Are you mom enough now becomes are you breast enough…
With the savvy release of Time Magazine’s ‘Are you mom’ enough covers, the nation has gone into a kind of dizzy tailspin trying to get to the root of why an image of a young mother nursing her almost 4 year old son (standing upright on a chair albeit) has struck a chord.
On the surface it is what it is: a simple but clever image of an attractive woman breast feeding her child. Something that goes hand in hand with child rearing, with being a mother. But skim under the surface and more questions begin to abound.
By choosing to depict a stereotypical attractive blonde woman posing suggestively (again the sexual allure and tensions come in which contrasts with the passive role of child rearing whose contradiction unwinds us) in a slinky outfit immediately the stakes are raised. Then there’s the question of indecency or even to go the extra yard, incest with the child appearing way beyond his prime to be breast feeding. Appearing, but if one has an honest examination of what actually goes on all over the world they will come to see in many cultures children are breast fed sometimes until the age of 5 (I know I was as a youth coming from a traditional old world European family background). And yet the image of the young child raising his lips to the nipples of a potent phallic symbol, the breast, the image becomes charged.
Then perhaps one has to wonder how did the breast become such a charged extension of the human body? Had the boy being sucking on his mother’s neck would we have been equally circumspect? Certainly the 24/7 sexualization and over representation of the breast in popular culture has transformed what was once and has always been a functional biological necessity (the rearing of the young) into a potent subject. The mere suggestion of the breast hints at our fascination with sex, attractiveness and the desire to mate and cohabitate. And yet somehow most of us can’t get over the dichotomy that breasts beyond being a biological extension of what makes a woman are really in some way, courtesy of overt sexual depiction of women there own sex objects.
Perhaps the nation’s squeamish appetite towards sex also aids a layer of conflict and confusion and a sense of the rude, foreboding and trespassing of proper mores. Correct etiquette in some circles would require the hiding of such things as breasts, even if every woman has them and in essence is what goes so far in separating them from men.
Then there’s this astute observation from the atlantic:
On the one hand, we’re surrounded by hyper-sexualized images of women, chests heaving in décolletage-revealing attire, or, more titillating (yes, I said it), covered by nothing at all. This vast array of flesh—whether on the covers of magazines like Playboy or something more mixed-company-friendly, on the Internet, in the movies, on late night cable TV, or even in our own homes in human form—it does something to us. For women, maybe, there’s a sense of arousal but also there’s competition, comparisons, and taking action: breast implants, breast reductions, breast rejuvenating, the business of shapewear and clothing to boost the breasts’ appeal, thereby boosting the appeal of those women to men. There may also be a sense of distaste, a concern over what all this breast-obsession is doing to women, a concern over exploitation, and even a concern over how to feel about one’s breasts. For men, some of them anyway, it’s more simply about… BOOBS. Maybe more, maybe less. These are generalizations, but just as we have generalizations about how we feel about boobs, there are generalizations of the boobs themselves. They embody that stereotypical madonna-whore relationship: On one side, sex; and on the other, motherhood and goodness and comfort and wholesome nurturing—but only up to a point, because sex takes over. It always does. Especially when the boys grow up.
Whore, slut, sexual fantasy and mother. Can we blame anyone for feeling so conflicted about the Time cover? Then again we can say one thing; the editors at Time magazine did their homework and came out with a winning cover that really rocked the boat….