Archive | June, 2011

Boobs, babies and sexualising role-play….

22 Jun

I have again very much neglected posting here so I’m trying hard to get back into some kind of blogging routine!

Being on maternity leave has given me a lot of time to peruse things on the internet that make me mad!  Here’s one:

An article in the Daily Mail focuses on the outcry that has arisen from the launch of a new doll being marketed for children that allows them to mimic breast-feeding.  There is a certain irony to this online article.  As I scroll down to read it I glance at the side bar which contains picture after picture of women with very little on, or being portrayed in ways I would say play to objectification.  Why is it then, that the thought of a child role-playing and imitating a perfectly natural human function (breast-feeding) is so utterly offensive, but the portrayal of women as little more than walking talking dolls perfectly acceptable?  How did we get to a point where breast-feeding is something to be squeamish about but breasts as provocative sexual objects perfectly normal? 

Why are boobs so offensive when used for feeding a baby?  Heaven forbid I satisfy my baby’s hunger with a breast rather than a bottle.  In a world where the sight of women in very little bombards us, it seems paradoxical that so many people can’t stomach the thought of boobs being used for feeding.  Where music videos shown throughout the day perpetuate this objectification of women – women as sexual objects – boobs are commodities to flaunt and ultimately purchase, the thought of a breast not being used in this context is obviously horrifying. 

I find it galling that the claim against this doll on sale is that it is sexualising children!  How is this sexualising children anymore than giving a pre-pubescent child a doll to play with? – yes a child cannot breast-feed, but a child cannot have a baby!  If a breast-feeding doll is ‘sexualising’, surely any doll is and should therefore be branded ‘totally inappropriate’.  Let’s ban dolls and let’s ban role-playing.  When my four year old daughter pretends to breast feed her doll (complete with the click of re-attaching the nursing bra!) I shall now be forced to reprimand her and condemn myself as if I had purchased her a padded bikini and miniature high-heels.  I shall now be forced to feed Eden in a small dark corner, out -of-sight, in case someone, somewhere catches a glimpse of my powerful sexualising mammary glands.

There is now, it seems, a hysteria around the ‘sexualisation of children’.  With the recent publication of Reg Bailey’s report on just this, and the proposals for tighter legislation and regulation for retailers and advertisers, the issue has taken centre-stage.  Now I am all for seeing less posters of boobs (!), being able to watch music videos with my children in the day and no longer seeing hideous clothing pitched at my daughter.  The reasons though that I find these things offensive are in the words of Symon Hills’ very helpful article for Ekklesia, “…not the sexualisation of childhood, but the commercialisation of sexuality,” (Symon Hill).  I object to women being portrayed as objects – to the dehumanisation of humans.  I object to the fact that my children grow up in a culture that sees sex as commodity and people as part of the package. ( I love Hannah Rudge’s critique for ‘Bitchbuzz’ on this stuff – much more articulate than mine!)

I worry that many Christians will jump on the band-wagon of some moral outrage to protect our children from the ‘big bad world out there’.  I worry that the highlighting of this issue of sexualisation will lead to more unhelpful sexual repression in churches, stifling healthy, whole, human development.  I long to see a world where people are respected as people and not objects, but also a world where sex and sexuality are not things to be sold, but to be celebrated as a part of what it is to be alive.

My boobs, I must declare, are no longer the shape or size they once were.  They would not be suitable to appear on page 3, or on the latest pop video. They are also not commodities to be sold, or objects that sexualise others. They are however beloved by my baby, who is very happy with them!