Whilst conducting an interview with LBC radio, a question was posed to UKIP leader Nigel Farage relating to the recent incident in Claridges whereby a woman was asked to put a large napkin over herself and her breastfeeding baby.
“If you’re enjoying a pint in your local pub or a cup of tea in Claridges and a woman starts to breastfeed in front of you how do you feel?” Though Farage’s immediate answer “I’m not particularly bothered about it” attempted to absolve himself of any opinion, his following comments did little to prove he was on the fence about it all. He noted that it is “just a matter of common sense… given that some people feel very embarrassed by it, it isn’t too difficult to breastfeed a baby in a way that’s not openly ostentatious.” It is understandable that breastfeeding is a controversial issue and of course there are an array of different opinions, of which everyone is entitled.
However calling breastfeeding “ostentatious” does not reflect the informed and rational opinion that we would expect from a politician. It is therefore quite baffling that Farage would choose a word riddled with extremely negative connotations to describe a natural act.
1. characterised by pretentious or showy display; designed to impress:
“a simple design that is glamorous without being ostentatious”
synonyms: showy, pretentious, conspicuous, obtrusive, flamboyant, gaudy, garish,tinsel, tinselly, brash, vulgar, loud, extravagant, fancy, ornate, affected,theatrical, actorly, overdone, over-elaborate, kitsch, tasteless;
So, what exactly constitutes openly ostentatious breastfeeding, Nigel? If a woman does not go and “sit in a corner” as you suggested, are you implying this is openly ostentatious? If the mother dares to sit in public and not hide away, is she in turn being flamboyant, showy and trying to attract attention or impress people? This is the only impression one can possibly draw from such comments, it is all in the semantics. The word ostentatious does in fact imply all of these things.
The ignorance that such a statement displays is so ridiculous it is almost laughable. What personal experience is Farage drawing from to assume it is not difficult to hide away whilst breastfeeding? It only takes some semblance of common sense and sensitivity to realise breastfeeding is not such an easy thing to control. A screaming, crying, hungry baby is not at the behest of taking time to go out of ones way to hide in a corner. More importantly, why should breastfeeding mothers have to do that? Should people feel uncomfortable, they simply need not look. No one is forcing them to stare.
I cannot speak for those who would feel uncomfortable seeing breastfeeding in public but I do understand why it could make them feel embarrassed. It’s not something that is seen very often and may take many by surprise. However, should someone be flicking through the Sun on the train and the same sort of person happened to catch a glimpse of the latest big-breasted babe on Page 3, they probably would not bat an eyelid. This seems like a double standard, considering that when a woman is breastfeeding the most you will ever see is an extremely short glimpse of one breast. Not to mention that breastfeeding is actually the breasts primary function. Why is it that we will accept witnessing them sexually, but when they are used to aid the growth and development of a baby, the mother simply must wear a huge napkin, otherwise it will put you off your scone?