman Marcus cookie recipe or the postal service's tax on emails to bolster sagging revenues. Americans tend to receive information unskeptically, and Abel works with that by playing to their worst fears and inhibitions, seen most recently in his spiel as an anti-breastfeeding activist. He rightly perceived that most Americans are made twitchy and nervous by breastfeeding, with a baby grasping what is seen as a sexual object, and Abel exploits those tensions.

As the article puts it, the American public has a "unique knack for getting played for suckers." I just hope that one day the video equating breastfeeding with inappropriate eroticism will seem as patently silly as the pants-for-horses campaign.


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