Breastfeeding ‘in public': A personal and political memoir

Feed in protest at the Hepburn Bathhouse, November 28, 2013.

Feed in protest at the Hepburn Bathhouse, November 28, 2013.

 

Karen Armstrong Feed in protest at the Hepburn Bathhouse, November 28, 2013.

Karen Armstrong
Feed in protest at the Hepburn Bathhouse, November 28, 2013.

 

In this article I offer a reflective autobiographical account of being asked not to breastfeed my then 13 month old at the Hepburn Bathhouse ostensibly for “hygiene” reasons and ultimately―for the organization changed their story―for “safety” reasons.  I explore the scholarly literature on breasts and breastfeeding especially as it relates to the public/private distinction on which the controversy implicitly rests making the case that it is our collective inability to symbolically place breasts―are they sexy or are they maternal? Are they natural or are they medicinal?―that renders “public” breastfeeding so challenging.  I make two further arguments: first, that breastfeeding controversies are increasingly defined by what the sociologists Michael Bittman and Judith Pixley call “pseudomutuality” (1997, p. 81), or, by a pretence of mutuality, such that discriminatory individuals and organisations routinely claim to be “pro-breastfeeding” and; second, claiming our right to feed in public is part of a broader maternal politics of embodied citizenship shifting extant norms premised on the ideal of the unencumbered, autonomous subject. Reconfiguring the image of the ideal-typical citizen as one who may also be pregnant with, birthing and/or nurturing another is part of this politics. In this view, breastfeeding “in public” is literally a transformative “coming out” redefining public space.

This chapter will be published in J. Jones, M. Porter and L. Raith. Mothers at the Margins. Cambridge Scholars Press, 2015.  (Please note: This link is to the table of contents and introduction. I will upload a copy of this paper soon).

 

I will be presenting the chapter in modified form at two conferences:

1. MIRCI “Mothers, Mothering and Motherhood From Ancient Greece to Contemporary Times” Conference, May 23rd-24th, 2014, Hellenic Education and Research Center in Athens, Greece. http://www.motherhoodinitiative.org/GreeceCFP.pdf

2. Australian Breastfeeding Association Conference “Liquid Gold”, Melbourne, 1-3 August, 2014.

https://www.breastfeeding.asn.au/system/files/Call%20for%20Abstracts%20Liquid%20Gold.pdf

 

Breastfeeding in public – panel discussion

WIW poster D1_CP1

I am hosting a panel discussion on breastfeeding in public at the Words in Winter Festival in Daylesford on Sunday August 3rd, 1pm at The Rex. Joining the panel will be noted academic and writer Dr Fiona Giles author of Freshmilk: The Secret Life of Breasts, Anna Kaplan documentary film maker and producer of The Booby Trap, Susan Reddrop and myself.  You can see the program here. Hope to see you there!

Demeter Press author interview

Demeter Press interviewed me in relation to the publication of Mothering and Psychoanalysis: Clinical, Sociological and Feminist Perspectives. They asked what the topic brings to the literature, about “therapy as a form of paid mothering” and what my favourite feminist book on motherhood is.  This interview can also be accessed here.

Demeter press interview with Petra Bueskens

Demeter press interview with Petra Bueskens

 

Mothering and Psychoanalysis: Clinical, Sociological and Feminist Perspectives

 

Mothering and Psychoanalysis: Clinical, Sociological and Feminist Perspectives

Mothering and Psychoanalysis: Clinical, Sociological and Feminist Perspectives

I am thrilled to announce the publication of Mothering and Psychoanalysis: Clinical, Sociological and Feminist Perspectives This book brings together the different disciplinary strands of psychoanalysis, sociology and feminism to consider motherhood and mothering. The psychoanalytic focus includes both theoretical and clinical applications ranging from textual analysis of films, books, art, theory and popular culture through to qualitative research on mothers, clinical case studies and analyses of therapeutic technique. The sociological focus includes a critique of therapy culture and its gendered implications. This collection is not only a contribution to psychoanalytic feminism but also, and importantly, a contribution to the feminist and sociological critique of the institution of therapy and the role of the therapist. Examining the maternal turn in psychoanalytic theory and practice and the rise of women therapists, this book seeks to shed light on the feminisation of therapy. Taking shape around five core themes: the therapist as mother, the mother in therapy, mothers in art and culture, psychoanalytic theory of mothers and mothering, and sociological interventions in therapy culture , this book endeavours to generate dialogue across disciplinary borders while placing mothers, mothering and motherhood at the centre of analysis.

The book can be purchased from Demeter Press for half price until Sept 1st here.  It is now available on Amazon too. You can purchase it here.

 

Petra Bueskens | Mother, scholar, psychotherapist | Psychodynamic Psychotherapy Melbourne Daylesford