If you were to scroll down any of my social media feeds, you will see myriad images of me in the act of breastfeeding my daughter; in many of them, my nourishing breast is not covered and my areola is giving a slight wave hi. In many of them, my daughter’s curious eye is turned to the camera, as she inserts herself into history. I have had many people ask me why I post these images to social media. Why do I choose to expose such an intimate and private part of my life? My beautifully Caribbean mother is one of those people. Like many parents, my mother seems to have forgotten that I am a 31 year old woman with a mind, a child and intentions of her own; so she often scolds me when I engage in being myself: “Lamoi, why do you see the need to post these pictures, and with your breast all out? I can almost see your nipple!”
Being bombarded with such questions, it is only natural to second-guess my actions and ask myself the same question(s). Why do I feel compelled to compile a digital memory of what I consider to be the favourite part of my day, often posted with the hashtag #BlackWomenDoBreastfeed? To what end? Who am I benefiting by showing these images? I have heard and read comments that women who post such images, or who nurse in public are doing so for attention. I am not sure I can roll my eyes hard enough for that last statement. This is the typical backlash for any woman that is showing comfort and visibility in and of her own body. Experiencing social conventions placing sexual connotations on non-sexual aspects of life is something I have never really experienced until I started posting these images.
Pile on top of that big bag of dirty laundry being a Black woman, the public expectation of ownership is loudly manifested in the open commodification of our bodies. I have stopped counting the inbox and text messages I have received, and continue to receive filled with sexual innuendoes and advances in response to my posted images. Do all women face sexual harassment and unwanted sexual advances? Yes! To a staggering degree, however I am not all women. I am a black woman, my experiences are gathered while being in my black skin, and my breasts are covered by beautifully blessed melanin, and I stand here to speak from my experiences. Thus, standing often causes me to sit and inquire: “Am I adding to the consummation of my being, sexually and non-sexually?” By placing pictures of my naked breast on the World Wide Web in its most natural flow of action, am I giving permission for the masses to add or subtract my value as a human being, a Black woman and a mother. The short answer to that is a loud, neck-swerving finger snapping “NO!” (as the longer answer will be explored in another article).
To all the men that have sent me inbox and text messages after viewing such posts; I do not care that you find me beautiful, or sexually alluring. I cannot reduce my annoyance to the often used retort “That is for me to know, and you to find out,” because you will never be granted the knowledge of the realness of my breasts (and my lips). My breast size is not knowledge you will need on your path of self and community enlightenment. I am truly sorry that your wife has not had sex with you for two years, however that does not give you the right to ask me for nude pictures. If you would like to know what breast milk tastes like, there are many services that will send you a bottle for use in your coffee, tea, or cereal. By sexually objectifying my body during the act of feeding my child, you are also sexually objectifying my daughter. I will leave that there for you to ponder.
It continues to dawn on me after reading, laughing and cussing through such messages that this is why I do it. This is why I continue to post these images of mother nursing her child. This is the “end”—it is a reminder to me, and to those that picket my choices that my body is not for their consumption. My body is my own. How I choose to document, and share my body is my choice to make. This is to benefit my daughter, and all of our daughters and sons who will nurse on the exposed or covered breasts of beautifully fierce women. Do not allow shame to manifest where there is no shame. My breasts are not sexual objects, and although you have the right to your beliefs, I also have the right to reject the projection of your beliefs onto my being. My body is not for your consumption.
Lamoi is a published poet, spoken word artist, and writer who believes that everything in life stems from love. Her mission is to spread her philosophy to all brave enough to embrace. You can find Lamoi on twitter: @LaLaArdor.