The controversy surrounding the latest TIME cover fascinates me. (See my cartoon here
.) From the strict perspective of art direction, I think it's a smashing success, brilliant beast of a cover. The woman is proud and sexy with a huge, milk-fed three year old latched on to her left tit, both of them looking the reader in the eye like "what up, haters?"
I saw it in the Dulles airport last week with a white piece of paper covering the offending feeding. Immediately next to it sat the latest Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue, a woman's glistening rack suspended by two small triangles of fabric, just as evolution purposed them. We sure are weird about lady parts.
Men can't process the cover properly. Boobs belong to them. Women feel put on the defensive for not being, as the cover charges, "mom enough." And parents with Opinions About How To Raise Children–a defensive bunch–are set off. I love it. The mom on the cover might fit into that last group, by the way. The story isn't even about breast-feeding, it's about attachment parenting, but who cares? It's about what we say it's about and it's about breast-feeding and whether this kid should be on a magazine cover doing that and whether it's OK to see boobs.
It's OK to see boobs.
Attachment parents are a little much for me. So are these damn Tiger Moms doling out motivational insults. But so are detachment parents, which is sort of the default for a lot kids raised by parents who are passing down their own parent's problems. Point being, parents can be the worst ever. They dictate our lives from birth and since they found Facebook there's no respite from their neediness. We are their boobs. Don't comment on this post, mom. Get stuck with an attachment hippie parent and you could be drinking healthy breast milk for a few years. Which isn't so bad, really. (Just make sure they get you vaccinated.)
The World Health Organization recommends two years for breast feeding, the first six months of it exclusive, meaning no water. The overwhelming majority of American moms choose not to do this. It's draining (ha!) and most women (and their partners) want their boobs back from little people as soon as they can. So it's not as if our cultural norm for breast-feeding is anywhere close to what it probably should be.
I should mention here that I don't have kids. Or boobs. Carry on with your parenting. Do with your boobs as you will. We're just talking.
But I do know women who have nursed children for years and have no problem lifting out a tit in public (eyes up, Matt!) and while I can't imagine doing that myself, it's not really that weird. People–mostly men–have trouble separating mammalian protuberances from their intended purpose of feeding their children. Though you could argue they also serve the purpose of attracting mates. (Dual purpose! Woo!) But as weird as it can seem, I've never heard of a case where a kid was permanently messed up from breast-feeding for a few years.
People are wondering if it's wise for this boy to show up on the cover of a national magazine like this, essentially forced by his hippy-dippy mom, who will be a lithe 37 or so by the time his high school chums are making jokes about wanting a sip. It was my first thought too. But then I realized that whole "What About The Children?!" thing is what overbearing parents who annoy me do. I'm no Mitt Romney when it comes to bullying, but I think this kid will live. If anyone deserves blame it's TIME for being so sensational and pitting parents against each other. Maybe any teasing he gets will cause him to reflect on this episode and inspire him to become a discerning, non-douchey dad. Or maybe it will motivate him to develop the best baby formula ever, so no kid has to go through this again.
It'll be better than boob juice. Something for the haters to suck on.