West Hollywood, by most standards, is a pretty liberal city. Its inhabitants are the kind of people who go to farmers’ markets and who fought for same sex marriage. So why did they band together to fight to have a billboard featuring a mother breastfeeding her baby taken down?
Let’s take a closer look at the billboard shall we. It was put up by a dating site called Cougar Life, which aims to help older women and younger men find each other and hook-up. While this idea grosses most people out, I was really rooting for the site. On face value, the site could be a really useful resource for people who believe that a woman’s sex life doesn’t end at 35, and the radical feminist in me was all for it.
Then I saw the ad – the billboard had a mother nursing her child, but it had the section of the photo where the baby’s mouth made contact with the mother’s breast blurred out in the same way that sex scenes are blurred out on cable TV. If that wasn’t bad enough, a thought bubble graphic was placed above the baby’s head asking (presumably men) if they were jealous.
I’m no women’s studies major but that looks like textbook objectification to me. 99% of doctors will tell you that breastfeeding is the healthiest thing for both moms and babies, but for some reason society can’t quite wrap its head around the idea that breasts are not just about sex.
Erotizing an image of a mother breast-feeding her baby crosses a serious line. Women are complex, and while a mother’s sexiness doesn’t stop after she gives birth, there are some acts or moments in her life that should not be sexualized.
Apparently the residents of West Hollywood agreed and petitioned to have the billboard removed. The CEO of Cougar Life expressed some disappointment and tried to make the case that breastfeeding in public is looked at by society with the same prejudice as a younger man dating an older woman.
Again, on paper this almost sounds legitimate, but when we look at the ad in context, it is clear that the site operates on fetishizing the relationship between younger men and older women – and that my friends is the furthest thing from helping the public to think of women with the complexity they deserve.