what i really learned in breastfeeding class

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you may or may not know that i attended my Certified Lactation Counselor training last week with the Center for Breastfeeding. it was wonderful in so many ways. thoughts have been tumbling through my head ever since that branch off into various categories: women’s health, politics, the majesty of the female body. mostly, i just keep seeing breasts everywhere i go now.  ^^^see^^^

the instructors said several things that really resonated with me over the course of the week. first, let me say the training was very even-keeled. there were only a few times during subject material such as “workplace breastfeeding and pumping” where the class ventured into the realm of things that could be a place for social debate because we all know there is certainly a lot of debate about breastfeeding in our society. but the class did an excellent job of being fair and leaving us to have our own thoughts and feelings about what we were learning. that is where this post is stemming from: my own thoughts and feelings.

at one point the instructor said “isn’t it funny how sometimes women can be the harshest on other women. why is that?”

and that’s what got me thinking back to some of the other things we’d discussed earlier in the class: breastfeeding in public, the acceptance of breasts as sexual objects and the refusal of breasts used for their intended natural purposes, the discussions about whom is actually making the “rules” about where, how long, and how often a woman should nurse her child.

so here’s a theory for you to disregard completely {bonus points to you if you get that reference}:

it struck me after all those conversations that the reason women can be so judgemental and mean to one another is because that’s how we’re taught in this world to treat women. we are taught it is normal to be harsh and cruel. we are taught to try to control women. we are taught that women are only right if they fit into boxes and roles that appeal to men.

i do not believe that women are inherently catty and judgmental of other women. i have experienced women being authentic my whole life and have experienced the very opposite. i’ve been lucky to be surrounded by wonderful females at every stage and i feel that when women are left alone they are so loving and kind in their interactions with one another.

but when we are forced into boxes created by others we become what we are taught to be: mean girls. anyone who believes that this world is anything but cruel to women is turning a blind eye. we are fortunate in the western world to have it in lesser degrees but it shines through the most in our society in the areas that are so central to many women’s lives: birth, babyfeeding and mothering.

women are cruel to other women because that is the way the world has taught us women should be treated.

unless a woman is lucky enough to have the freedom to be who she really is. i’ve noticed that as women age they learn to cast off the boxes society tries to fit them in and female bonds become stronger with age. being a young female is hard. a good number of us try out being what we were told we should be but it seems like most are figuring out “this doesn’t work for me” by mid-twenties to thirties. we form strong relationships and communities later in life. much of the school-girl gossip is left behind. that is if the woman is supported by a societal climate that allows her to be authentic.

i know the next time i have a judgemental thought i will think to myself “who put that thought there? is that how i really feel or is it a conditioned response?” in my opinion, too many of the things said about women are conditioned responses and not how women REALLY feel about our fellow females.

in the future i hope to do my best to be kind to all women. i hope to change my thoughts, attitudes and behaviors to remove these conditioned responses. i hope to break free from the expectations i’ve had before about how women should look, act and be. i hope to let women be and love them as they are.

because ladies, you’re all pretty great.

i want to close up this post with one last quote from my class that has stuck with me. i hope in the future we will see the health and well-being of our women as important to that of our males.

“It’s time we start acknowledging that women’s health is men’s health because women grow and feed babies and some of those babies grow up to be men. The health of our mothers matters to everyone.”