Can celebrity ambassadors change perceptions of breast feeding?

July 31, 2014, Taylor & Francis

Breasts are the strongest symbol of female sexuality and are abundant in the media, on magazines, in adverts and in film. Celebrity breasts are depicted as objects of sexual desire and as a model for everyday women to aspire to. Broadcast images of breastfeeding however are scarce and elicit controversy and even revulsion. In Feminist Media Studies, Spring-Serenity Duvall analyses celebrity depictions of breastfeeding, the ensuing debates, and the implications for motherhood and sexuality.

Angelina Jolie and Salma Hayek, powerful humanitarians with a focus on female and child health have recently appeared in public : Hayek boldly fed an African mother's malnourished baby, and Jolie allowed herself to be photographed breastfeeding at home. Both apparently spontaneous, but more likely manufactured political statements, intended to tackle the difficult politics of public breastfeeding. The ensuing controversy criticised Hayek for confusing racial boundaries, undermining the birth mother and furthermore, for feeding her own child beyond 12 months. This was judged to be a disgusting habit, damaging to the sexuality of the child, and in ironic contrast to the recommended 2 year feeding period for the African birth mother unable to feed. A jealous public wanting their icon returned to her rightful place as busty sex symbol?

Celebrity breastfeeding may now become a more commonplace sight as high profile individuals do their bit for the celebration of breastfeeding and women as sexy and maternal beings. If you have a perfect body, designer clothes and a make-up artist to create a vision of maternal perfection, it's ok. Could this risk a battle for average mothers against even more fervent social stigma of breastfeeding as unsightly and distasteful.

Jolie has traversed from sex symbol to global activist, campaigning for human rights whilst simultaneously managing to find time to breastfeed her child. Duvall hails her as "the ideal modern woman who is capable of not only having it all, but being it all". By revealing her purportedly casual private moment, has she eased the conflict of women as sexual being and mother, or set the ordinary woman an unattainable ideal?

Explore further: How does working part-time versus working full-time affect breastfeeding goals?

More information: Not 'Simply the Breast': Media Discourses of Celebrity, Breastfeeding, and Normalcy. Spring-Serenity Duvall. Feminist Media Studies, 2014. DOI: 10.1080/14680777.2014.919334

Related Stories

How does working part-time versus working full-time affect breastfeeding goals?

July 17, 2014
Breastfeeding is known to provide significant health benefits for both infants and their mothers. However, while many women intend to breastfeed despite returning to work, a new study finds that mothers who plan to breastfeed ...

Breastfeeding decisions

July 8, 2014
(Medical Xpress)—Mothers concerned about their changing shape and appearance during pregnancy are less likely to breastfeed after their baby is born, new research has uncovered.

Proof that antidepressants and breastfeeding can mix

April 10, 2014
(Medical Xpress)—University of Adelaide researchers have found that women on antidepressant medication are more successful at breastfeeding their babies if they keep taking the medication, compared with women who quit antidepressants ...

Gap between maternity policies revealed

August 19, 2013
Mothers who exclusively breastfeed their child spend 6.6 hours a week longer milk feeding than mothers who partially breastfeed or formula feed, which has important implications for health policies and programs, including ...

Warning to breastfeeding mothers

April 15, 2011
While breastfeeding babies has numerous health advantages to both mother and child, mothers who breastfeed may find that other people look down on them and do not want to work with them. A recent study released by Personality ...

In-hospital formula use deters breastfeeding

February 14, 2014
(Medical Xpress)—When mothers feed their newborns formula in the hospital, they are less likely to fully breastfeed their babies in the second month of life and more likely to quit breastfeeding early, even if they had ...

Recommended for you

Who uses phone apps to track sleep habits? Mostly the healthy and wealthy in US

January 16, 2018
The profile of most Americans who use popular mobile phone apps that track sleep habits is that they are relatively affluent, claim to eat well, and say they are in good health, even if some of them tend to smoke.

Teens likely to crave junk food after watching TV ads

January 15, 2018
Teenagers who watch more than three hours of commercial TV a day are more likely to eat hundreds of extra junk food snacks, according to a report by Cancer Research UK.

Improvements in mortality rates are slowed by rise in obesity in the United States

January 15, 2018
With countless medical advances and efforts to curb smoking, one might expect that life expectancy in the United States would improve. Yet according to recent studies, there's been a reduction in the rate of improvement in ...

Can muesli help against arthritis?

January 15, 2018
It is well known that healthy eating increases a general sense of wellbeing. Researchers at Friedrich-Alexander-Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg (FAU) have now discovered that a fibre-rich diet can have a positive influence ...

Your dishwasher is not as sterile as you think

January 13, 2018
(HealthDay)—Your dishwasher may get those plates spotless, but it is also probably teeming with bacteria and fungus, a new study suggests.

Study reveals what sleep talkers have to say

January 12, 2018
A team of researchers with members from several institutions in France has conducted a study regarding sleep talking and has found that most sleep talking is not only negative in nature, but involves a large amount of swearing. ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.