In this week’s Wednesday 5, a poet takes on the culture of shame around breastfeeding in public; Helen Thomas’s historic record with the presidents of the United States; in children’s books, moms stay at home, dads work; mothers’ letters to their daughters; and how women’s collective work-life fatigue is holding them back.



“Who Is Scared of a Big Bad Breast?”

Under a very provocative title, Emma Solaranta pens an article for the Girls’ Globe blog—focused on gender equality and health—in which she poses the question “Who is scared of a big bad breast?” She wonders why, in 2013, when women’s bodies, particularly their breasts, are hyper-exposed in advertising, media, television, film, etc., many still balk at mothers who breastfeed in public. She writes:

[W]omen who want to engage in the most natural, essential thing in the world —breastfeeding their children—still find themselves shunned from public, having to hide in bathrooms, corners and backrooms or just wait until they get home, and for what? Because strangers are not comfortable seeing a woman breastfeed her child in public, but are perfectly fine consuming products that are promoted through the objectification of women’s bodies, or listening to music by artists that parade naked women as props around them, or staring at a billboard with a godzilla-sized half naked female body on it?

In response, Hollie McNish took to YouTube to share a video poem, “Embarrassed,” where she powerfully vents her frustration about hiding in dirty public toilets to feed her baby girl and calls out the culture of shame about breastfeeding. The video is quickly becoming viral.



“Thank You, Mr. President—Helen Thomas

Helen Thomas, the White House correspondent who was later regarded as the “dean of the White House briefing room,” passed away over the weekend at 92. Her career in the the White House press corps is legendary, to say the least—she has covered every president from John F. Kennedy to Barack Obama.  While the tributes pour in, we share with you a montage of some of her most hard-hitting questions to the presidents of the United States over the years.



In Children’s Books, Moms Stay at Home, Dads Work

MyMomsNotCool-FrontCoverFINAL.117103037_stdLast week we reported on a study that found increasingly alarming rates of  sexual exploitation of underage girls on TV. This week another major study reveals that when it comes to modern-day children’s books, traditional gender roles are still very much dominant. The study analyzed children’s books from 1901 through 2000, and found that gender roles were stagnant throughout the century:  According to its findings, mothers stayed at home to care for families and fathers worked outside of the home as breadwinners.

“If children, especially girls, continue to be exposed to portrayals that suggest opportunities for women are limited to the home, and that men provide, their aspirations and independence will be muted.”

What’s at stake here? Tom Jacobs of Salon adds that “the stubbornness of gender stereotypes matters because young children aren’t simply being entertained by such books—they’re being socialized.”



Mothers’ Advice to Their Daughters

tumblr_lnbc6qPaek1qzdwano1_500We all know the power of the personal letter from a loved one; it can often serve as a balm when we need it most. And, when it comes to our mother’s words, whether heard or written, many of us still find them echoing throughout our lives. Maria Popova at Brain Pickings has compiled a collection of moving letters from mothers to their daughters. We share with you some of our favorites:

From the collection Anne Sexton: A Self-Portrait in Letters, Sexton writes to her daughter:

Be your own woman. Belong to those you love. Talk to my poems, and talk to your heart—I’m in both: if you need me. I lied, Linda. I did love my mother and she loved me. She never held me but I miss her, so that I have to deny I ever loved her—or she me!

Maya Angelou, who never had a daughter, penned letters anyway to an imaginary daughter in Letter to My Daughter. Her advice:

Never whine. Whining lets a brute know that a victim is in the neighborhood.

In Posterity, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, ahead of her time, wrote this call to action to her daughter in 1872:

Improve every hour and every opportunity, and fit yourself for a good teacher or professor, so that you can have money of your own and not be obliged to depend on any man for every breath you draw. The helpless dependence of women generally makes them the narrow, discontented beings so many are.



Work-Life Fatigue

Perhaps if you’re having trouble “leaning in,” it might be a result of “work-life” fatigue. Peggy Drexler of The Daily Beast writes:  “A recent CDC study found that 16 percent of women ages 18 to 44 reported feeling “very tired,’ ‘exhausted,’ or otherwise worn out most days, compared with 9 percent of men in the same age range. Is it because women are taking on more than their share? Or because they have difficulty saying no?” It’s a combination of a lot of factors. Women more than ever are the primary breadwinners in their family, yet their responsibilities at home have not decreased. Women are still paid 81 percent of what men are paid for the same jobs, which means that women are working longer hours than men and for less pay.  What’s interesting about the study, as Drexler notes, is that more women are reporting feeling tired. She suggests that more and more women might be feeling candid about sharing about fatigue and exhaustion than has been socially acceptable in the past.



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  • Cheryl July 28, 2013 at 5:17 pm

    All those who interfere with personal decisions before a child is born now deride those mothers who choose to breast feed after the child is here. We are, after MAMMALS! It is what separates us from other living creatures. It defines us! MAMMALS! How anyone finds this shameful, intrusive, improper I’m at a loss to know. And I have seldom (if ever) seen any woman flaunt the act. Discretion and unobtrusive are traits I’ve observed and practiced.

  • Tobysgirl July 24, 2013 at 4:17 pm

    People’s issues with breastfeeding are no mystery to me. As long as women’s bodies are viewed as toys and playthings, it’s okay to expose them on TV, billboards, etc. But breastfeeding is a reminder that we are, first and foremost, ANIMALS, an obvious fact which many people deny. This is the root of people’s problems with sexuality, eating and defecating, all bodily functions.