Saturday, July 29, 2006


Everybody knows that there are some places where women go topless as a matter of custom, and that it's No Big Deal. Guys who've spent time in topless bars and nude beaches report that after a while you don't even notice it. You have to admit that at least some of the titillation, so to speak, comes from the fact of the taboo itself, the social norm of keeping the breasts covered. Maybe that's the whole thrill, I couldn't say. The art of lingerie supports the hypothesis.

On the other hand, all species of mammals are characterized by the presence of mammary glands, the means of nurturance of the offspring by the mother. You've got to agree, this is one of the most beautiful devices that nature has invented. It seems that more than milk is involved, there is also closeness and warmth and love.

This month, the magazine BabyTalk had this picture on the cover:

and seven hundred people wrote in to complain.
"I was SHOCKED to see a giant breast on the cover of your magazine," one person wrote. "I immediately turned the magazine face down," wrote another. "Gross," said a third.

These readers weren't complaining about a sexually explicit cover, but rather one of a baby nursing, on a wholesome parenting magazine -- yet another sign that Americans are squeamish over the sight of a nursing breast, even as breast-feeding itself gains more support from the government and medical community.

Babytalk is a free magazine whose readership is overwhelmingly mothers of babies. Yet in a poll of more than 4,000 readers, a quarter of responses to the cover were negative, calling the photo -- a baby and part of a woman's breast, in profile -- inappropriate. Lactivists: Where is it OK to breastfeed?

I can see, y'know, if it was Pamela Anderson on a bearskin rug or something, It's dumb but I understand that's how people are, we form norms and we treat those norms as if they were realities. In our society, women use the revealing of the breasts as a way to attenuate sexuality; décolletage makes a statement that all members of our society understand.

That is speaking of the breast as secondary sex organ, which is also its secondary function. The primary function is to provide nourishment to offspring.

Some people don't seem to make the distinction.
One mother who didn't like the cover explains she was concerned about her 13-year-old son seeing it.

"I shredded it," said Gayle Ash, of Belton, Texas, in a telephone interview. "A breast is a breast -- it's a sexual thing. He didn't need to see that."

It's the same reason that Ash, 41, who nursed all three of her children, is cautious about breast-feeding in public -- a subject of enormous debate among women, which has even spawned a new term: "lactivists," meaning those who advocate for a woman's right to nurse wherever she needs to.

"I'm totally supportive of it -- I just don't like the flashing," she said. "I don't want my son or husband to accidentally see a breast they didn't want to see."

Listen, speaking strictly as a guy here, breast-feeding has very little to do with flashing. A lady may get a second glance out of surprise or even curiosity, but ... it's no thrill, OK?

Oh. I was just at the grocery store, and there was a picture of Britney Spears naked on the cover of a women's magazine, I forget which one. Cosmo and all of that genre typically have cover photos of women with more than the usual amount of skin showing -- women seem to find it at least as irresistible as men do. There's some strange chemistry going on there -- I guess it sells magazines, whether I understand it or not.
Another mother, Kelly Wheatley, wrote Babytalk to applaud the cover, precisely because, she said, it helps educate people that breasts are more than sex objects. And yet Wheatley, 40, who's still nursing her 3-year-old daughter, rarely breast-feeds in public, partly because it's more comfortable in the car, and partly because her husband is uncomfortable with other men seeing her breast.

"Men are very visual," said Wheatley, of Amarillo, Texas. "When they see a woman's breast, they see a breast -- regardless of what it's being used for."

No, I don't think that's right. I have never heard any guy talking about how sexy breastfeeding is. Yes, the subject of breasts has come up, more than once, you might say. But not breastfeeding.
Babytalk editor Susan Kane says the mixed response to the cover clearly echoes the larger debate over breast-feeding in public. "There's a huge Puritanical streak in Americans," she said, "and there's a squeamishness about seeing a body part -- even part of a body part."

"It's not like women are whipping them out with tassels on them," she added. "Mostly, they are trying to be discreet."

Kane said that since the August issue came out last week, the magazine has received more than 700 letters -- more than for any article in years.

Is this amazing to anybody else, or just me? This, of all the problems in the world, is what motivates people to write letters to the editor?
The evidence of public discomfort isn't just anecdotal. In a survey published in 2004 by the American Dietetic Association, less than half -- 43 percent -- of 3,719 respondents said women should have the right to breast-feed in public places.

Hmm, it would be fun to do a survey to find out just how much of their breasts women should be allowed to reveal. Like, what would people say if you asked them to agree or disagree with the statement: "Women should have the right to display their cleavage in public places"? Really -- what would you say?

I think I agree with this lady:
Ultimately, it seems to be a highly personal matter. Caly Wood said she's "all for breast-feeding in public." She recalls with a shudder the time she sat nursing in a restaurant booth, and another woman walked by, glanced over and said, "Ugh, gross."

"My kid needed to eat," said the 29-year-old from South Abingdon, Massachusetts. And she wasn't going to go hide in a not-so-clean restroom: "I don't send people to the bathroom when they want to eat," she said.


Blogger Orin Ryssman said...

Babytalk editor Susan Kane says the mixed response to the cover clearly echoes the larger debate over breast-feeding in public. "There's a huge Puritanical streak in Americans," she said, "and there's a squeamishness about seeing a body part -- even part of a body part."

"A huge Puritanical streak"???!!! LOL!

Well, all I can say is thaat she needs to get out a little more...goodness.

July 30, 2006 8:55 PM  
Blogger Dana Beyer, M.D. said...

Yes, Orin, a huge Puritanical streak. We have individuals who are terrifyingly uptight about any mention of anything having to do with sex, while we are awash in a market-based economy that glorifies sexualization of just about anything.

Maybe, just maybe, if we demystified some of the stuff for kids they wouldn't compartmentalize it all and feel the need for so much graphic sex and violence outside of real relationships.

July 30, 2006 9:30 PM  
Blogger Theresa said...

So, I breast fed my youngest son until he was three.
My sisters were appalled.

And I did breastfeed in public, but, I always covered myself and the is really not that difficult to be discreet (common courtesy, being polite, etc..)

And I also think the picture is inappropriate on the cover of the magazine. It shows far more than I ever exposed while nursing in public - and I wouldn't have wanted it in my house either. That magazine cover was quite simply in poor taste.

July 31, 2006 12:26 AM  
Anonymous Christine said...

I breast fed my third child until she was three. My entire family was very supportive.

I breastfed all three of my children in public and always wore loose fitting shirts or draped baby blankets so that I could easily do so with nothing showing.

In the photograph, the baby is gazing up into Mom's eyes with pure love, illustrating the intimate bond between mother and child on the cover of BabyTalk magazine. I think the photograph is beautiful and appropriate.


July 31, 2006 7:24 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Maybe, just maybe, if we demystified some of the stuff for kids they wouldn't compartmentalize it all and feel the need for so much graphic sex and violence outside of real relationships."

A real stupid comment.

July 31, 2006 9:30 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

As both Theresa and Christine mentioned, most mothers try to be discreet in breastfeeding their children. I see mothers doing it everywhere from church pews to playgrounds. They almost always prop up some folded diaper to partially block the view and polite people avert their eyes. Given that this is the custom in our unpuritanical society, why does some magazine paste a picture on a magazine cover that displays a scene that most try to use discretion about? Simply trying to cause controversy and sell product obviously.

Breatfeeding as long as possible is clearly in the best interest of children. It's great that we live in a society where mothers can feel comfortable doing this in public. The media, as always, has no sense.

Oh, and as an aside, Jim, it was "invented" by God not nature.


July 31, 2006 9:42 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

An open letter from a group that believes global warming is mostly due to natural causes and says plans to intervene in this natural process would cause economic disruption through higher energy costs that would disproportionately affect the poor and increase poverty by making necessary supplies like food and medicine more expensive.


July 31, 2006 12:30 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Utilities Pay Scientist Ally on Warming

Published: July 28, 2006

WASHINGTON, July 27 — Coal-burning utilities are contributing money to one of the few remaining climate scientists openly critical of the broad consensus that fossil fuel emissions are intensifying global warming.

The critic, Patrick J. Michaels, is a professor of environmental sciences at the University of Virginia, a senior fellow at the libertarian Cato Institute and Virginia’s state climatologist.

Dr. Michaels told Western business leaders last year that he was running out of money for his analyses of other scientists’ global warming research. So a Colorado utility organized a collection campaign for him last week and has raised at least $150,000 in donations and pledges.

The utility, the Intermountain Rural Electric Association, based in Sedalia, Colo., has given Dr. Michaels $100,000 of its own, said Stanley R. Lewandowski Jr., its general manager. Mr. Lewandowski said that one company planned to give $50,000 and that a third planned to contribute to Dr. Michaels next year.

“We cannot allow the discussion to be monopolized by the alarmists,” Mr. Lewandowski wrote in a July 17 letter to 50 other utilities. He also called on other electric cooperatives to undertake a counterattack on “alarmist” scientists and specifically Al Gore’s movie “An Inconvenient Truth,” which lays much of the blame for global warming on heat-trapping gases like carbon dioxide.

Mr. Lewandowski and Dr. Michaels, who holds a Ph.D. in ecological climatology from the University of Wisconsin, have openly acknowledged the donations and say they see no problem. But some environmental advocates say the effort clearly poses a conflict of interest.

“This is a classic case of industry buying science to back up its anti-environmental agenda,” said Frank O’Donnell, president of the Washington advocacy group Clean Air Watch.

Others, however, view it as the type of lobbying that goes along with many divisive issues. One environmental scientist, Donald Kennedy, former president of Stanford University and current editor in chief of the journal Science, said skeptics like Dr. Michaels were lobbyists more than researchers.

“I don’t think it’s unethical any more than most lobbying is unethical,” Dr. Kennedy said.

Dr. Michaels is best known for his newspaper opinion columns and books, including “Meltdown: The Predictable Distortion of Global Warming by Scientists, Politicians and the Media.” He also writes research articles published in scientific journals.

He has been quoted by major newspapers more than 150 times in the last two years, according to a LexisNexis database search. He and Mr. Lewandowski say that their side of global warming is not being heard and that the donations resulted from a speech Dr. Michaels gave to the Western Business Roundtable last fall.

Dr. Michaels said the money would help pay his staff.

“Last I heard, anybody can ask a scientific question,” he said.

July 31, 2006 1:51 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"one of the few remaining climate scientists openly critical of the broad consensus that fossil fuel emissions are intensifying global warming"

I thought TTF's usual line is that there are no scientists like this.

This is only a story if there is some proof that the researchers forged data to please grantors. Money to conduct these studies has to come from somewhere and few people don't have a stake here. Most funding, including governmental, comes from a source that would like to see a particular outcome.


July 31, 2006 2:09 PM  
Blogger andrear said...

Back to the original topic- As my Hecht's converted to Macy's - a number of mannequins were undressed. These are headless and somewhat featureless- no nipples, no delination of any genitals. Some people complained that the "naked" mannequins were lewd so they had to be covered by opaque plastic bags. I found out because I asked if these draped bags were the new fashions for fall.

July 31, 2006 4:01 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The IPCC claims the science of global warming is beyond question

By BBC News Online's Jonathan Amos
Scientists sceptical about the nature or pace of global warming challenged the "consensus" being presented on the issue on Monday by researchers working for the United Nations.

There are huge uncertainties to do with the science that goes into the computer models that predict the future

Prof David Unwin, Birkbeck College, London
Meeting in Shanghai, China, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) said the Earth would warm up in the coming 100 years faster than at any time in the last 10,000 years. And they pointed the finger of blame squarely at human activities, in particular fossil-fuel burning.

The panel's Working Group One said computer models were predicting temperature rises of between 1.4 and 5.8 degrees Celsius over the coming century and sea level rises that could be measured in tens of centimetres. It said there was now little doubt about what was happening to the planet's climate and governments should act to curb greenhouse gas emissions.

But several scientists outside the IPCC criticised what they described as the "arrogance" of the UN body, insisting that the evidence for global warming was still far from certain.

Climate uncertainties

Sir John Houghton, the former UK Met Office chief who co-chaired the Shanghai meeting, said that, in his view, there could no longer be any doubt about the human effect on climate.

Some believe indirect solar effects have a bigger impact than the IPCC will concede

"The evidence is certainly sufficiently strong for countries to take action based on what we've said," he told BBC News Online. "I think there are very few scientists who'd disagree with the IPCC. And most of those who do disagree have not published much," he added.

However, the prominent global warming sceptic Professor Philip Stott, from the University of London, was quick to disagree. He said recent research had damaged the credibility of the IPCC and its climate predictions.

"In the last month alone, serious scientific studies have undermined the whole basis of these predictions, with the temperature over the oceans seen as exaggerated by up to 40% and the very relationship between carbon dioxide and temperature questioned."

Political response

He added: "The IPCC models and correlations are not new; they are re-cycled 'old hat'. It is essentially a political response to the collapse of The Hague climate talks."

Professor Stott said computer models presented various "stories" or scenarios and people should not see them as outcomes that were bound to happen.

"There are over 40 such stories; inevitably, of course, the media selects the very worst storyline," he said.

His concerns were echoed by Professor David Unwin, an environmental scientist at Birkbeck College, London. He said the IPCC was guilty of glossing over many of the uncertainties in climate science.

"These uncertainties are never really made explicit," he said. "The IPCC will give you error bars but there are huge uncertainties to do with the science that goes into the computer models that predict the future."

He said the models had progressively drawn back from the real doomsday scenarios of a few years ago as climate processes had become better understood and incorporated into calculations. "And in my view, and in the view of many other scientists, this refinement has a long way to go."

Weather hazards

Professor Unwin said the IPCC, in becoming "fixated on the control of carbon dioxide as a measure to tackle global warming", had allowed other issues such as energy conservation and cleaner air to slip off the agenda.

"And it has made light of all the other levers that society could pull to aid and adapt its way out of the problem that we may or may not have. All the social science evidence on weather hazards shows that, by and large, trying to modify the hazard isn't a strategy that works.

There is a lobby which makes money out of global warming promotion and research, and governments around the world collect taxes on the back of it all

Piers Corbyn, weather forecaster
"I would like the IPCC to stress the steps that society could take to adapt better to the consequences of global warming - and that includes managed retreat from the shoreline, not building on flood plains, care with water conservation and scheduling, and so on."

Piers Corbyn of Weather Action, a company that provides long-term forecasts to UK industry, claimed the IPCC had quite simply got it wrong. Corbyn, like a large group of solar scientists, believes the UN body has underestimated some of the indirect effects of the Sun on the Earth's climate.

"Particles and magnetic effects from the Sun are the decisive influence that controls world temperatures," he said. "The evidence can be seen in the graphic representation of geomagnetic activity plotted alongside world temperatures. The two correlate very closely.

"I think there is a political agenda here. There is a lobby which makes money out of global warming promotion and research, and governments around the world collect taxes on the back of it all.

July 31, 2006 4:03 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

andrear so are you walking around in a grabage bag?

July 31, 2006 4:05 PM  
Anonymous wendy said...

I always just thought of my breasts as feeding utensils.

August 02, 2006 9:38 PM  
Anonymous Sugartits said...

No comment!

August 03, 2006 10:37 AM  

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